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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 14

DISCOURSE: 1635

CHRIST’S MESSIAHSHIP PROVED

John 6:14. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

THE friends of infidelity wish it to be thought, that the Gospel which they reject is not supported by such a weight of evidence as would justify them in yielding to it an implicit and unqualified obedience. But they have, unperceived by themselves, a bias against the truth; and will suffer any slight difficulty, which they are not able to solve, to outweigh all the most decisive proofs that can be adduced in its support. Where the mind is candid, and open to conviction, it will be satisfied with that measure of evidence which the subject itself fairly admits of, without demanding such as it is unreasonable to expect. The persons of whom my text speaks, afford us a good example in this respect. They had seen a stupendous miracle wrought before them, even the feeding of five thousand men, besides women and children, with five loaves, and two small fishes: and they were convinced that no person could work such a miracle as this, unless God were with him; and therefore, without further hesitation, they said, We are expecting the Messiah; and this must be he: “Of a truth, this is that Prophet who should come into the world.”

From this acknowledgment I will take occasion to consider,

I. The proofs which Christ gave of his Messiahship—

Miracles may properly be regarded as proofs of a divine mission—

[I am not prepared to say that a miracle is of itself, independent of all its circumstances, a sufficient proof that the person performing it comes from God. For there may be circumstances so peculiar, as to account for God’s permission of such an event, even whilst the persons through whose instrumentality it occurs, are no better than hypocrites and impostors. The magicians of Pharaoh were permitted to imitate some of the miracles of Moses, for the very purpose of demonstrating the more forcibly, that Moses alone was invested with any authority from him. They were permitted to turn their rods into serpents: but Moses’ rod swallowed up all of theirs. They were permitted to inflict several plagues; but they could not remove one. Moses alone was empowered to do that. Nor could they follow Moses beyond a certain extent, or even avert from themselves the plagues that Moses inflicted: so that they themselves were made witnesses for Jehovah, and were constrained to say, “This is the finger of God.”

Again: God having done so many and great wonders for his people, may see fit to try their faith and love, in order that the faithful amongst his people may display their fidelity, and the hypocritical their hypocrisy. And for this end we may conceive him to suffer some impostor to assume the character of a prophet, and, by the performance of some sign or wonder, and the prediction of some event that shall come to pass, to give occasion for his people to manifest what is in their hearts. Indeed, he warned his people that he would suffer such occurrences, in order to try their fidelity to him [Note: Deuteronomy 13:1-3.].

But we cannot conceive that he should suffer such a trial to proceed so far as to impose on those who were truly upright. We can have no doubt, but that to a humble and prayerful soul there would appear, at the same time, very abundant evidences of the imposture: for otherwise the true prophets would be unable to prove the divine authority of their mission.

Admitting, however, that such occurrences may, for wise and gracious purposes, be permitted, we still must regard miracles, when wrought expressly in confirmation of the divine authority, as sufficient attestations to the mission of him who works them. These were the credentials whereby Moses was to authenticate his mission to the Israelites in Egypt [Note: Exodus 4:1-9.]. By this test the worshippers of Baal agreed to have the contest decided between Elijah and them: “The God that answereth by fire, let him be God:” and, on seeing the testimony borne from heaven to Elijah, they exclaimed, “The Lord, he is the God! the Lord, he is the God!” To this test he referred the disciples of John, who were sent to inquire whether he were the Christ [Note: Matthew 11:3-6.] — — — And to the same he continually referred, as beyond all possibility of contradiction decisive of his own mission [Note: John 3:36; John 10:24-25; John 10:37-38; John 14:10-11.] — — —]

And, beyond all doubt, the miracles which Jesus wrought were sufficient for this end—

[They were altogether innumerable; insomuch that the inspired historian says of them, that “if they should be written every one of them (with all their attendant circumstances), the world itself would not contain the books that should be written.” But we need not go further than the miracle before us. The Disciples, so far from being confederate with their Master to impose upon the multitude, acknowledged, with the utmost simplicity, the impossibility of providing for such a multitude in that wilderness. Our Lord had made the inquiry of them for the express purpose of calling their attention, and the attention of all around them, the more fully, to the miracle which he was about to work. The five thousand men were all placed in ranks, a hundred in length and fifty in breadth, that every thing might be done in their sight, and without a possibility of collusion. The food having been blessed by our Lord, was committed to the Apostles for distribution; and, as fast as they disposed of it, the remainder was augmented in their hands, and all were supplied to the full: and after all had eaten and been satisfied, the fragments which were taken up far exceeded in quantity the original measure which they possessed. All the people were themselves witnesses of what passed before their own eyes: and if there had been any deception, it could not but have been discovered. This miracle, therefore, gave them a very just ground for the conclusion which they instantly formed; namely, that Jesus must be the Messiah, who had been predicted, and was at that time expected to make his appearance in the world.]

Concluding Jesus, then, to be the true Messiah, let us consider,

II. Our duty to him under that character—

The history before us will enable us to state this to advantage. Our duty to him is,

1. To believe in him—

[At the time that Jesus abode on earth, it was generally expected that the Prophet spoken of by Moses would appear; “the Prophet like unto Moses,” who should be a Lawgiver, a Mediator, a Prophet, a Ruler, a Deliverer [Note: Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18-19.]. Such a prophet Jesus professed to be [Note: Acts 3:22-23.]: and such a prophet he was. The people who saw this miracle had no doubt of it: they said, “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.” Let the same conviction be on your minds. View him as the true Messiah. Regard him in the full extent of his character, as resembling Moses — — — and give him, from your inmost souls, the honour due unto his name — — —]

2. To become his devoted followers—

[Hear from him all that he has come to reveal: for God has said, that “Whoso will not hear that Prophet, he will require it of him.” How zealous the people were in his cause, you are told in the very words following my text: “They sought to take him by force, and to make him their King.” In this they erred, because they thought of him only as a temporal Prince. And therefore he withdrew, and hid himself from them. But if you will, in a spiritual view, make him your King, I will venture to assure you, he will not withdraw from you, or decline the honour you would assign him. You may even come by force, the holy “violence” of faith and prayer with which “the kingdom of God is taken;” and he will yield to your importunity, and establish his throne in your hearts. O that we could see somewhat of this ardour in the minds of those who profess to acknowledge him as their Messiah! Let every rival be banished from your hearts — — — and let Jesus henceforth reign the unrestrained governor of your souls.]

3. To look to him for all that your utmost necessities can require—

[Though he had withdrawn from them, they concluded that he would follow his Disciples; and therefore they followed him, though with much difficulty, and to a great distance, in the confidence that he would supply their every want. Herein also they erred, because they sought only “the meat which perisheth:” but if you will seek of him the meat that endureth unto everlasting life, he assures you, that he will give it to the utmost extent of your necessities; for that “God the Father has sealed” him to this very office [Note: ver. 27.]. You see how he supplied thousands of persons with food: and can he not equally supply your wants, though they should be ever so numerous? He can; he will. He has all fulness treasured up in him for that very end. “He is ascended up above all heavens, that he may fill all things [Note: Ephesians 4:10.].” Indeed, by the ministry of his word, he is working this miracle yet daily. How many does he nourish and strengthen by the bread of life that we dispense! Know, then, that he will not commit this ministration to us in vain, as it respects you: for God has said, He will “supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 4:19.].”]


Verse 27

DISCOURSE: 1636

LABOURING FOR HEAVEN

John 6:27. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

OUR blessed Lord never failed to improve any occasion that was afforded him of doing good to the souls of men. His labours collected people from every quarter; and sometimes they must actually have fainted by the way, if he had not interposed by miracle to supply their necessities. But these very exertions of his, in administering to their temporal wants, were made an occasion of fostering in many their favourite sentiment, that he was come to accomplish for them a temporal deliverance. He had just “fed five thousand men with five loaves and two small fishes:” and we are told that, in order to prevent their “taking him by force to make him a king, he departed into a mountain himself alone [Note: ver. 14, 15.].” His Disciples he sent over the sea, towards Capernaum: and multitudes, though they saw he was not with them, concluding that, by some means or other, he would follow them, went thither to meet him: and when they had found him, they expressed their surprise, and asked him, how he had contrived to come thither? Our Lord, instead of gratifying their foolish curiosity, turned their attention to the state of their own souls, and pointed out to them the mistake under which they laboured: they supposed that they were evincing a zeal for his glory; whereas they were not actuated by any conviction that he was the true Messiah, but by a blind hope that he would prove himself such a Messiah as they vainly expected: “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles,” (and were convinced by them of my Messiahship), but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled;” and conclude from thence, that I both can and will effect for you all which your carnal ambition can desire [Note: ver. 25, 26.]. Then he gives them the solemn admonition which I have just read to you: in unfolding which, I shall notice,

I. The direction here given—

We are not to understand the direction as containing a prohibition to attend to the concerns of the body, but only as intimating that they were not to be placed in competition with the concerns of the soul. It is in this way that we are to understand those memorable words, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice [Note: Matthew 12:7.].” God does not mean to prohibit sacrifices, which he had positively enjoined: but only to express, that if an act of mercy could not be performed without entrenching upon a ceremonial command, the latter should give way to the former; since that which was of a moral nature was of greater worth, in his sight, than any thing which was merely ceremonial.

To attend to temporal concerns is a positive duty—

[It is a duty we owe to ourselves: we are, by the very necessities of our nature, constrained to “obtain our bread by the sweat of our brow [Note: Genesis 3:19.].” We owe it to our families: for “if a man provide not for his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel [Note: 1 Timothy 5:8.]. We owe it to the poor: for if we have enough for ourselves, yet are we enjoined to work with our hands the thing that is good, that we may have to give to him that needeth [Note: Ephesians 4:28.].” We owe it to the Church. No man is to be supported in idleness: “for God has ordained, that if a man will not work, neither shall he eat [Note: 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:12.].” We owe it to our God: we are to be “not slothful in business, at the time that we are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord [Note: Romans 12:11.].” In truth, “whatever our hand findeth to do, we should do it with all our might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.].”

It is of great importance that this matter should be well understood. Religion does not supersede our civil or social duties: it regulates them, and suggests the proper motives by which we are to be actuated in the performance of them: but it does not dispense with any: it subordinates them, indeed, to the duties which we owe immediately to God; but it inculcates and enjoins them, as necessary in their place, and as truly acceptable to God himself. We must “render unto C ζsar the things which are C ζsar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.”]

But an attention to spiritual concerns is of greater and more indispensable importance—

[The labour which pertains to them is incomparably more worthy of an intelligent and immortal being, than that which relates to the things of this life. I would not undervalue the occupations of the student in the pursuit of science, or of the artisan in the execution of his work, or of the peasant in the labours of the field. All are good in their place; but all may be performed by a heathen, no less than by a child of God. But the exercises of humiliation before God, of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, of an entire consecration of our souls to the service of the Deity; in a word, fellowship with God, and with his Son Jesus Christ, is a work in which an angel may engage, and in the performance of which the highest archangel would be honoured — — — The fruit also of spiritual labour infinitely excels all that can be reaped in the field of nature. The statesman, the philosopher, the merchant, the mechanic, have doubtless a rich reward of their labours: but it is a reward which an atheist may enjoy; and which, to whatever extent it is enjoyed, “perishes with the using:” it is all but as “the meat that perisheth.” But the peace of God which passeth all understanding, the light of his reconciled countenance, a sense of his love shed abroad in the heart, the joy of the Holy Ghost, the earnests and foretastes of the heavenly bliss; what shall I say of these? what are earthly things in comparison of these? what, but a taper before the meridian sun? Besides, these endure for ever: they are “a meat that endureth unto eternal life;” and, to whatever extent they are enjoyed, they are but as the dawn of future blessedness, the first-fruits of an abundant harvest — — —

Can any labour be too great for these? The mind may easily be too intensely fixed on the vanities of time and sense, and the exertions made for them be too great: but it is not possible to have the desire after spiritual blessings too ardent, or the pursuit of them too laborious.]

Let us now turn our attention to,

II. The encouragement here afforded—

We may labour for the meat which perisheth, and be disappointed; as thousands are, who, after years of incessant toil, have either acquired little, or perhaps been reduced to the lowest ebb of want and misery. But this shall never be experienced by those who labour for that better meat which endureth unto everlasting life. For, as a recompence of their labours,

1. The Lord Jesus Christ will give it to them—

[The Lord Jesus constantly calls himself “the Son of Man;” because by that name, in particular, the Messiah was expected, and had been foretold [Note: Daniel 7:13.]. “Him had God the Father sealed,” and attested, by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, and by an audible voice from heaven [Note: Matthew 3:16-17.]. By all his miracles, too, did God bear ample testimony to his Messiahship [Note: John 5:36.], and, above all, in his resurrection from the dead, and his visible ascension to the highest heavens. There is he invested with “all power both in heaven and earth;” and from thence will he communicate to all his believing people, according to the full extent of their necessities. The Lord Jesus Christ is of himself well disposed to give us all that we can desire: but, if it were possible to have any security beyond that which we possess in his own love and mercy, we have it in his ordination to that very office by the Father, and in his exaltation to heaven for that very end, “that he may be Head over all things to his Church,” and “that he may fill all things” “out of the fulness that is treasured up in him [Note: Ephesians 1:22-23.].”]

2. He will give it to them all, without exception—

[There is no want of power in him to give it to whomsoever he will. Nor will he be constrained to work a miracle to supply any number that call upon him. “In his Father’s house there is bread enough, and to spare.” Nor will he shew any partiality to one above another. Every labourer, whether old or young, rich or poor, shall receive his proper recompence, every one in exact proportion to his own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.]. There will not be with him a different standard whereby to estimate the labours of men; the time and zeal of one being regarded as nothing, in comparison with the exertions of others. “He will judge righteous judgment.” It may be that some do not begin to labour till they are incapable, according to human apprehension, of doing any thing to good effect: but though they “come into the vineyard at the eleventh hour,” they shall have a portion dealt out to them with a liberal hand. One thing only must be observed by all: whatever they receive, they must receive it as a gift, “a reward, not of debt, but of grace [Note: Romans 4:4.].” This is indispensably necessary for them all. Not one is to look upon the meat as earned by him; because there is no proportion whatever between the work and the reward, so far as merit is concerned. The labour of ten thousand years would not merit the smallest portion in heaven: the best of men are but “unprofitable servants:” but, if men will labour, “they shall never labour in vain, or run in vain [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].”]

This subject affords just occasion for,

1. Reproof to the indolent—

[Truly, when we see how anxiously and industriously men exert themselves for the things of time and sense, the very best amongst us may well be ashamed and confounded on account of his own listlessness and inactivity in the ways of God. Look at the worldling: see him “rising early, and late taking rest, and eating the bread of carefulness,” for weeks, and months, and years: see the satisfaction which he feels in prospects of success, and his pain in the apprehensions of failure: see how alive he is to every thing which may help him forward in his favourite pursuit, and how every thing is made to bear upon that. When shall we engage with such ardour as that in the pursuit of heaven? When shall we use the means of grace with the same zest and constancy as they do the means of temporal advancement? When will every thing be swallowed up, as it were, in the concerns of the soul? Alas! it must be confessed that we fall exceeding short in all these exertions, and that “the men of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” For one Mary that sits habitually at the Saviour’s feet, there are many Marthas, who, in spite of their professed love for Christ, are careful and cumbered about many things.

But, if this be the case with the most spiritual amongst us; what shall I say to those who have never yet set themselves in earnest to obtain eternal life? The consciences of many must surely testify against them, that, instead of labouring with all their might for spiritual and eternal blessings, they have never spent so much as one hour in prayer for the salvation of their souls. They are content to leave their eternal interests to chance, if I may so speak; though, if God be true, they leave them to certain ruin. The Lord Jesus Christ, as we have seen, will give to them that labour: but where is it said, that he will give to them that labour not? No such promise can be found in all the book of God. No, indeed: all is suspended on the use of means: “Ask, and ye shall have: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He who improves his talents, whether they be more or less, shall be rewarded: but “the unprofitable servant, that hides his talent in a napkin, shall assuredly be cast into outer darkness.” Consider this, my dearly beloved, and begin without delay the work that is assigned you; for “the day is fast passing away; and the night is quickly coming, when no man can work.”]

2. For congratulation to the poor—

[It must be confessed, that, in relation to temporal concerns, your portion is far inferior to that of the more opulent. For you may often be willing to labour, and not be able to find employment: and when you do labour ever so hard, you may be scarcely able to earn sufficient to supply your necessities. But, in relation to spiritual and everlasting happiness, the balance is altogether as much in your favour. The richer part of the community are so engrossed with the cares or pleasures of this life, that they can scarcely find a moment to devote to the concerns of eternity. The very dispositions which are generated by carnal ease, render it “more difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” Hence you read, that “not many mighty, not many noble, are called [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26.].” But what do you read concerning the poor? Hear, and be astonished! hear, and bless your God! “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: James 2:5.]?” Yes, he has: and experience proves it: and the appeal which God himself makes to us respecting it is absolutely unanswerable. Be of good cheer then; and bless your God for the privileges which you enjoy. True, indeed, no rich man shall perish because he is rich; nor shall any poor man be saved because he is poor: but if the rich neglect their Saviour and their God, however full their tables may now be, they shall soon “want a drop of water to cool their tongues:” but the poor, though they be so destitute that they have not rags to cover their sores from the dogs that molest them, shall, if they truly seek after God, soon sit down with Abraham at the heavenly banquet, and rejoice in all the abundance of God’s glory for ever and ever [Note: Luke 16:19-25.]. Let not your poverty, then, be urged as an excuse for neglecting God; but be improved rather, as an incentive to secure the true riches, which shall never fade away.]


Verse 28-29

DISCOURSE: 1637

THE NECESSITY OF FAITH IN CHRIST

John 6:28-29. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

THE real scope of these words is more clearly seen in the original than in the translation. Our blessed Lord, knowing that many had followed him from carnal motives, and under an expectation that He who had fed thousands of persons with a few loaves and fishes would establish a temporal kingdom amongst them, had given them this solemn caution: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.” These words they had not fully understood. They supposed that some great advantages were to be derived from him; and that some particular works were to be done, in order to obtain them: but what works they were, they did not know. They asked therefore of our Lord, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? thou speakest of some works appointed to be done by us; and we want to know what they are, in order that we may commence the performance of them.” It must here be observed, that they use, throughout their reply, the very same word as Jesus had used when he bade them “labour [Note: ver. 27. ἐργάζεσθε.].” Our blessed Lord, still using the same word, says, “This is the work of God,” (that is, this is the thing which God enjoins you to do, in order to a participation of the blessings which I am come to bestow), that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent.”

In opening these words, I will shew,

I. What is that work which God more particularly requires of us—

It is, that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ.

Let us, however, distinctly notice what kind of a work this is—

[It is not a mere assent to the truth of his Messiahship, but an humble affiance in him as the Saviour of the world. We must feel our need of him — — — We must see the suitableness and sufficiency of his salvation — — — We must actually go to him as the appointed Saviour, and seek acceptance with God through Him alone — — — We must renounce every other hope — — — and make him “all our salvation and all our desire” — — —]

And let us bear in mind, that this is “the work of God”—

[It is a work. True, indeed, it is often in the Scriptures opposed to works; as when it is said, “A man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ [Note: Galatians 2:16.]: still, however, it is a work, and a great work too, and such a work as none but God himself can enable us to perform. Only bear in mind the foregoing description of it, and you will see, that, in order to the exercise of it, there must be the deepest prostration of soul before God, and a going-forth of the whole soul to him in a way of humble and grateful affiance. And who is sufficient for the performance of it? Verily, “it is the gift of God,” and of God only [Note: Ephesians 2:8.]: it is his grace, and his grace alone, that can ever form it in the soul [Note: Acts 18:27. Philippians 1:29.]. It is his work also, not merely because he alone can work it in us, but because it is that which he requires of every living man. When he commanded his Gospel to be preached to the whole world, this was the declaration which was to be universally and invariably made; “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned.”]

To justify what is here said of faith, I proceed to shew,

II. Why it has this great pre-eminence above all other works—

In some respects, faith is inferior to other graces: as the Apostle says, “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:3.].” There are, however, some points of view in which faith rises above every other grace, and may, in a pre-eminent degree, be called, “The work of God.”

1. It is that for which Christ himself “was sent” into the world—

[He was sent, no doubt, to redeem the world by his own most precious blood. He was sent “to die for us—He, the just, for us the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” But, in executing this office, he was to become the one object of faith and hope to the whole world. He was lifted up upon the cross, precisely in the way that the brazen serpent was erected on the pole in the wilderness. The serpent was to convey healing to those only who looked to it as God’s appointed instrument for that end: and the Lord Jesus must in like manner be looked to, in order to a participation of his benefits; as he says by the prophet, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” This our blessed Lord pointed out, with very extraordinary fulness, in his discourse with Nicodemus. He repeated it again, and again, and again: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so shall the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God .. He that believeth on the Son hath life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him [Note: John 3:14-18; John 3:36.].” If we believe not on him, we defeat, as far as respects ourselves, all the gracious purposes of God the Father, who hath sent him; and all that Christ himself has done, in dying for us; and all that the Holy Spirit has done, in bearing testimony to him, and in revealing him to the world. There is no other grace, the want of which does such dishonour to God, as this: for it sets aside all the wonders of his love, and pours contempt on all the riches of his grace. The whole mystery of godliness is made void, unless he who was “God manifest in the flesh” is also “believed on in the world [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.].”]

2. It is that, without which all other graces will be of no avail—

[I will suppose a person to possess as many graces as St. Paul himself: of what use will they be to the salvation of his soul, if he believe not in the Lord Jesus Christ? If, indeed, we had never sinned at all, and were to continue sinless to our dying hour, we might hope for acceptance with God without the intervention of Christ. But, as we are sinners before God, how can we ever obtain forgiveness with him, except through the atonement which has been offered for us? But, if we obey perfectly, we do no more than our duty: there can be no overplus to merit the forgiveness of past sin. And, if God were freely to forgive the past, what could we do to purchase heaven? What act have we ever done which we could presume to carry to Almighty God, saying, ‘This needs no forgiveness at thy hands; on the contrary, it is so perfect and meritorious, that I can claim all the glory of heaven as a just recompence for it?’ Verily, if Job himself, the most perfect man upon earth, dared not urge such a plea in his own behalf [Note: Job 9:20.], much less can we: and therefore we must renounce every such self-righteous thought, and, with the Apostle Paul, “desire to be found in Christ; not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Philippians 3:9.].” Let me not be misunderstood, as though I would undervalue graces of any kind: they are all good and necessary in their place: but no one of them, nor all together, can justify the soul before God: that can be effected only by faith, which unites us unto Christ, and interests us in all that Christ has done and suffered for us.]

3. It is that which will secure, for every one that possesses it, all the blessings both of grace and glory—

[It is impossible for one who believes in Christ to perish. Whatever he may have been, whatever he may have done, even though he may have been as wicked as Manasseh himself, we are warranted in affirming, that, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he may find acceptance with God: “though his sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as wool; though they have been red like crimson, they shall be made white as snow.” Our blessed Lord has expressly declared this, without any limitation or exception: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” Nor is there any limit to the benefits which the believing penitent shall obtain at his hands. Does he desire pardon? The declaration of an inspired Apostle is, “All that believe, shall be justified from all things.” Does his troubled soul sigh for peace? “Being justified by faith, be shall have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, so as to rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Does he pant after holiness? Such shall be the transforming efficacy of his faith, that “his very heart shall be purified by it;” and in the exercise of it he shall “be changed into the Saviour’s image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Now there is no other grace, of which these things can be spoken; because there is no other grace that can unite us to Christ, or derive from him those rich communications which alone can produce these great effects.]

Application—

1. Is there, then, an inquirer here?

[I suppose there are some who are ready to ask, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Let me, before I reply to this, ask in return, ‘Are you sincere in making this inquiry? And will you, if I set before you the very truth of God, endeavour earnestly to comply with it? Can you, from your hearts, declare before God what Jeremiah’s hearers engaged to him, “The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for which the Lord thy God shall send thee unto us: whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God [Note: Jeremiah 42:3-6.].” ’ If this be really the disposition of your minds, then do I confidently return to you the answer which St. Paul gave to the jailor’s inquiry, “What shall I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This is the work which must be done by all: and this work really and truly done, you shall as surely find acceptance with God, as if you were already in heaven. I do not say, that, when you have done this, there remains nothing more to be done: but I say, that if this he really done, all the rest will follow. Once find the sweetness of that truth, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus,” and you will soon attain the character inseparable from it: “You will walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”]

2. But methinks I hear the voice of an objector

[Some one, perhaps, is saying, ‘A fine easy way to heaven indeed! Only believe; and you may live as you will, and be sure of heaven at the last!’ But this objection will never be urged by one who knows what faith really is. Were it a mere assent to any set of truths, we might well be alarmed at the virtue assigned to it. But it is a grace, which contains in it the seed of all other graces. We speak of a living, not a dead faith: and a living faith will as surely be productive of holiness, both of heart and life, as the light of the sun will dispel the shadows of the night.

But the objector will say, that our whole statement is contrary to the Holy Scriptures; since our blessed Lord, in answer to one who had asked him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” replied, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The same answer will I give, if, like that inquirer, you are determined to save yourselves by your doings. But then, remember, you must keep them all, and perfectly too, and from the first to the latest moment of your existence. But if, in one instance, even though it be in thought only, you fail, the law will curse you to all eternity; as it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” And if you will not rest your hopes on such an obedience as this, then is there no other refuge for you but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor any other hope of acceptance for you than through faith in him. But if you still wish to adhere to the commandments, know that “this is God’s commandment, that ye believe in his Son Jesus Christ [Note: 1 John 3:23.];” and that there is no commandment in the Decalogue more peremptorily given than this; since it is expressly declared, that “if you obey it, you shall he saved: and if you obey it not, you shall be damned.”]

3. Let me not close the subject without a few words to one, as an approver

[It is truly delightful to think, that, however hostile the heart of man is to this doctrine, there are some who cordially approve it. Beloved brother, whoever thou art, who embracest it from thy heart, I congratulate thee from my inmost soul. For, in relation to all other works, a self-righteous man can never tell whether he has a sufficiency of them to justify him before God. To his latest hour he must be in fearful suspense about the state of his soul: but thou hast in thine own bosom a ground of the fullest assurance. The work of faith is such as will at once commend itself to thy conscience as really done. Thou wilt feel a consciousness that thou renouncest every other hope, and reliest on Christ alone. And in Christ there is such a sufficiency of all that thou needest, that thou canst not possibly entertain a doubt, whether he be able to save thee to the uttermost. Go on, then, “strong in faith, and giving glory to God.” And, as the world will look for the fruits of thy faith, yea, and as God himself also will judge by them, see that thou shew thy faith by thy works, and that thou “abound in all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God.”]


Verse 34

DISCOURSE: 1638

THE LIVING BREAD

John 6:34. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

A FANCIED approbation of the Gospel will consist with rooted enmity against it. But such an approbation always arises from carnal, or partial views of the truth. Many love God under the idea “that He is such an one as themselves.” Thus the Samaritan woman desired the living water, that she might have no more occasion to go to the well [Note: John 4:15.]. Thus also the people, whom our Lord was now addressing, seem to have misapprehended our Saviour’s meaning. They had desired him to confirm his Divine mission by some miracle equal to what Moses had wrought for their forefathers in the wilderness [Note: ver. 31.]. Our Lord assured them that He himself was the true bread, of which the manna was only a type and figure. They, little knowing what they asked for, desired him to give them the bread of which he spake. The petition however, in itself, was good. That you may be led to offer it in a more intelligent manner, we shall set before you,

I. The excellence of that bread—

Our Lord enters very minutely into this subject. He institutes a comparison between the manna, and himself as the bread of life; and shews the superiority of the true bread,

1. In its origin—

[They supposed that the manna had been given them from heaven: whereas it came only from the clouds [Note: ver. 32.]; and was as earthly in its nature as if it had been formed like common bread. But Christ himself was the true bread [Note: ver. 48.]: and He came down from heaven. His abode from all eternity had been in the bosom of his Father. And he was now come down from thence to be the food of his chosen people [Note: ver. 51.].]

2. In its properties—

[The manna, like any other bread, was suited only to the body; nor could it give life to that, but only maintain its life; and after all, the bodies which it nourished would die at last [Note: ver. 49.]. But the true bread was intended for the soul. Nor would it merely support it when alive, but quicken it when dead [Note: ver. 33.]. Yea, the soul, once quickened by it, should never die [Note: ver. 50, 58.]. Christ himself being their life, they should live by him here [Note: ver. 57.], and with him for ever [Note: Colossians 3:4.].]

3. In its uses—

[The manna was very confined as to its use. It was for one nation only; whereas the true bread is intended for the use of all mankind [Note: ver. 33. before cited.]. It is more extensively necessary. The Israelites might as easily have been supported by other food. And we can find many substitutes for bread. But without Christ, no man can live [Note: ver. 53.]. Neither earth nor heaven can provide a substitute for him. That bread is equally needed by every child of man. It is also more extensively suitable. Persons may be so disordered as to be incapable of enjoying, or even digesting, common bread. But in whatever state we be, Christ is the proper food of the soul. He is a bread, which is suited both, as milk, to babes, and, as strong meat, to them that are of full age [Note: ver. 54–56.]. Further, it is more extensively satisfying. The manna could supply but one want. Whatever abundance of bread we have, we may need a variety of other things, for want of which we may even perish. But if we have Christ, we have all things. We can want nothing which is good for the body [Note: Matthew 6:33.]; nor any thing that relates to the soul [Note: ver. 35.]. He is food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, riches to the poor, health to the sick, life to the dead [Note: Revelation 3:18. 1 Corinthians 1:30.]; He is all and in all [Note: Colossians 3:11.].]

Such a glorious account of this bread being given by Christ himself, it becomes us to inquire into,

II. The means by which it may be obtained—

Every provision for the body must be obtained by labour; but this for the soul must be accepted as a free gift—

[We are extremely averse to stand indebted to another for our spiritual sustenance. We should be much better pleased to earn it by our own industry. But all our exertions for this end are fruitless. If we were to obtain an interest in Christ by our own works, salvation would no longer be of grace [Note: Romans 11:6.]. We are therefore cautioned against every attempt to gain it in that way [Note: Galatians 5:2-4.]. We are expressly told that the Israelites were left for ever destitute of this bread, because they would persist in these self-righteous methods of obtaining it [Note: Romans 9:30-32.]. We are exhorted to receive it freely, without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1-2.].]

Nevertheless we are not to decline all kind of labour for it—

[We are to seek this bread in prayer [Note: The text.], and in the use of all God’s appointed ordinances. We are to exert ourselves as much in order to obtain it, as if the acquisition of it were the sole effect of our labour. But we are at the same time to depend as much upon God for it, as if we used no endeavours whatever to procure it. Nor is there any inconsistency in such a view of our duty. Our Lord himself says, “Labour for the meat which the Son of man shall give you [Note: John 6:27.].”]

Application—

[Let us seek it by prayer and faith — — — Let us be thankful that it is sent us in such rich abundance — — — Let us gather it fresh every day and hour [Note: Exodus 16:16.] — — — Nor once attempt to hoard it for future use [Note: Exodus 16:19-20.]. There is a fulness in Christ to satisfy our every want — — — Nor shall we ever be refused if we plead with him as we ought to do [Note: Matthew 15:26-28.]. Let us remember, that in our Father’s house there is bread enough and to spare [Note: Luke 15:17-18.]. And rest assured, that by feeding upon Christ, we shall find him to be meat indeed and drink indeed [Note: John 6:55.].]


Verse 37

DISCOURSE: 1639

CHRIST’S WILLINGNESS TO RECEIVE SINNERS

John 6:37. Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

IT is a pleasing reflection that there is a people secured to Christ, who, having been given to him by the Father, shall, each in his appointed time, “be gathered unto Shiloh,” to be the fruits of his travail, and the spoils of his victory. This pleasure however would be greatly damped, if we believed, that there were any infallibly, and from eternity, given over to perdition, who should be sent into the world for no other purpose than to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and to fit themselves for the place, to which they had been doomed by an eternal and irreversible decree. We confess that we cannot so draw the line between pr ζterition and predestination, as to satisfy in all cases a cavilling, or perhaps a scrupulous mind: but the same difficulties occur, if we attempt to mark the distinct boundaries of free will, and free grace; or to shew how the existence of sin could ever consist with the holiness of God. This however is not our province: we must leave to God to reconcile the difficulties that occur; and receive the truths he declares, not because we can comprehend every thing respecting them, but because they are revealed by an unerring God. That some are secured to Christ appears from hence, that, if they were not, it might eventually happen, that none might come to him; and consequently, that he might shed his blood in vain. We are not however left to found this sentiment on any uncertain reasonings of our own; since our Lord himself, in the very words before the text, says, “All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me.” But are all others therefore of necessity sealed up unto perdition? no; for he adds, “And him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”

To improve this blessed declaration, let us consider,

I. What we should come to Christ for—

[In general, we answer, that we must come to him for every thing; since all fulness is treasured up in him, on purpose that we may receive out of it according to our necessities. But more particularly, we must come to him for pardon, which we all need; which we cannot otherwise obtain; and which he is exalted to give [Note: Acts 5:31.]. We must come for peace, since all peace derived from other quarters, is delusive, and he, as the Prince of peace, has promised to bestow it [Note: Isaiah 9:6. John 14:27. Ephesians 2:17.]. We must come for strength, since without him we can do nothing [Note: John 15:5. 2 Corinthians 3:5.], and by him, every thing [Note: Philippians 4:13.]; and St. Paul himself applied to him in prayer, and obtained from him, as we also shall do, grace sufficient for him [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]. Lastly, we must come to him for eternal life and glory; since he frequently claims it as his prerogative to give it [Note: John 10:28.], and will surely be the author of it to all them that obey him [Note: Hebrews 5:9.].]

II. In what manner we should come to him—

[Of course, our Lord meant not that we were to approach him with our bodies; since many thronged him, and pressed upon him, who nevertheless were cast out. It is therefore, not to the motion of our bodies, but to the frame of our minds, that we are to have respect, when we come unto him. We must come unto him empty. If, like the Laodiceans, we think ourselves rich and increased with goods [Note: Revelation 3:17.], our application to Christ will be vain and fruitless [Note: Luke 1:53.]. We must be deeply convinced of our own guilt and helplessness; and be thoroughly persuaded that we must perish if be receive us not. We must be like the Prodigal, when dying with hunger, or like the Disciples in jeopardy, crying, Save, Lord, or we perish [Note: Matthew 8:25.]. Moreover we must come believing. This is more particularly intended by our Lord, the words “coming” and “believing,” being perfectly synonymous [Note: ver. 35.]. To come filled with unbelief, would be to insult, rather than to honour him. We should be convinced of his suitableness to our necessities, his sufficiency for our relief, and his willingness to receive us. We must regard him as the only way to life, the only door of hope [Note: John 14:6; John 10:9.]. We must believe in him as appointed of God to be our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:30.]; and then we shall find by happy experience that he is “able to save us to the uttermost.”]

III. The encouragement we have to come to him—

[Though our Lord sometimes delayed answering the requests of those who came to him in the days of his flesh, he never finally refused any. Thus, though he may not instantly manifest his acceptance of us, he will not reject any who thus come unto him. No past iniquities shall cause him to reject us. This is evident from many strong and express declarations of Prophets [Note: Isaiah 1:18.], of Apostles [Note: Acts 10:43 and 1 John 1:7.], of Christ himself [Note: Matthew 12:31.]. If it be thought that the sin against the Holy Ghost is an exception, let it suffice to say, that no man, who desires to find acceptance through Christ, can possibly have committed that; since he would in that case have been given over to judicial blindness and obduracy, and consequently, would have continued altogether regardless of his eternal welfare. The same may be proved from manifold instances, wherein the vilest of the human race have found acceptance with him. We need only look at Manasseh [Note: 2 Kings 21:16. with 2 Chronicles 33:9; 2 Chronicles 33:12-13.], David [Note: 2 Samuel 12:9; 2 Samuel 12:13.], and above all at the Apostle Paul, who was in this particular intended for a pattern [Note: 1 Timothy 1:16.], and this blessed truth will be established beyond a possibility of doubt. Nor will any present infirmities cause our Lord to reject us. For his Disciples, long after they had found acceptance with him, betrayed manifest symptoms of pride [Note: Mark 9:33-34.], revenge [Note: Luke 9:54.], and cowardice [Note: Matthew 26:56.]; and Peter, whose misconduct was by far the most glaring, received by far the most striking tokens of our Lord’s regard [Note: Mark 16:7 and John 21:15-17.]. We say not this to encourage sin, but to illustrate the tender mercies of him, who carries the lambs in his bosom, and who, instead of breaking the bruised reed, will bring forth from it the sweetest melody [Note: Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 42:3.].]

Address—

1. Those who are afar off from Christ—

[Can it be supposed, that, if we will not go to Christ, we can ever participate his benefits? Doubtless we cannot: if we keep at a distance from him in this world, there will be an “impassable gulf between us” in the world to come. Let us remember then, that we must go to him or perish. Let not any one object, I cannot go: for the truth is, we will not [Note: John 5:40.]. Yet, notwithstanding our past obstinacy, we may go to him, with a full assurance that he will in no wise cast us out. Let us not then delay, lest death seize us, and the door of mercy be for ever closed.]

2. Those who are coming to him—

[We are told of one in the Gospel, whom, when coming to our Lord, the devil cast down, and tare, and left to appearance, dead [Note: Mark 9:20; Mark 9:26.]. Such enmity will Satan discover against us also as soon as ever we attempt to come to Christ. He will raise every obstacle in his power: he will assault us by “fightings without, and fears within.” But the more earnest he is in his endeavours to draw us from Christ, the more determined let us be in going to Christ: so shall we most effectually defeat his malice, and secure beyond a doubt our own salvation.]

3. Those who have come to him—

[Whence is it that so great a difference has been put between you and others? Is it that you were of yourselves more inclined to good, and that you made yourselves to differ [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]? No: you were once as far from God as any; nor had the smallest inclination to seek him till God gave you the will [Note: Philippians 2:13.]; nor could you then have come to Christ, except the Father had drawn you by his Almighty power [Note: John 6:44.]. Be careful then to give all the glory of your salvation to God alone. And remember that you are still to be coming to Christ every day you live [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5.]. “All your fresh springs are in him;” and “out of his fulness you must continually receive.” Live then a life of faith on the Son of God; and the communion, which you enjoy with him on earth, shall soon be perfected in the realms of glory.]


Verse 44

DISCOURSE: 1640

MAN’S INABILITY TO COME TO CHRIST

John 6:44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.

THERE are in the Holy Scriptures many doctrines which prove an offence and a stumbling-block to the world: but the reason of their exciting disgust and aversion, must be looked for, not so much in the doctrines themselves, as in the depravity of the human heart. To a humble and contrite spirit every truth in the Bible will appear reasonable and worthy of God: it is the pride of man that takes offence at the sacred records, and that renders him unable to receive the declarations of God. Our blessed Lord had told the Jews repeatedly, that he came down from heaven: they knowing his mother and his reputed father, could not endure that he should arrogate to himself such high honour: but he informed them, that the ground of the offence was within themselves; they were blinded by their own prejudices, and fettered by their own lusts, so that nothing but the almighty grace of God could ever draw them to him in a becoming manner.

Now this subject is difficult; we shall therefore explain it: it is deemed objectionable; and therefore we shall assign the reasons of it: it is liable to abuse; and therefore we shall guard it.

I. It is difficult, and therefore we shall explain it—

To “come to Christ” is to believe on him for salvation—

[It cannot refer to a mere bodily approach; because in that sense the assertion would not be true. Our Lord himself explains his meaning, and informs us, that to come to him is of the same import with believing in him [Note: ver. 35.]. Our coming to him has respect to the characters which he sustains. Is he a Prophet? we must come to him for instruction: is he a Priest? we must come to him to make atonement for us: is he a King? we must come to him to deliver us from all our spiritual enemies. In whatever view he is represented in the Scriptures, whether as a sun to enlighten, a fountain to cleanse, a physician to heal, or as bread to support our lives, we should come to him, feeling our need of him under that very character, and relying on him to supply our every want.]

In order to this, we should experience the drawings of the Father—

[When we speak of “the Father drawing us,” we appear to some as if we ascribed to him an irresistible agency, and considered men as mere machines. But we entertain no such absurd unscriptural notions. It is not with the cords of a beast, or with force and violence, that God draws us, but, as the prophet well expresses it, “with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love [Note: Hosea 11:4.],” that is, by rational considerations, and by the sweet attractions of his love. Perhaps this subject will be best understood by a familiar illustration. How was it that Jacob was drawn into Egypt? He was made to feel the pressure of a very grievous famine: he was informed that there was plenty of corn in Egypt; and that his dearly-beloved of the good was the Lord of all that land, and that he disposed of the good things thereof to whomsoever he would: he was told, moreover, that Joseph had expressly invited him; and had sent waggons for the conveyance of his family, together with abundance of provisions by the way: and finally, he was assured that, at the end of his journey, all the good of the land of Egypt should be his. Did he need after this, to have a rope or chain fastened round him, and to be dragged into Egypt? No: all that he needed was faith, to believe the tidings; and when once he was fully persuaded of the truth of these things, he was willing of himself to go into that good land. It is thus that God draws his people: he causes us to feel our need of mercy; he informs us that our beloved Jesus has all heaven at his disposal; that he has sent to invite us to him, assuring us of whatever is needful by the way, and promising us all the glory of heaven at the end: and finally, he gives us faith to believe his testimony. Thus “he makes us willing in the day of his power [Note: Psalms 110:3.];” and a thorough belief of these truths will bend the most stubborn heart, and overcome the most reluctant mind.]

Without these drawings we cannot come to Christ—

[We may give an assent to all the truths of the Gospel, and may profess an attachment to our Lord himself, without any such gracious influence; but we cannot really come to him in the manner before described, unless we be drawn by an almighty power. We can never apprehend him, till we are thus, as it were by a kind of magnetic influence, apprehended by him.]

Such is the plain import of the subject before us; but,

II. It is deemed objectionable, and therefore we shall assign the reasons of it—

There is no doctrine of the Bible that is loaded with more opprobrium than this: it is represented as grossly enthusiastic, and almost borderings on blasphemy. But the truth of it will immediately appear, if only we consider the grounds and reasons of it. It is founded,

1. On our indisposition to come to Christ—

[Consider what the coming to Christ implies: First it implies a sense of our lost state without him: and do men like to feel themselves guilty and undone? do they feel no backwardness to confess that they are justly exposed to everlasting misery? Next, it implies a renunciation of all dependence on ourselves: and is this pleasing to corrupt nature? Are we willing to believe ourselves so utterly destitute of wisdom, righteousness, and strength, that we must be altogether dependent on Christ, as much as a new-born infant is on its parent? Next, it implies a turning from every thing that is displeasing to Christ: but have we no reluctance to mortify our besetting sins, and to forsake the habits, maxims, company, and interests of a polluted world? Lastly, it implies that we give ourselves entirely up to Christ, to walk in a state of holy communion with him, and unreserved obedience to his will: but does man naturally affect such a life as this? Is there nothing irksome to him in such restraints; nothing painful in such exertions?

Here then is one reason why we need the drawings of the Father in order to come to Christ. Our coming to Christ is altogether against the current of our corrupt nature [Note: Romans 8:7. 1 Corinthians 2:14.]: and as a river flowing to the ocean cannot turn back again to its source without the attractive influence of the heavenly bodies, so neither can we reverse all our natural habits and propensities, without the drawings of our heavenly Father.]

2. On our impotency

[The impotency of man to do what is good is certainly rather of a moral than a natural kind: his inability is not like that which incapacitates him to stop the sun in the firmament: it consists principally in a want of inclination: yet, together with that, there is a positive weakness; there is even in a regenerate man “the flesh lusting against the Spirit, so that he cannot do the things that he would [Note: Galatians 5:17.].” St. Paul himself complained, that “to will was present with him; but how to perform that which was good, he found not:” that “the good which he would, he did not; and that the evil which he would not, that he did: that when he would do good, evil was present with him [Note: Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:21.].” And who amongst us has not found the same? Who has not felt wanderings of mind, yea, and lamentable obduracy of heart, in those seasons when he has earnestly desired to maintain communion with his Lord and Saviour? Who has not been made sensible that he is like a becalmed vessel; and that he spreads the sails in vain, until the wind arise to bear him onward in his voyage?

We need not then to inquire after any other reasons for the doctrine in the text: our own experience, together with that of the saints in all ages, amounts to a demonstration of the point; more especially because it is confirmed by the strongest declarations of Holy Writ. God himself has told us, that without Christ we can do nothing [Note: John 15:5.]; that we cannot, of ourselves, even speak a good word [Note: Matthew 12:34 and 1 Corinthians 12:3.]; nay, that we have not sufficiency even to think a good thought [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.]: that “God must give us both to will and to do [Note: Philippians 2:13.].” If then “our sufficiency even for these things must be of God,” how much more must a Divine influence be necessary in order to our coming fully and habitually to Christ, as the life and strength of our souls!]

We must not however be satisfied with establishing this doctrine; for,

III. It is liable to abuse; and therefore we will guard it—

It is abused as much as any doctrine whatever;

1. By the ignorant and ungodly—

[When we tell them how they must come to Christ, and devote themselves to his service, they excuse themselves by saying that they cannot: and thus, in fact, they cast all the blame of their condemnation upon God, instead of taking it to themselves. But the impotency of which they complain is no excuse for them. Before they conclude themselves to be blameless, let them inquire, whether they do all that they can; whether they read, and meditate, and pray, and watch, and strive as much as they can? If they do not improve aright the strength they have, what reason have they to complain that God has not given them more? They will not so much as “frame their doings to turn unto the Lord:” and therefore they are as deserving of punishment, as if they had had all the power in their own hands: if they be not faithful in the few things which they have, there is no reason to think that they would have been faithful in more, if more had been committed to them. With this accords our Lord’s own interpretation of such excuses, and the sentence he will pronounce on those who offer them [Note: Matthew 25:24-30.]: instead of standing excused before God, they will be condemned as wicked and unprofitable servants.

But such excuses are indeed the greatest aggravation of their guilt: for they amount only to this; “I love sin so much, that I cannot renounce it; and hate God so much, that I cannot bring my mind to love and serve him.” And how would such an excuse sound in a court of judicature on behalf of a murderer? This man hates his fellow-creatures to such a degree, that he cannot help murdering them whenever he can get them within his reach? Would the people say, ‘Poor man, he ought not to be punished, for he cannot help it?’ Would they not rather think, that the wickedness of his disposition was the greatest aggravation of his guilt, and that it would be the height of injustice to let him pass unpunished? The cases are altogether parallel: the conduct of each proceeds from his own depravity: and in either case increases, rather than diminishes, their desert of condemnation.]

2. By many professors of religion—

[Strange as it may seem, we must confess that there are many professors of religion who abuse most shamefully the doctrine of the text: I allude to Antinomian professors, who, when warned of their state, will plead their weakness in extenuation of their guilt, and will cast the blame on God, just as the ungodly themselves are wont to do. But if there be any people under heaven more offensive to God than others, surely these must be they. The ignorant and ungodly are quite innocent, when compared with these. Truly the excuses of an Antinomian professor are little short of blasphemy. O that all of that description might consider the fallacy and impiety of their pleas! But we would hope that no such professor is in this place: if however there should be one, we must declare unto him, that, whatever excuse he may make for his sinful practices or neglects, “he deceiveth his own soul, and his religion is vain.” If God indeed were unwilling to help him, there might be some justice in his pleas. But who will dare to cast such a reflection upon him? The fault is only in the depraved wills of men: “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” Let none then presume to charge God foolishly: if ever we would be right in his sight, we must trace all good to him, all evil to ourselves.]

Address—

1. To the self-confident—

[If you be not yet convinced of your need of Divine influences, go home, and try to perform some spiritual acts in your own strength: try to go to Christ with contrition; to cast yourself upon him with humble confidence; and to devote yourself to him in unreserved obedience. Do this, do it really, and with your whole heart, and we will retract all we have spoken, and confess either that the Bible is false, or that we have mistaken its true import. But we fear not the issue of such a trial: we are persuaded it would tend, more than any thing, to your conviction. Having within your own power the means of ascertaining the truth or falsehood of what you have heard, you will be utterly inexcusable if you neglect to do it.]

2. To the timid—

[Let it not be a source of discouragement to you that you feel your weakness: for “when you are weak, then are you strong.” Can you do nothing of yourselves? then live the more dependent upon God: and “he will perfect his strength in your weakness.” He has said, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, thou shalt thresh the mountains.” What a labour is this to be performed by a worm! yet it shall be done. Trust then in him, and be of good courage: and He who “seat Christ to you,” will draw you to him, and he who draws you to him, will accomplish in you all his good pleasure, till you are “raised at last” to a full enjoyment of his presence and glory.]


Verses 53-55

DISCOURSE: 1641

THE IMPORTANCE OF LIVING BY FAITH ON CHRIST

John 6:53-55. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

THE natural man neither does nor can understand spiritual truths [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. This inspired declaration has been verified in all ages. The Samaritan woman shewed how unapt we are to receive spiritual instruction [Note: John 4:14-15.]. Even Nicodemus formed the most absurd conceptions of our Lord’s meaning [Note: John 3:3-4.]: such also was the blindness of the Jews to whom our Lord addressed this discourse [Note: ver. 41, 52.]. He, however, in compassion to them, proceeded to confirm his gracious declarations. May we experience the illuminating and constraining influences of divine grace [Note: ver. 44, 45.], while we consider,

I. What is meant by eating the flesh of Christ, and drinking his blood—

Great caution is necessary in explaining the figurative expressions of Scripture. We shall endeavour to exhibit the full scope of the metaphor, without pressing it too far. It is sufficiently obvious that the text is not to be understood in a literal sense; nor does it relate to the sacrament, that being not yet instituted; nor does it signify the giving a mere assent to our Lord’s doctrines.

[The doctrines of the Gospel are sometimes represented as bread and wine; and our Lord may be considered as speaking of his doctrines when he speaks of himself as the bread of life. But he could not intend a mere assent to those doctrines by the metaphor of eating. If this were all that he meant, Judas and Simon Magus were truly possessed of eternal life [Note: Acts 8:23. Mark 14:21.].]

Our Lord explains the eating of him as synonymous with believing on him [Note: ver. 35.]: but to speak more particularly, the metaphor of eating the flesh of Christ, &c. implies,

1. An union with his person—

[The doctrine of our union with Christ is set forth by a great variety of images in Scripture. It naturally arises from the metaphor in the text [Note: Ephesians 3:17. Colossians 1:27.]. It is particularly mentioned by our Lord in the two verses following [Note: From hence it appears, that as our bodily life is upheld by the invisible operation of our food within us, and as the spiritual life of Jesus was maintained by the indwelling of the Deity within him; so the eating of him is, in fact, an union with him, and shall ever be accompanied by the invisible supports of his Spirit and grace.].]

2. A trust in his sacrifice—

[Our Lord speaks of his flesh expressly in reference to his sacrifice [Note: ver. 51.]. The words which he used at the institution of his Last Supper confirm this idea. The eating of his flesh therefore can mean no less than a trust in that sacrifice.]

3. A dependence on his grace—

[What animal food is to the body, that the grace of Christ is to the soul. Unless we have recourse to Christ continually, we must fall and perish [Note: John 15:5.].]

According to this view of the metaphor, it is worthy of the deepest attention.

II. The importance of the doctrine—

This is abundantly manifest, from the words before us. There is nothing so important as a life of faith on Christ: nothing,

1. So necessary—

[The greatest of all concerns is the salvation of the soul: but that cannot he effected by any other means. The person who does not live on Christ, has no spiritual life: he may have wealth, and honour, learning, and even morality (in some sense), but he has no life [Note: 1 John 5:11-12.]: he may even “have a name to live, but he is really dead [Note: Revelation 3:1.];” and his spiritual death will issue in death eternal [Note: Revelation 21:8.]. What then can be so necessary as to believe in Christ?]

2. So beneficial—

[The possession of the whole world is not to be compared with eternal life: yet life eternal is secured by eating the flesh of Christ. As for past sins, they shall be no bar to our obtaining of this blessing [Note: Hebrews 8:12.]. Indeed, “the believer has already eternal life” in his soul. He has a title to it, confirmed by the promise and oath of Jehovah [Note: Hebrews 6:17-18.]. He has also the earnest of it since this communion with Christ is heaven begun on earth [Note: Ephesians 1:14.]: and the Saviour in whom he trusts, will raise him up at the last day” to the complete and everlasting enjoyment of it.]

3. So excellent—

[They may be said to “feed on ashes,” who have no higher gratifications than those which are derived from carnal indulgences: but “the body and blood of Christ are meat indeed, and drink indeed.” Nothing affords such unspeakable delight as the exercise of faith on Christ [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]: nor has any thing such a transforming efficacy on the soul [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]. Surely, if the manna was “angels’ food [Note: Psalms 78:25.],” much more is the body and blood of Christ.]

Address—

1. Those who are disregarding this heavenly banquet—

[Would to God that you would consider Who it is that utters the declarations in the text! and that you would mark the energetic manner in which he utters them! Think you that his words are false, or that they shall ever be reversed? Ah! cast away the husks on which you are feeding; and live, as the Apostle did, by faith on the Son of God [Note: Galatians 2:20.].]

2. Those who doubt whether they may partake of it—

[The whole of our Lord’s discourse to the Jews shews that all were, not only at liberty, but bound, to feed on him; and we are commanded to invite, yea, to compel, you to come to this glorious feast [Note: Isaiah 25:6. with Luke 14:23.]. Indeed, to whom else will ye go? and on what else will ye feed? Come then, and “eat and drink abundantly, O beloved [Note: Song of Solomon 5:1.];” and rest assured, that they who come hungry, shall never be sent empty away.]


Verse 60

DISCOURSE: 1642

THE GOSPEL A GROUND OF OFFENCE

John 6:60. Many therefore of his Disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

THE Gospel, to those who have obtained just views of it, is simplicity itself: but to those who are not taught of God, it is utter foolishness. When the prophets taught the people, their hearers, instead of “believing their report [Note: Isaiah 53:1.],” were ready to exclaim, “Ah! Lord God, doth he not speak parables [Note: Ezekiel 20:49.]?” In like manner, when our blessed Lord, “who spake as never man spake [Note: John 7:46.],” addressed to his followers as rich and instructive a discourse as any that is contained in the sacred volume, they said among themselves, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”

We shall find it not unprofitable to consider,

I. What was the saying at which they were so greatly offended—

In substance it was, that his people must live by faith in him—

[This he had spoken plainly: “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” But he had also represented it under a figure which they did not understand. He had been challenged by his hearers to give any proof of his divine mission, equal to that which Moses had given to the Jewish people, in the wilderness, by supplying them with manna from heaven for forty years: and, in answer to that challenge, our Lord drew a parallel between the manna and himself, whom that manna typified [Note: Here the parallel may be drawn from the context. See Discourse on ver. 53–55.] — — — and required that all should live by faith in him for the salvation of their souls, as their forefather did on the manna for the sustenance of their bodies.]

This filled them with extreme astonishment and disgust—

[That he should speak of himself as “coming down from heaven,” was unaccountable; since they knew, as they supposed, his earthly parentage, as well as they did that of any other man [Note: ver. 41, 42.] — — — That he should speak of “giving them his flesh to eat,” was equally incomprehensible; since they could annex no idea to it but that which was too horrible to think of [Note: ver. 52.] — — — Then, as to the consequences that he spake of, as infallibly arising to them from their eating, or declining to eat, his flesh, they could not endure to hear such assertions from his lips.

Hence they “murmured” among themselves; and declared it all to be utterly unintelligible, and unworthy to be received by any rational being. Their confidence, in relation to this view of it, is strongly expressed in that pointed interrogation, “Who can hear it?” And so strong was their disgust at it, that “from that time many of his Disciples went back, and walked no more with him [Note: ver. 66.].” So general, too, was this feeling, that it seemed as if the Apostles themselves would follow the example of his other Disciples [Note: ver. 67.].]

But that to which I would more especially call your attention is, to inquire,

II. Whence it was that it proved so particularly offensive to them?

It should seem that they were offended because of,

1. The strangeness of the image—

[Never had they heard any thing like it before. Had he spoken of himself as a sacrifice, they might have more readily received the idea of “eating his flesh;” because, under their own law, the offenders in many cases partook of their own sacrifices. But even then, as they knew nothing of human sacrifices, it would have proved sufficiently dark and unintelligible to them. But when he spake of “drinking his blood,” it was disgusting to them in the extreme: for not even the prohibitions relative to idolatry were stronger than those which related to the tasting of blood. If they viewed it literally, they could regard it in no other light than as a savage ordinance, too horrible to think of: and of a spiritual or mystical import their minds could form no conception; since nothing that they had ever heard of could at all lead them to such a thought. Hence it is not surprising that they should be stumbled at what they were so utterly unable to comprehend. If so learned and excellent a man as Nicodemus was confounded at the mention of a new birth, we cannot wonder that Disciples of a more uneducated class should be offended at an image so gross, and remote from common apprehension, as that of eating human flesh, and drinking human blood.]

2. The sublimity of the sentiments contained in it—

[They saw that some deep mystery was contained in this image, though they were unable to unravel it. The food of which Jesus spake was not to nourish life, but to give it; and not to the body, but to the soul; and not of one people only, but of the whole world; and not for a few years, but for ever and ever. What could all this mean? The manna had never restored so much as one dead man to life; nor had it kept even Moses himself from dying: yet the flesh and blood of Christ were to do this, and infinitely more, for all who would partake of it, even to the very end of time. “What shall we say to such assertions as these? How can they be credited? How can any man listen to them for a moment?” Yes: such, I say, might well be the murmurings of those who understood not his sayings.]

3. The meanness of him who promulgated these sentiments—

[Had he been a mighty monarch, who, like the kings of the earth, had the command of life and death, his hearers might have annexed some idea to his words. But they were uttered by a poor man, who “had not for himself so much as a place where to lay his head,” and was attended only by a few poor fishermen. What could such a person mean, by asserting things which would appear extravagant beyond all endurance, if uttered by the greatest monarch upon earth? Doubtless the unsuitableness of his pretensions to his present appearance must have tended exceedingly to increase the difficulty of apprehending the just import of his words.]

4. The contrariety of the sentiments to all the notions they had ever imbibed—

[In addition to all the difficulties arising from the figures that were used, an insurmountable objection to the reception of them arose from the sentiments which they seemed intended to convey. If they had any meaning at all, it must be, that, in some way or other, the souls of men were to live by him, and by him alone. But how could this be? What must become of all the ordinances of the Ceremonial Law, and all the precepts of the Moral Law? Must all these, without exception, be put aside; and nothing be of any avail, but the eating of this man’s flesh, and the drinking of his blood?

That this was a particular stumbling-block in their way, is highly probable, from the very question which was put to our Lord, and from which the whole discourse originated. “They said unto him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent [Note: ver. 28, 29.].” What! Is this the great work that we have to do? Is faith in him the great duty, by means of which we are to find acceptance with God? What then becomes of Moses, and of all the precepts, whether ceremonial or moral, that he has enjoined?

Let us put ourselves into the place of the people whom our Lord addressed, and take into consideration these various difficulties which they had to contend with; and, though we cannot but severely blame, we shall be inclined, I think, to pity also, the fatal resolution which they adopted on this occasion.]

Address—

1. Those who have an insight into this mystery—

[“Blessed are the eyes that see the things that ye see.” We have very little conception what privileges we enjoy, even above those who attended the ministry of our Lord himself. We are enabled to compare one part of Scripture with another, and to see both the character of our Lord as God and man, and the accomplishment of the whole Mosaic economy in him. The things, therefore, that were stumbling-blocks to his hearers, are not so to us: and the things which were veiled in impenetrable darkness to them, are as resplendent as the day to us. Nor do we merely comprehend the Gospel as one harmonious whole, revealed at successive periods from the fall of man; but we are enabled to enjoy in our own souls, and to attest, from personal experience, that Christ’s “flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed [Note: ver. 55.].” Be thankful then, beloved, for this inestimable benefit; and, as the Israelites in the wilderness subsisted altogether on the bread from heaven, so live ye on “the true bread from heaven,” even “on the Son of God, who hath loved you, and given himself for you.”]

2. Those who are not yet able to receive it—

[Do not imagine, that because many things in the Gospel appear absurd to you, they are therefore of necessity absurd in themselves: for you cannot but know, that, in human sciences, there are many things which, if they were stated to you with the greatest clearness, you would not be able to comprehend: and therefore you may well expect the same in that deepest of all mysteries, the redemption of the world by the blood and righteousness of our incarnate God. The truth is, that this mystery cannot be understood, unless our eyes be opened by the Son of God, and a spiritual understanding be given to us, whereby to discern the things of the Spirit [Note: 1 John 5:20.]. Let me, then, guard you against precipitancy in judging of the things which you are not able to comprehend: but lift up your hearts to God in prayer, that his Spirit may be given you, and that by that Spirit you may be guided into all truth. Perhaps the images of Scripture may offend you; or the declarations of it may appear too harsh. But remember, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, says our Lord, are spirit and life.” Though therefore, if taken in a carnal sense, they may be, as doubtless in many cases they are, foolishness itself [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:14.], yet, viewed according to their true import, they are “the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth [Note: Romans 1:16.].”]


Verses 67-69

DISCOURSE: 1644

NO SAVIOUR BUT THE LORD JESUS

John 6:67-69. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that them art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

NOTHING is more common than for persons to take offence at the word of God itself. Sometimes its strictness offends them; sometimes its harshness and severity; sometimes its mysteriousness and sublimity. Nicodemus could not receive what was spoken to him about the new birth: the Samaritan woman could not comprehend the idea of living water: and the hearers of our Lord were altogether indignant, when he discoursed to them about giving them his flesh to eat. Indeed, this saying appeared to them so hard, so strange, and so absurd, that a great number of them departed from him, and walked no more with him. Even the Apostles themselves were evidently stumbled at it; insomuch, that our Lord, with a mixture of surprise and pity, asked them, “Will ye also go away?” The answer which St. Peter gave him, in the name of all the rest, will lead me to shew you the grounds of a Christian’s adherence to Christ. He determinately cleaves to Christ,

I. Because there is salvation for him in no other—

[We may conceive the Apostle speaking to this effect: “Lord, to whom shall we go? We are seeking after salvation: we are desiring to obtain peace with God: we want to find rest for our souls. Whither can we go for any of these things?”

Now, in like manner, may every Christian say, ‘To whom shall I go, to remove the burthen of my sins? If I go to the world, it may dissipate my thoughts for a moment; but it can bring no solid peace to my soul. Its cares, its pleasures, its company, can do nothing towards healing the pangs, or silencing the accusations, of a guilty conscience: they may suspend, but can never remove, my sorrows: or rather, if they cause me to forget my sins for a little time, it is only that they may press upon me afterwards with an accumulated weight, and leave me a more awful prey to guilt and shame and misery. If I go to the Law, and seek to pacify my mind by an obedience to its commands, I find no success. I feel a consciousness that I can never atone for the sins I have already committed: I am sensible, too, that, in spite of all my endeavours, I cannot fulfil its demands: I come short in every thing I do: and I hear it thundering out its anathemas against me; saying, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” I perceive that I can never establish such a righteousness as shall avail for my acceptance before God. I am therefore shut up to that way of salvation which thou, my Lord, hast revealed. Nothing but fear or terror haunts me, whether I endeavour to forget my sins, or to make an atonement for them: and I can find none but Jesus that can afford me the desired relief.’]

A further ground on which a Christian adheres to Christ is,

II. Because he is both able and willing to save—

[“Thou hast the words of eternal life,” said this blessed Apostle. The preceding discourse alone abundantly warranted this assertion: for, in it, Jesus had declared, in the strongest terms, that “he would give eternal life [Note: ver. 27.];” that “whosoever should come to him, and believe in him, should never hunger, never thirst [Note: ver. 35.];” that “of those who should come to him, he would never cast out one [Note: ver. 37.];” that “all who should see him and believe in him should assuredly have everlasting life [Note: ver. 40.];” yea, that they were at that very moment in actual possession of it [Note: ver. 47.]; that he had come down from heaven on purpose to bestow it on all who would seek it through him [Note: ver. 51.]: that, as the Jews had subsisted upon manna in the wilderness, so all who would eat his flesh, and drink his blood, should subsist by him [Note: ver. 54–56.], and that not for a time only, but for ever [Note: ver. 58.]. Now what could all this mean? Could any declaration be more full, more rich. more suitable to men sojourning in this dreary wilderness?

Thus, then, may every believer say: for the whole Scripture teems with invitations and promises from this adorable Saviour, and especially to those who feel their need of mercy at his hands. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burthen is light [Note: Matthew 11:28-30.].” “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink: and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water [Note: John 7:37-38.]. Here is no exception: the only requisite for acceptance with him is, that we feel our need of him, and come to him to quench our thirst.

What can we want more? Let our wants be ever so great, he has a fulness adequate to the supply of them: and let our unworthiness be ever so great, our sense of that unworthiness shall be our best recommendation to him: nor shall our incapacity to offer him any thing in return for these benefits be any bar to our acceptance: since they are all offered freely, “without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.].” Shall we then decline going to him? or, having gone to him, shall we ever depart from him? God forbid!]

But the Christian will yet more determinately adhere to him,

III. Because he is expressly appointed to that very office—

[Of this the Apostles were assured: “We believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It had been foretold that the Messiah should appear, on purpose “to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in an everlasting righteousness” for his believing people [Note: Daniel 9:24.]. This person was to be no other than “the Son of the Living God [Note: Psalms 2:7.].” And that Jesus was this very person, the Apostles had no doubt. They had seen the miracles which Jesus had wrought in confirmation of his divine mission, those very miracles to which Jesus himself had appealed in proof of his Messiahship [Note: Matthew 11:2-5.]: and they could not doubt but that he was the very person to whom all the Law and the Prophets had borne witness, as the appointed Saviour.

Now, if the Apostles at that time “were sure” of this truth, how much more may we be assured, who have seen his whole work completed, in his death upon the cross, his resurrection from the dead according to his word, his ascension into heaven, and his sending down of the Holy Spirit, to testify of him, and to establish his kingdom in the world? Methinks we might as well doubt our own existence, as call in question his Messiahship, and his express ordination of God to be the Saviour of the world.

Shall we, then, look out for any other? or, having believed in him, shall we for a moment suffer any other to stand in competition with him? No, Lord: we believe, and are sure, that thou art sent of God to this very office; and we will know none but Thee, none but Thee.]

Here I would put a question or two, by way of bringing home the subject more fully to our souls. Having taken for granted that we all are following the Lord Jesus, I have forborne hitherto to inquire respecting it. Let me, however, entreat you to supply that defect, and to examine carefully whether you have ever come to Christ aright? Deceive not yourselves, I pray you, in relation to this matter: for the everlasting salvation of your souls depends upon it. Have you seen that there is no hope for you in any thing but in his atoning blood? Have you renounced all dependence upon your own righteousness; and are you trusting altogether in his obedience unto death? — — — Unless this be clearly ascertained, you are not prepared to enter on the consideration of the questions which I would wish to propose to you. But, supposing that you are indeed believers in Christ, I ask,

1. Will you depart from him?

[Whom or what will you place in competition with him? — — — Perhaps you are not at present tempted in any particular way to depart from him. But be assured that you will he: for there is not any true follower of Christ who does not, sooner or later, meet with trials to prove his sincerity. You may not be called to “resist unto blood:” but you cannot fail to meet with smaller persecutions, such as contempt and ridicule, and the hatred of an ungodly world, perhaps too even of your nearest friends. What, then, is the state of your minds in reference to these things? Are you enabled, through grace, to honour Christ, and to set at defiance all your enemies? If you see others turning back, (for what age is there which does not witness many apostasies?) are you the more determined, through grace, to “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart?” Are you saying, as Ruth to Naomi, “Nothing but death (no, nor death itself) shall part between thee and me.” You must not indeed be making resolutions, and, in dependence on your own strength, be saying, “Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I:” but your daily prayer must be, that you may be kept steadfast unto the end: for it is only by being “faithful unto death, that you can ever attain a crown of life.”]

2. Will you not endeavour to bring all you can to him?

[Surely, if you are fully persuaded that “there is no other name under heaven but his, whereby man can be saved,” you will labour according to your ability to bring men to the knowledge of him. You cannot but pity the poor deceived world, who are going after lying vanities, whilst you have found a refuge for your souls. Go, look around you: go and see what empty cisterns men hew out to themselves, whilst your thirst is quenched at the fountain-head. Go to the places of public resort, and see what a poor vain portion the worldlings have. Verily, their best pleasures are but as the crackling of thorns under a pot; a fire that blazes for a moment, and then expires in smoke and melancholy. Have compassion on them, and tell them of the Saviour you have found: and, whilst you labour to instruct the ignorant, exert yourselves to the utmost to confirm the wavering, and to bring back the sheep that have been driven away.

Extend your views, also, to the heathen world. Alas! to what refuges of lies have they recourse! Behold their idols of wood and stone, that cannot so much as move themselves, much less assist their votaries! Behold the painful and cruel rites which they observe, in order to recommend themselves to the favour and approbation of their imaginary deities! Can you be acquainted with the Saviour, and not wish to make him known to them? Can you be in possession of “the words of eternal life,” and not endeavour to put into their hands that blessed volume in which they are contained [Note: If this were for a Mission Society, or Bible Society, here would be the place for enlargement on the subject.]? Surely, next to a personal adherence to him, this must be your duty: and, if you are his Disciples indeed, I feel no doubt but that you will engage in this blessed work with an affectionate solicitude for the welfare of your fellow-creatures, and an ardent zeal for the honour of your God [Note: This was written at the distance of many years from that which precedes it, and without the slightest recollection that the text had ever been treated before. But the two are so entirely different from each other, the one being more scientific, (if it may be so called) and the other altogether popular, that they are both inserted as specimens of two very different ways of treating the same text, and as answering in a slight degree the end which is more studiously consulted in the four skeletons at the end of Claude’s Essay.].]


Verse 70

DISCOURSE: 1645

ONE OF THE APOSTLES A DEVIL

John 6:70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

OUR blessed Lord and Saviour, in the whole of his deportment, was meek and gentle: yet, when occasion called to it, he exercised a holy fidelity even towards his beloved Apostles. They had now all confessed him as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God;” and had declared their determination still to adhere to him, however others of his Disciples might be offended at him, and induced to forsake him [Note: ver. 66–69.]. On this account they might be led to value themselves on their steadfastness, or perhaps feel themselves offended, when they should find, at a future period, that one of their own body was a traitor. Our Lord, therefore, warned them both against self-confidence at the present time, and against that discouragement which they would hereafter feel, when they should behold him delivered up to death through the instrumentality of one of his own most highly-favoured Apostles; saying, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

Now, if you doubt not the Saviour’s love in giving this solemn warning to his followers, let not me be thought harsh, if I call your attention to it,

I. As delivered to the Apostles—

God in every age has of his own sovereign will and pleasure, chosen, irrespective of any merit in themselves, the objects of his more especial favour—

[Even in heaven did he choose some of the angelic host in preference to others, whom, in his righteous judgment, he suffered to fall and perish: on which account they who “kept their first estate” are called his “elect angels [Note: 1 Timothy 5:21.].” And after man also had sinned, God chose our fallen race in preference to the fallen angels; providing a Saviour for us, when he had made no such provision for them. To various offices also has he chosen men, as Moses, to bring his people out of Egypt; Aaron and his descendants, to officiate in the priesthood, whilst the descendants of Moses were only Levites; and Saul and David to exercise the royal functions in Jerusalem; and Cyrus, three hundred years before any such person existed in the world, to restore his people from Babylon. The whole Jewish people were “chosen by God to be to him a holy nation, and a peculiar treasure to him above all the people upon earth [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6.].” In like manner our blessed Saviour chose his twelve Apostles. “They did not choose him, but he them [Note: John 15:16.];” calling one from his nets, and another from the receipt of custom; and afterwards another, in the midst of his most hostile purposes, and blood-thirsty pursuits [Note: Acts 22:14.]. He appealed to them, “Have not I chosen you twelve?” Have I not distinguished you above others, to be my stated attendants, and to be instructed by me with all imaginable clearness in the things which to others are revealed only in parables [Note: Luke 8:10.]?]

But though, in external circumstances, there is a great resemblance between the elect, there is often a sad difference between them—

[As, amongst the Jews, “all were not Israel who were of Israel [Note: Romans 9:6],” so all the elect are not “elect unto salvation [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.]: as we clearly see amongst the chosen Apostles, one of whom was, and remained to the last, “a devil.” In their call they were alike, as they were also in their endowments (the power of working miracles), their outward conduct, and their usefulness. On one occasion, Judas seemed to be the most excellent of all the Apostles: for, when a very precious box of ointment, which might have been sold for three hundred pence (almost ten pounds) and been given to the poor, was poured upon the head and feet of our blessed Lord, he was the first to complain of the waste; and he it was who inspired all the rest of the Apostles with “indignation against it,” as an act of insufferable extravagance. True, indeed, his motives were not very pure (as we are told [Note: Compare Matthew 26:7-9. with John 12:3-6.]); but of them the Apostles neither knew, nor suspected any thing. On the contrary, when, at the close of our Saviour’s life, he told his Disciples that one of them would betray him, every one of them suspected himself rather than Judas, so correct had been his outward deportment during the whole period of our Lord’s ministry on earth. But during that whole time, Judas, who had been entrusted by our Lord as the purse-bearer for them all, had pilfered money in small quantities from the bag (had he stolen largely, the money would have been missed); and so hardened did he become through his dishonest practices, that at last he sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, and delivered him up into the hands of his enemies. This reigning lust of covetousness shewed, that, in the midst of all his professions, he was at heart no better than a devil, and that he might be justly designated by that opprobrious name.]

And may we not consider this warning,

II. As delivered to us—

Yes, we also are God’s chosen people—

[As Christians, we are chosen above all the rest of the world, not one-sixth part of which has ever heard of the name of Christ. As Protestants, too, we are favoured of Almighty God to be delivered from the superstitions of Popery, and from the deplorable bondage in which the Popish community is held. And to whom do we owe it that we were not born of heathen, or Mahometan, or Popish parents? To whom is it owing, that our lot is cast in this happy land of light and liberty? Can we trace these mercies to any thing but the sovereign grace, and the electing love, of God? And may I not go further still, and say, that you, my dear brethren, are favoured with a ministration of the Gospel as clear and as faithful as any around you? I trust I may, without vanity and without boasting, call God to record, that I have “never kept back any thing which I conceived to be profitable for you [Note: Acts 20:20.].” Then, in these respects, I may say of all of you, that God has chosen you: and, inasmuch as you are all equally partakers of these mercies, you may account yourselves equally the children of God; yea, and so far as your outward conduct is correct, you may be accounted so by others.]

But, after all, God may see, and most probably does see, an immense difference between you—

[Only see what one reigning lust proved and demonstrated in Judas Iscariot: it proved him, in despite of all his specious appearances, to be “a devil.” My dear brethren, the same evidence will demonstrate the same awful truth, wherever it be found. Nor does it matter what that reigning lust is: it may be covetousness, or lewdness, or pride, or vindictiveness, or any other sin; but, whatever it may be, whether dear as a right eye, or apparently necessary as a right hand, it will decide our character, and determine our doom: if it continue unmortified and unsubdued, it will infallibly consign us over to the fire of hell [Note: Mark 9:43-48.]. If one besetting sin marked Judas as “a son of perdition [Note: John 17:12.],” and transmitted him to that everlasting dread abode, so will it us, whose place it must be,” as well as his [Note: Acts 1:25.]. Our being of the seed of Abraham will not make us “God’s children,” any more than it made him [Note: Romans 9:7-8.]. Our saying, Lord, Lord, however confidently we may repeat it, will not procure us a place in heaven [Note: Matthew 7:21.]; nor if we have “wrought miracles and cast out devils in the Saviour’s name,” will it prevail to avert from us our merited condemnation [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.]. Perish we must, if sin of any kind be harboured in our hearts [Note: Psalms 66:18.]. It is not necessary that we be perfect, in order to obtain mercy of the Lord in that day: for then who could ever be saved? The Apostles themselves were not perfect: but in purpose and endeavour we must be perfect: and they only will find acceptance before God, who are “Israelites indeed, and without guile [Note: John 1:47.].” I say again, in aim and effort we must be perfect: “for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God [Note: Romans 2:28-29.].”]

Application—

1. Rest not then, brethren, in outward privileges—

[Be it so: you may have all the privileges that Paul himself possessed when in his unconverted state: yet would they not profit you, if you were not brought to the knowledge of Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:4-9.], and to a real conformity to his image [Note: Philippians 3:10-11 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.]. Who can think of one of our Lord’s chosen Apostles perishing in his sins, and not tremble for himself, lest his very mercies, instead of rescuing him from eternal misery, should only aggravate and increase it?

Beware, then, lest, having been exalted to heaven, like Capernaum, in your privileges, you be cast down to hell for your abuse of them; and lest, having remained impenitent under blessings which Tyre and Sidon would have improved, your final condemnation become at last proportionably heavier than theirs [Note: Matthew 11:20-24.].]

2. Examine yourselves as to your inward dispositions—

[God sees the heart: and by the dispositions of the heart will he judge us in the last day. Now, suppose that our blessed Lord, who in his tender mercy has chosen this whole assembly to enjoy all the means of salvation, should, on inspecting our hearts, pronounce that there was, in the midst of us, one who, notwithstanding all his fair pretences and specious appearances, was a devil; and suppose that unhappy being were pointed out to us; with what pity should we look upon him, and how compassionately should we weep over him! And can we venture to hope, that in such an assembly there is not one who is under the dominion of some secret lust? If in such a family as our blessed Lord’s, where they had such rich instructions, such a bright example, and such motives to serve their God aright, there was, even amongst the small number of twelve, one that was a devil; is there not reason rather to fear, that, instead of one only being found in the midst of this whole assembly, there may be as many in proportion as amongst our Lord’s Apostles; namely, one in every twelve? O! what a fearful thought is this! And is this an. uncharitable thought? Are we all so like to the holy Apostles, that one in twelve may not be supposed to differ from them, if not in outward conduct, yet in the integrity of his heart, and in the entire devotion of his life? And what if, after all, this proportion should be inverted, and not above one in twelve be found truly dead to sin, and alive unto righteousness, as the holy Apostles were, and ready to lay down their lives for the Lord Jesus; would not this come nearer to the truth? Alas! alas! I would not be uncharitable: but when I compare the mind, the spirit, the entire conduct of you all, with that of the Apostles, I cannot dissemble my fears respecting the testimony which the Lord Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead, shall bear respecting you at the last day. Judge then yourselves, brethren, that ye be not judged of the Lord. Judge whether there be not some price for which ye have already sold your Saviour, and for which ye are betraying him to an ungodly world. I must tell you, that if there be any thing, even life itself, which ye are not ready to part with for his sake, that is the price for which ye have sold him; and that, though ye may continue to deceive both yourselves and others, the hour is coming when your true character will be declared, and your proper doom awarded to you [Note: Matthew 10:39.]. May God, in his infinite mercy, impress this awful subject on all your minds, and lead every one of you to look for this unhappy character, (supposing there to be one amongst you,) not to your neighbour, but to yourselves; and to inquire, every one for himself, “Lord, is it I? Lord, is it I?” that so at last the number of this unhappy people may be diminished; and if it were possible, that not one of you should remain, who shall not at last have an approving testimony from the heart-searching God! Amen, and Amen.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on John 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/john-6.html. 1832.


Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 20th, 2017
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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