Consider helping today!
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee
The reason for this journey
AS REGARDS HIMSELF.
1. To avoid the fury of Herod who had just slain the Baptist.
2. That the anger of the scribes and Pharisees (Mark 6:3) might abate. In this He teaches us to avoid all that might needlessly irritate sinners and thus confirm them in their sin. God withdraws at times from men only that He may take from them the occasion of sin. Going not in wrath, but in love.
II. AS REGARDS THE DISCIPLES.
1. To give them leisure and retirement. They were somewhat too full of all the things that they had done and taught, and harassed by the continual coming and going of the multitudes who thronged the master.
2. To train them in philanthropical as well as spiritual work. (W. Denton, M. A.)
The great multitude waiting to be fed
1. The great company flocking to Christ are the unbelieving nations of the world with a glimmering sense of their wants--a first pang of hunger for the bread of life.
2. The willingness of Jesus to supply bread is reproduced in the Church’s obedience to the command “Go ye into all the world,” etc.
3. The perplexity of the disciples has a counterpart in our acknowledgment of insufficient means and failure to propagate the gospel.
4. The miracle shows us that the world can only be fed by Jesus Christ. Let us consider
I. THE NUMBER AND CONDITION OF THE MULTITUDES WHO ARE STRANGERS TO THE FAITH AND HOPE OF CHRISTIANS. 700,000,000--about two thirds of the whole race--regarded under three great divisions.
1. Brahminism, professed by 150,000,000--ancient, idolatrous, cruel, licentious. Not a growing religion. Energetic reformers within its fold are leading the most intelligent away from idolatry, but not to Christ.
2. Buddhism arose in the six century B.C. Its founder a philosopher, moral and benevolent. Disgusted with Brahminism, he invented a system of pure morality, but without a personal God and immortality. Numbers about 400,000,000.
3. Mohammedanism numbers about 80,000,000. It borrowed a little light from revelation; abhors idolatry; acknowledges Jesus as a prophet. Its morality is low, and its dream of a future life is tinctured with sensuality. Its history is a tissue of impurity and cruelty.
II. OUR CONDITION AND MEANS OF FEEDING THIS GREAT MULTITUDE. Christians not above 300,000,000 in number. From the commencement Christianity has been promulgated
1. By foreigners visiting some gospel centre, as on the day of Pentecost, and carrying the seeds of life to their own homes. In no country are there so many heathen visitors as in England. Were their spiritual needs provided for here what vast good would result! 2. By colonists and traders. Professing Christian] Englishmen are everywhere. Would that they possessed what they profess.
3. By missions. Your duty is
(1) To pray the Lord to raise up more missionaries.
(2) To ask your self whether you could go, and to encourage others to go.
(3) To support those who do go.
(4) To keep up, by reading, etc., a living interest in their work. (W. T. Bullock, M. A.)
Christ the Refresher of mankind
I. THE MIRACLE OF THE BREAD.
1. Our Lord here appears as the Master of matter and natural laws. We are, in a certain sense, the slaves of matter, and when we conquer Nature it is only by obeying her.
2. The miracle appears to have been recorded because it led to disbelief. Now men say that there is too much miracle about Christ; then they said there was too little. But if you juggle away the miracles of the Book you cannot get rid of the miracle of the man.
3. In the fulness of Christ, as here revealed, is to be found the solution of the pressing social problems of want and pauperism.
II. THE PARABLE OF THE BREAD. Christ’s words are works, and His acts speak. We shall be better able to understand the refreshment which may come to us from this parable if we read it in the light of “Give us this day our daily bread.” This means
1. Give us food sufficient, and do not spiritualize this away,
2. But let us not gird in those words with the narrow rim of the loaf. Give us sanctifying bread. The words of Jesus are spirit and life.
3. There are many substitutes for the bread of Christ--morality, education, art; but in these things is no abiding satisfaction.
4. There are those who speak as though there were two breads--a manly, undogmatic, free-speaking religion for the strong man; and Christianity for the weak man. But the time comes to the strongest when he feels that he has a woman’s heart within him, and when in his hour of anguish he cries to God for bread, what will it profit him to find a stone, though it be the whitest intellectual marble. The bread for the woman and the child was the same here as for the strong man. (Bp. Alexander.)
Christ the best Provider
I. CHRIST IS READY TO SATISFY THE WANTS OF THE BODY. Many persons do not trust Him in earthly pursuits. Christianity for them is something “very spiritual.” “They cannot live by prayer.” “Sermons do not satisfy hunger.” “Godliness does not give success in trade.” The gospel and Christian experience, however, show that Jesus is a good Provider for bodily wants.
1. He has sympathy for the needs of mankind (John 6:5). Although tired and weak and engaged in the greatest affairs, yet, like a good householder, He is mindful of the least wants of His people, and provides an evening meal. He does not forget the hungry raven: will He forget those who He has taught to pray for their daily bread (Deuteronomy 4:7).
2. He awakens sympathetic hearts and hands to alleviate want. Here the disciples. The apostolic Church, in the Spirit of Christ, cared for its poor, widows, and orphans. Rome built splendid theatres: the Spirit of Christ builds hospitals.
II. CHRIST NEVER FORGETS THE WANTS OF THE SOUL.
1. Man’s greatest want is bread for the soul--food that will be good when the world shall pass away, that will be palatable in old age, that will strengthen in sickness, and restore the dying.
2. The Saviour’s highest act of sovereignty is the bestowment of this spiritual food.
3. His aim is to awaken desire for this heavenly bread by means of earthly good things and providences. (C. Gerok, D. D.)
The compassion of Christ
Christ’s mercy was not a mouth-mercy, as was that of those in St. James’ time, that said to their necessitous neighbours, “Depart in peace, be warned,” but with what? With a fire of words, etc. But our Saviour, out of deep commiseration, both pitied the people and healed them on both sides, within and without. Oh, how well may He be called a Saviour, which, in the original word, is so full of emphasis, that other tongues can hardly find a fit word to express it by! (J. Trapp.)
Christ feeding the five thousand
I. THE ZEAL DISPLAYED BY THE PEOPLE IN FOLLOWING JESUS.
1. Although they knew He had gone into a desert place.
2. Some were doubtless actuated by curiosity, but others were anxious to profit by His words.
3. We may blame those who came from improper motives, but their zeal should condemn our coldness and neglect.
II. THE READINESS OF CHRIST TO PROVIDE FOR HUMAN WANT.
III. THE TRIAL OF THE DISCIPLES’ FAITH. Often in this way God opens our eyes to our own weakness and His sufficiency.
IV. THE PREPARATION FOR THE FEAST.
1. Confusion avoided.
2. Women and children protected from rudeness.
3. Quick distribution facilitated.
V. THE NATURE AND METHOD OF THE MIRACLE.
1. The quality of the food was not changed, but its quantity was increased. Our Lord does not pamper luxury, but satisfies hunger.
2. The people received the bread from the apostles. Thus Christ taught respect for His ministers, because they act on His behalf.
3. The same miracle is repeated every day by a different process, and we give no heed to it (Psalms 104:14-15).
VI. The narrative teaches us a lesson of ECONOMY and FRUGALITY. The bounties of Providence are never to be wasted; when we have more than we need, let it be given to others. (J. N. Norton.)
Christ feeding the five thousand
We have here
I. A PICTURE OF HOPEFUL PROMISE IS THE MULTITUDE.
1. They were looking for the Messiah, and, if they did not exactly believe, they had a large idea that Christ was He. Their notions were more or less confused; some were influenced by gaping wonder, but all were enthusiastic to hear Christ, and disappointed His desire for rest.
2. Christ honoured this imperfect zeal. It was in some sort a seeking of the kingdom in preference to earthly comfort, and evinced a confidence in Christ that He never disappoints. And what He would not do for Himself, and what the devil could not extract from Him, is instantly commanded by human need.
3. The murder of John the Baptist had something to do with His retirement. When grace is mistreated it withdraws. What is driven away by the impiety of the great is called forth by the confidence of the poor.
4. The self-denial of the people was commendable. They had to make a long circuit and adventure into a desert region. The way to Christ is never smooth, but sincere devotion follows Christ in the face of all trials.
II. A PICTURE OF FAULTY FAITH IN THE DISCIPLES.
1. According to earthly reason, Philip and Andrew were right. In the common course of affairs the thing was impossible. But they should have known Christ better. Their faith was overborne by looking only at human helplessness instead of at Divine resources. Trust in God suffers from mammon on one side and poverty on the other. The rich disregard Providence because they have plenty; the others grumble at it and undertake to make a way of their own.
III. A PICTURE OF WONDERFUL GOODNESS IN CHRIST.
1. This has been likened to 2 Kings 4:42-44. But we see at once that the one was the work of the servant, the other that of the Master.
2. We observe the truly Messianic character of the miracle. The prerogative of God in the absoluteness of the Godhead is to create what is from what is net. But redemption is the taking of what is, and a developing of something additional. It is the making of a saint out of a sinner. Like the miracle, the redeeming process is
(1) Inscrutable. The Incarnation, the operations of the Spirit, the conveyance of spiritual aliment through the means of grace, are beyond our comprehension.
(2) Gracious. Christ might have shown His almightiness in works of judgment. So now.
IV. THE MATERIALS OF HAPPY ENCOURAGEMENT AND PROMISE TO FAITH AND OBEDIENCE (Philippians 4:19; Psalms 37:3). (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Christ feeding the five thousand
I. OUR LORD OFTEN PUTS QUESTIONS TO HIS DISCIPLES WHICH THEY CANNOT ANSWER, AND LAYS ON THEM DUTIES WHICH THEY CANNOT PERFORM BY THEMSELVES. His object is to prove them, and to reveal their ignorance and weakness, that they may appeal to Him for help.
II. CHRIST IS THE GOD OF ORDER, AND NOT OF CONFUSION. His methodical and orderly arrangement
1. Facilitated the feeding of the multitude.
2. Allowed the miracle to be clearly seen.
3. Prevented crushing.
4. Secured that none should be overlooked.
5. Enabled the disciples to count. Note the ordiliness of Christ’s kingdom.
III. CHRIST EXHIBITS DIVINE RESERVE IN THE EXERCISE OF HIS MIRACULOUS POWER.
1. He used existing materials.
2. Employed existing agencies.
3. Although He could have created food and satisfied hunger without any aid.
4. Apologetic significance of this.
IV. CHRIST TEACHES US TO RECOGNIZE GOD AS THE GIVER OF OUR FOOD AND COMFORTS (John 6:11).
V. CHRIST TEACHES THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM TO EXPECT AMPLE PROVISION FOR THEIR TEMPORAL WANTS.
VI. CHRIST TEACHES US A LESSON OF ECONOMY IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY. However little He gives there is a surplus. But whether He gives little or much, the surplus is not to be wasted.
VII. THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MIRACLE.
1. Christ is the bread of life from heaven.
2. He fills with Himself every hungry soul who eats.
3. He gives Himself by means of His disciples.
The Sea of Tiberias.
Had St. John written in Galilee for Galileans he would have limited himself to the ordinary expression; but writing out of Galilee, and for Greeks, he adds, “Which is of Tiberias.” The city of Tiberias, built by Herod Antipas, and thus named in honour of Tiberius, was well known to strangers. It was so called by the Greek geographer Pausanius, while Josephus used indifferently the two names. (F. Godet,
The destination of our Lord
St. Luke alone mentions Bethsaida as the place near which the miracle took place. It has been asserted that he means Bethsaida near Capernaum, and that the event therefore took place on the western shore. But this would make St. Luke contradict both the other evangelists and himself; for he tells us that Jesus withdrew to “a desert place” belonging to a city called Bethsaida. Now, the mention of such a purpose forbids us to entertain the notion that Luke is speaking of the city on the western shore, where our Lord was always surrounded by multitudes. Josephus speaks of a town bearing the name of Bethsaida Julias, situated at the north-east extremity of the lake, and the expression Bethsaida of Galilee, by which St. John (John 12:21) designates the native city of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, would be unmeaning unless there were.another Bethsaida out of Galilee. This latter was in Gaulonitis, in the tetrarchy of Philip, on the left bank of the Jordan, a little above where it falls into the Lake of Gennesareth. It was the place of Philip’s death and splendid obsequies. (F. Godet, D. D.)
A great multitude followed Him.--Here we see how eager was the desire of the people to hear Christ. Since all of them, forgetting themselves, took no concern about spending the night in a desert place. So much the less excusable is our indifference and sloth when we are so far from preferring the heavenly doctrine to the gnawings of hunger, that the slightest interruptions immediately lead us away from meditation on the heavenly life. So far is every one of us from being ready to follow Him to a desert mountain that scarcely one in ten can endure to receive Him when He presents Himself at home in the midst of comforts. But as the flesh solicits us to attend to its convenience, we ought likewise to observe that Christ of His own accord takes care of those who neglect themselves in order to follow Him. For He does not wait till they are famished and cry out for hunger, but provides food for them before they have asked it. (Calvin.)
When Jesus then lifted up His eyes and saw a great company, He said unto Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread.”
The compassion of Jesus
I. IT WAS WITHOUT RESPECT OF PERSONS. He never raised the question as to race or religion. If people were in trouble it made no difference to Him who or what they were.
II. IT MEANT PRACTICAL HELP. The disciples had an interest in the multitudes which they expressed by their advice to them to go and buy food.” That was cheap benevolence. But Christ’s compassion never spent itself on good advice. The good Samaritan was Himself, and His conduct is the law of Christianity.
III. IT HAD REFERENCE PARTICULARLY TO SPIRITUAL NEEDS. The miracle was only a text for the sermon on the “Bread of life.” (Monday Club.)
It is related of the mighty Xerxes, that as he looked upon his countless host, and remembered how soon all, even the youngest and stoutest must be sleeping with the dead, he gave vent to his feelings in a flood of tears. What a far nobler spectacle to behold the Saviour of sinners, moved with compassion for the multitudes who followed Him, with fainting steps and sorrowing in His inmost soul, that so many whose bodily hunger Be was about to satisfy with food, would, in the end, starve their souls by refusing the Bread of life! (J. N. Norton.)
The Church and the world
1. It was rather to the disciples than to the multitude that the events of the day were significant. They had been taught by degrees all that was involved in “leaving all “ to “follow Him.” From the beginning it has been essential that a man should forsake the world. But the world may be forsaken in many ways. Some have done so out of contempt for it; others for the sake of a wholly selfish personal culture. But Christ now taught His disciples what was their mission to the world they had left. They had left it only that they might serve it more effectually, and were now to love it with a new love. Discipleship involved practical laborious service, not only to Christ, but to men.
2. There was something like embarrassment in Philip’s answer to our Lord’s question: but before we blame him let us put ourselves in his place. It was an unexpected appeal to limited resources. The disciples had a common purse. All their modest requirements were provided for, but all their quiet economy was invaded by a proposal to feed 5,000.
3. Christ intercedes with the Church for the world. His intercession is not only with God for us all, but with us for one another.
(1) We are prone to make a life of personal edification the sum total of discipleship, turning our backs on the problems of life, suffering and sin around us. But while Christ is carrying upon His heart the burden of the world He cannot delight Him- self in a companionship that seeks to be exclusive and selfish.
(2) Again Christ would not have us think less of each other as Christians, but there must be no for- getting of those who are without, the world and its terrible hunger, physical and moral.
(3) Philip’s answer betrays his impatience with the apparent unreasonableness of the question. And how often have we given the like answer, and silenced the earnest man of large faith whom Christ has made the mouthpiece for His question.
4. Andrew’s reply was a great advance on Philip’s. From Philip’s nonexistent two hundred pennyworth to Andrew’s actual five loaves is certainly to make progress. It is moving out of the negative into the positive, out of that region in which our cynicism and despair so often tarries into the region of practical endeavour. Our Lord takes him at his word as we find in the parallel narrative, “Bring them to Me.” A minute ago it could have been said exactly what the five loaves were worth, and how many men they would feed, but since the Lord’s words, all our powers of calculation are confounded. We contemplate things in themselves with- out seeing any touch of the Divine power upon them, and so we could never make five loaves worth more than five loaves. We take the measure of a man--his natural powers, education, etc., and we leave no room for another factor that may multiply indefinitely the whole series--the living power of Christ.
5. We ought to notice that our Lord did not say, “Whence will you buy bread,” but, “we,” you and I.
(1) Do not let us think of our Lord as throwing upon His Church dark and difficult questions for her to solve; He is rather seeking to bring her into fuller fellowship with Himself.
(2) We must recognize here the proffer of our Lord’s own wisdom and power for the answering of His own question. Not only does Christ intercede with the Church for, but works with her upon the world. (F. W.Macdonald.)
Philip and his Master
1. Observe how careful the Spirit is that we should not make a mistake about Christ.
2. Learn that we being apt to make mistakes need that the Spirit should interpret Christ to us.
3. Our Divine Lord has a reason for everything he does.
I. HERE IS A QUESTION FOR PHILIP.
1. Put with the motive of proving him. Christ would then
(1) Try his faith and He found it very little. Philip counted pennies instead of looking to omnipotence. Few of us can plead exemption from this failure.
(2) His love which was of better quality, for he did not ridicule the question.
(3) His sympathy. This was greater than that of those who said, “Send them away.” God seldom uses a man who has a hard or cold heart. A man must love people or he cannot save them.
2. Why was it put to Philip?
(1) Because he was of Bethsaida. Every man should think of the place in which he lives. A native of a village or town should be its best evangelist.
(2) Because probably Philip was the provider as Judas was the treasurer. Even so there are ministers, Sunday-school teachers, etc., whose official business is to care for the souls of men.
(3) Perhaps because Philip was not quite forward as others. He was about number six. People in this middle position want much proving. The lowest cannot bear it; the highest do not need it.
3. The question answered its purposes. It showed Philip’s inability and weakness of faith; but only that he might be made strong. Until Christ has emptied our hands He cannot fill them.
4. The question was meant to prove the other disciples as well. Here is a committee of two. I like this brotherly consultation of willing minds. Philip is willing to begin if he has a grand start; Andrew is willing to begin with a small capital. Philip was counting the impossible pence and could not see the actual loaves; but Andrew could see what Philip overlooked.
II. THERE WAS NO QUESTION WITH JESUS.
1. He knew. “Ah!” says one, “I don’t know what I shall do!” Jesus knows all about your ease and how He is going to bring you through.
2. He knew what he would do. We embarass ourselves by saying, “Something must be done, but I do not know who is to do it!” But Jesus knows.
3. He knew how He meant to do it. When everybody else is defeated and nonplussed He is fully prepared. He did it as one who knew what he was going to do.
(1) Naturally. Had it been a Roman Catholic miracle the loaves would have been thrown in the air and come down transformed. Popish miracles are theatrical and showy.
(2) Orderly: He bade the men sit down on the grass in rows.
(3) Joyfully: He took bread and blessed it.
III. THERE OUGHT TO BE NO QUESTION OF A DOUBTFUL CHARACTER ANY LONGER TO US.
1. The question that troubles many people is, “How shall I bear my present burden?” That is sent to prove you; but it is no question with Christ, for “as thy days so shall,” etc.
2. What is to be done with this great city? The Master knows and so shall we when we begin to co-operate with Him.
3. What must I do to be saved? Inquire “What wouldst Thou have me to do and this will be solved.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
“Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”
Why this to Philip? At the beginning of all His ministry we read, “Jesus findeth Philip, and said unto Him, Follow Me.” Then Philip findeth Nathanael, to tell the news. But he does not say, “We have been found,” but “We have found Him,” etc. A fairly good confession, though giving man the lead instead of God. No wonder, then, that by and by, even at the end, Philip was but half-persuaded of our Lord’s ministry, saying, “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” Philip being thus, to Philip teaching comes well in the question set to him, and he shall say and find whether bread and holy living comes from earth or heaven. He still thinks it must begin from man’s side. He calculates the bread required; he gives an estimate of cost Peter comes a little nearer with a grain or two of faith; he can get “five loaves and two fishes; but what are they among so many?” That is a question to write up and keep before us, if we are ever tempted to despise the day of small things. What is the missionary among so many? or the pastor, or the Sunday-school teacher, or the district visitor? What is the adequacy of the writer, or the speaker, or the worker? of the society, of the corporate body, of the home word, or any influence of teaching or of help? They are all insufficient, palpably and avowedly, in themselves; yet they may, like the loaves here, get a sufficiency from Christ. One little agency may still become the grain of mustard seed He sows, the little piece of leaven He puts into the lump. What is an help among so many? What may it not be as it passes into our Saviour’s hands? (Canon T. F. Crosse, D. C. L.)
The testing power of circumstances
I. WHAT WAS CHRIST’S OBJECT IN PUTTING THIS QUESTION TO HIS DISCIPLES.
1. The question seemed to betray perplexity, but it was not so. He condescended to espouse this difficulty that He might bring to light that which was working in the disciples’ spirits. The hinge of all mysteries is not in themselves, but in their concealment for the wise purposes of Deity. They will come out gradually and slowly, and then we shaft see how marvellously past and future coincide with each other. And all this is simply the exercise of faith. We must wait for God’s demonstration.
2. Observe, how completely our Lord’s purpose was answered. Three suggestions came from three different quarters.
(1) To throw the multitude upon their own resources, “Let them go into the villages,” etc.
(2) That they should be supported out of the resources of the disciples, but that the two hundred pennyworth was beyond their resources.
(3) To make the resources go as far as they might. “There is a lad here,” etc., and then the difficulty arises, “What are these,” etc. Their proper course would have been to leave the perplexity with omnipotence. That they believed in our Lord’s omnipotence is certain, but though they knew it as an abstract fact, they could not bring it to bear on the present emergency, and therefore, they threw themselves on that which any faithless man could throw himself upon human power in human distress. The Saviour must have asked the question, “How is it that they have no faith?” This is the way man ever treats God, turning to Him as a last resource only.
3. This is the course the Lord has taken from time to time to make men understand themselves, throwing them into difficulties and leaving them to prove what is in them by their extrication from those difficulties, as seen in the case of Israel at the Red Sea and before Jericho.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH CHRIST PUTS THE SAME QUESTION TO US.
1. In the announcement of doctrines offensive to the natural man.
(1) That of the divinity of Christ and reason protests against it.
(2) That of the atonement and our sense of equity protests against it.
(3) That of man’s depravity and man’s pride recoils.
(4) That of man’s impotency, and the sense of self-reliance on self resources protests. And when it comes to this, a man is brought to the test, is he willing to put reliance upon Christ? or is he determined to trust in himself.
2. The infliction of trial. Previous to trial most men, like Peter, think they can go through anything, but when it falls upon us, how our notes are changed! In that way God puts the question, are you able to trust Me?
3. The successes and prosperities of life. Riches, which do not spoil a man’s character, they simply bring out the evil that is in him. You shall look abroad upon the face of nature, and possibly you may see in the cold time of winter, and the chill dews of spring, the whole surface of the meadow without anything deleterious produced upon it; and you may look at the same field when the warm and bright sunshine of summer and autumn comes, and you find it swarming with weeds. Why, who hath come and planted the tares amongst the wheat? No one; they have been there all along: only in the nipping cold times of the year they were not able to come out; but when the sun came, that which was lurking below came to the surface. This was how it was with Hazael, and how it has been with many a man since. (Dean Boyd.)
The arithmetic of Philip and the arithmetic of our Lord
In the reckoning of men there is always a deficit; in the reckoning of Christ there is always a surplus. (Lange.)
(Children’s Sermon):--You know what puzzle questions are; they are questions to make you wonder, and the more you wonder the more interested you become, and the more interested you grow the better you are likely to understand the answer when it comes. But is your teacher ever puzzled? No; he simply asks the question to prove you, to find out how much you know. It was for this purpose that Jesus put the question to Philip, viz., to find out what kind of a scholar he had become.
I. WHAT WAS THE QUESTION? How to meet a difficulty. Philip worked it all out in mental arithmetic, First he made a rough guess as to the number of people. Then he remembered how much a little for each would cost. Then he worked out a sum in proportion. “If it cost so much for one, what will it cost for five thousand?” And the answer was two hundred pennyworth.
II. WAS THE ANSWER RIGHT? No.
1. Because it only told what wouldn’t be enough.
2. Because it wasn’t a reply to the question that Jesus had asked. Jesus did not say, “How much money is required?” But “How are we to get bread?” If Philip had learned his lessons properly, he would simply have said, “Thou who canst raise the dead, Thou canst create bread.” Conclusion:
1. Do not leave Jesus out of your calculations.
2. Look the question carefully, “Whence shall we?” Philip hadn’t noticed that; but it makes matters much simpler, for if Jesus is going to help there won’t be much difficulty. So Philip did what he could, brought a few loaves and fishes to Jesus. Then Jesus did what He could, blessed what Philip had brought, and the little became enough for the many.
3. Remember the power of that we in
(1) the government of your temper;
(2) The great question, “What must I do to be saved.” (J. R.Howatt.)
Two hundred pennyworth of bread.--The air is full of projects for the amelioration of the condition of the poor and for arranging the relations of capital and labour. This story will afford help in these, if its suggestions are heeded. The spectacle of the disciples wrestling with their problem is a piteous one, but it is deplorably familiar. Note our Saviour’s wisdom. “How many loaves have ye?” A prudent estimate of our resources is the earliest thing in demand.
I. ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF OUR DEPENDENCE ON THE SAME PROVIDENCE OF GOD WILL BE OF THE MOST VALUABLE ASSISTANCE IN TEACHING US THE PRACTICAL WAY IN WHICH TO AID THE POOR. Put away all superciliousness. “The rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all.” There is no possible philosophy by which an opulent man can prove himself any wiser or better than one who is reduced in income. Many a man has toiled as industriously, and planned as shrewdly, as ever any one of us did; but chances have been against him. Still, we are to remember that this does not prove that we are the better men, nor that he is worse: it only proves that God is sovereign over His creatures. That was a sober counsel for all the ages which Moses gave Israel (see Deuteronomy 8:11-18).
II. MEN WILL COME TO MORE REAL WISDOM AND USEFULNESS IN CARING FOR THE POOR AND THE HUNGRY WHEN THEY ACTUALLY ADMIT THAT SOMETHING MUST BE, AND CAN BE DONE BY THEMSELVES. There is a suggestion of great sense in the witticism of Sydney Smith: “Whenever A sees B in trouble, he is sure to say, with due consideration, that C ought to help him.” Much of the most available and valuable human sympathy in this world is wasted in just a blind and suffused wishing that some plan could be made by which every relief could be given at an extraordinary effort. What is wanted is a quiet endeavour to help one man, or one woman, or one child, as the nearest one to our hand. Mass-meetings are valuable; great associations awake zeal and direct it; but individual effort will go farther, and reach the case more swiftly. It is sad to think how societies multiply, while the cry of the lowly and the poor does not grow less. You pass blanketed puppies led by a ribbon, taken out by a hired man for their airing, three avenues from the streets where human beings are shivering, uncovered and hungering in the cold. Now, something might be done when each Christian admits he can do a proper part of it.
III. IT MIGHT BE SAID HERE THAT IT WOULD NOT BE SO DIFFICULT TO FIND FUNDS TO PURCHASE “TWO HUNDRED PENNYWORTH” OF BREAD WITH WHICH TO FEED THE HUNGRY, IF THE RICH WOULD BE INDUSTRIOUS. Useful occupation is the rule for the race: if any man will not work, neither let him eat, but when he has enough to live upon, does that end his service? Might there not be some good when a merchant has gained enough for himself to withdraw upon, if he would just stay in business for a few years longer, devoting the gains of his gifted experience to the Lord? It is the business of a child of God to add to the aggregate wealth of the world by a thrifty productiveness, and then the rich people can take care of God’s poor.
IV. MONEY FOR PROCURING FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY WOULD BE FORTHCOMING EASILY, IF CHRISTIANS PRIZED AND PRACTISED ECONOMY IN THE SCRIPTURAL WAY, AND DIVIDED THEIR SAVINGS IN MINISTERING TO OTHERS. All superfluities are mere grace, and ought to be given away unhesitatingly when poorer people are in actual distress. We do not venture to say what our Lord would have remarked to Philip, in his perplexity at not finding out how to procure two hundred pennyworth of bread, if the unsophisticated fisherman had come over from Capernaum with anything like a gold-headed cane in his hand, or with a seal-ring on his finger. The state has assumed the board and clothing of an able-bodied man for twenty years of uselessness in prison, because he tore a jewel out of the ear of a woman who was lavishly wearing four-thousand dollars worth of ornaments upon her own person that day in the street. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
The people took no thought for food. Christ doth it for them. And surely if He so far provided for them that at a sudden motion came out after Him, can we think that He will be wanting to those that seek Him continually, and with full purpose of heart adhere unto Him. (J. Trapp.)
Believers must help Christ
Our Lord sought to stir up Philip’s sympathy. Come, Philip, what shall you and I do? Whence shall we buy bread to give them to eat? I trust that our God has also given us some communion with His dear Son in His love to the souls of men. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Unbelief discovered by trial
Christ had said, “Give ye them to eat.” “To try them” only, as St. John hath it. And upon trial he found them full of dross, as appears by their answer. The disciples were as yet very carnal, and spake as men. (J. Trapp.)
He knew. He always does know. “Ah,” says one, “I am sure I do not know what I shall do.” This is sweet comfort: Jesus knows. He always knows all about it. Do not think you can inform Him as to anything. Your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask Him. He knew what He would do. He meant to do something, and He knew what he was going to do. He was not in a hurry; He never is. He does everything calmly and serenely, because He foresees what He will do. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Philip and Andrew; or, disciples may help one another
Philip says, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient,” and Andrew says, “Well, no, it is not, but there is a lad here with five barley loaves and two small fishes.” I like this brotherly consultation of willing minds. Philip is willing to begin if he has a grand start; he must see at least two hundred penny-worth of bread in hand, and then he is ready to entertain the idea. Andrew, on the other hand, is willing to commence with a small capital; a few loaves and fishes will enable him to start. When saints converse together they help each other, and, perhaps, what the one does not discover the other may. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God puts us in the midst of a whole apparatus of tests, that those tests may bring to light that which is in us; for it is absolutely true that feelings may be now lurking in us, just as there is fire lurking in the flint stone, which may remain there from the days of creation undetected and undeveloped till the genial steel strikes upon it, and then, when the blow of the steel brings to light the concealed, the long concealed fire, we are amazed to find that in that cold mass there could have lurked a thing that was so vivid and so sparkling. All this is that great teaching, that marvellous discipline of circumstances; for after all, it is not by direct teaching, it is not by explanation that men ever learn to know themselves; it is by the wretched and by the painful instruction of circumstances. Is it not the fact that a man shall discover more of himself in a short illness of perhaps a few days than be has learned of himself from many years’ teaching previously? (Dean Boyd.)
There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes.
Lessons for ordinary persons and about little things
I. ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE LOWLY. For the insignificant, the commonplace who make up the greater portion of mankind, there is either no gospel or it is Christ’s.
1. For the world of wealth, power, brute violence, sceptical intellect is inflated with its own self-importance. The haughty beauty will scarce deign to glance at the plain neglected girl; the proud aristocrat is patronizing or contumelious to those who are not of his own caste; the conceitedly clever will revel in his power to wound the Inferior capacity. “This multitude that knoweth not the law is accursed,” says religious pride. “These persons are not in society,” says fashionable pride. “Mankind is composed of 1,000,000,000 mostly fools,” says intellectual pride.
2. See how Christ in His every word and action set His face against all this. Despised Galilee was His country; Nazareth His home; the manger His cradle; the Cross His bed of death; women His intimates; infants His proteges; lepers the objects of His compassion; the depraved the recipients of His mercy. This is not only the lesson of love, nor that Be loved as none other had loved, but that He loved those whom none had loved before, the friend of publicans and sinners.
II. NOT LESS COMFORTING IS THE ACCEPTANCE BY CHRIST OF LITTLE THINGS. He instantly made use of the poor lad’s barley loaves and fishes. His symbols of the kingdom were a handful of loaves and a grain of mustard seed; the widow’s mite receives His commendation; and those whom He will finally accept will be those who have done little deeds of kindness. Lessons:
1. Most of us have only one talent. The world attaches importance to our deficiency, but when God comes He will not ask how great or how small were our endowments but only how we have used them. He who has one talent sometimes makes ten of it; while he who has ten sometimes makes them worse than one. The last may be first and the first last. Was it not so with those whom He chose, “Not many rich,” etc., were called.
2. Why then should any of us be ashamed of our earthly insignificance? We have only five barley loaves, etc., which indeed in themselves are useless, but when given to Christ He can make them enough to feed 5,000. Take the one instance of kind words of sympathy and encouragement. What may they not do? What may be left undone if they are unsaid. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The lad and the hungry multitude
I. THE INTEREST A BOY CAN HAVE IN JESUS. He may have heard his parents or acquaintances tell about the Saviour, and, boy-like, he probably made up his mind that, when an opportunity came, he would go where He was, and look and listen. There was evidently something about Jesus that interested little people. We know that He loved them, and if He loved them He would be apt to talk to them in a way to please and do them good. Children always are quick to find out those friendly to them.
II. THE USE JESUS CAN MAKE OF EVEN A BOY. No one in this multitude, it seems, except this lad, brought anything to eat. Whether this was a lunch his parents put up for him, or what he brought along with him to sell, we do not know. The fact that he had the loaves and fishes is mentioned to Christ who considered the fact of some importance. For He called the boy to Him, and then took what he had, and made his few loaves and fishes answer for the wants of all. Nor could any one have been more astonished than the boy himself to see how those loaves and fishes lasted. Christ can use children if they are willing, and sometimes they have been of great service. He can use their gifts, whether they be the pennies which they have earned, or some piece of handiwork they have made. None are too young to serve Jesus, and such have often been employed by Him to accomplish good.
III. IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO KEEP IN GOOD COMPANY. This boy would have missed a great deal if he had not gone out that day to see, Jesus. If he had given himself up to having some fun with his comrades, he would not have been honoured as he was by Christ. If this boy had told his mates that he was going to hear the wonderful Teacher whose fame was filling the whole country, they might have ridiculed him, and tried to persuade him to go with them; but by bravely following out his purpose to see and hear for himself, he not only was gratified therein but was noticed and used by Jesus. I think that proved to be the most noteworthy day in his life. What he heard and what happened to him at that time he could never forget, for it probably influenced him as long as he lived. He may have become a follower of Jesus from that day, and a preacher of the gospel to others when he grew up to be a man. It was the turning point in his history. (M. G. Dana, D. D.)
The resource of Christ
Pythias is famous for that he was able, at his own charge, to entertain Xerxes’ whole army, consisting of ten hundred thousand men. But he grew so poor upon it that he wanted bread ere he died. Our Saviour fed five thousand, and his store was not a jot diminished. (J. Trapp.)
Five barley loaves and two fishes
The mention of barley loaves gives a hint of the social condition of the multitude which followed Jesus. Wheat is the staple grain in the East; but, like other good things, it is apt to be absorbed by the rich. The poorer people have, therefore, to content themselves with the coarser barley, which they grind themselves in their stone hand-mills, and bake into a coarse kind of flat cake. The mention of fishes is characteristic of the region. The sea of Galilee has always been famous for the excellence of its fish supply, which is not only plentiful, but varied. Doubtless many of the crowd who followed Jesus came from among the poor fisher-folk, who were concerned with supplying the wants of the prosperous towns, now in ruins, which, in the time of Jesus, kept up a fleet of small ships on the sea of Galilee. (S. S. Times.)
The barley loaves
of the Jews would seem to have been smaller than those made of wheaten bread, rough to the taste even though nutritious, and the food of only the common people, an emblem of His own doctrine, which the common people heard gladly, and which, however hard to the natural man, is yet full of life for the soul. (W. Denton, M. A.)
Plenty out of Christ’s poverty
Barley bread was so coarse that even the hearty Roman soldiers were only required to eat it by way of punishment, and fish was the commonest and cheapest kind of food; but so Jesus lived, and His disciples. He was poor among the poorest. Not for Him was the purple and the feast of Dives. He did not come to pamper the luxury or allure the appetencies of idle men. Barley loaves and only two small fishes!
But it was enough for the Lord of all; and with that scant, poor food, blessed and multiplied, He fed the hungry, and refreshed the weary, spread the table in the wilderness, and made them sit on the green grass in the sunset, and gave them that which to their hunger was sweet as manna, and sent them rejoicing on their way. (Archdeacon Farrar.)
Christ’s acceptance of the meanest gifts
At a flower festival, not long ago, one little, shrinking child laid on the altar-step her tiny offering--it was but a single daisy. The little one had nothing else to give, and with even such an offering, given in a single and with a simple heart, Christ, I think, would have been well pleased. When Count Zinzendorf was a boy at school, he founded amongst his schoolfellows a little guild which he called the “Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed,” and thereafter that seedling grew into the great tree of the Moraviar. Brotherhood whose boughs were a blessing to the world. The widow’s miter. When they laughed at Saint Theresa when she wanted to build a great orphanage and had but three shillings to begin with, she answered,” “With three shillings Theresa can do nothing; but with God and her three shillings there is nothing which Theresa cannot do.” Do not let us imagine, then, that we are too poor, or too stupid, or too ignorant, or too obscure to do any real good in the world wherein God has placed us. Is there a greater work in this day than the work of education? Would you have thought that the chief impulse to that work, whereon we now annually spend so many millions of taxation, was given by a poor illiterate Plymouth cobbler--John Pounds? Has there been a nobler work of mercy in modern days than the purification of prisons? Yet that was done by one whom a great modern writer sneeringly patronised as the “dull, good man John Howard.” Is there a grander, nobler enterprise than missions? The mission of England to India was started by a humble, itinerant shoemaker, William Carey. These men brought to Christ their humble efforts, their barley loaves, and in His hand, and under His blessing, they multiplied exceedingly. “We can never hope,” you say, “to lead to such vast results.” So they thought “We cannot tell whether this or that will prosper.” But do you imagine that they ever dreamed that their little efforts would do so much? And, besides, they knew that the results are nothing, the work, everything--nothing the gift, everything the willing heart. But have you ever tried? If you bring no gift, how can God use it? The lad must bring his barley loaves to Christ before the five thousand can be fed. Have you ever attempted to do as he did? Have you, even in the smallest measure, or with the least earnest desire, tried to follow John Wesley’s golden advice: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the persons you can, in all the places you can, as long as ever you can.” (Archdeacon Farrar.)
The young should be used as well as amused
The Church ought to use the young as well as instruct and amuse the young. Young people can be made to do good; they have something they can give up, they have something that when they see Jesus they will allow Jesus to take without a word. (T. Green, M. A.)
Distrust of self, and trust in God
There is really nothing little with God. In His hands the feeblest and simplest instruments are sufficient. If His blessing goes along with Our efforts, there is no limit to the greatness of the work which they may accomplish. Take, e.g., our endeavours to relieve the sorrows and sufferings of our fellow-creatures. What are we in the presence of such calamities? What can we say or do to alleviate the suffering or the sorrow? We are but too likely to shrink back in despair. But let us think of ourselves in such cases as instruments in His hands, with whom all things are possible; let us bring what we have. God can make use of what in itself is useless. Miserable comforters we may seem to ourselves. Yet God may send comfort through us. Or, to take another case; this thought of the greatness of little things, what an encouragement may it afford us in our missionary efforts I But, once more; the principle of which I am speaking may be applied to the work which has to be carried on in our individual souls. God does not make us holy all at once. Nor does He work His will in us solely by His own act. He requires our co-operation; He makes use of our efforts. But our feeble endeavours, our half-hearted prayers, our faintest resolutions--what are they? What can they do? They seem to us nothing; and in truth they are as nothing. But God desires them; He kindly looks on them; He blesses them, and they are effectual through Him. It is by such endeavours, inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that the saints of God have attained whatever degree of holiness they have reached. We are all tempted, when we reflect on the great work of our lives, namely, the renewing in ourselves of the image of God, to say, “What can I do?” Our best efforts are utterly inadequate; and it is right that we should feel and acknowledge this. But, such as they are, God requires them, as Christ demanded the five loaves; and He can and will bless even our imperfect efforts and work His will with them. Bring what you have, and leave it with perfect confidence in His hands. Let us trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is our strength and our song; He also is become our salvation. (P. Young, M. A.)
Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place.--It all depends upon the season in which one comes to the north-eastern shore of the lake of Gennesaret as to whether or not he will find much grass there. The note of time (“now the passover was at hand”) shows that our Lord was there in the spring. At that season the grass in that region is plentiful and green; a few months later, and it is burned up by the heat, and the country presents a dreary aspect. It cannot be said of many places in the Orient that there is much grass there. In England, and in the well-watered regions of the United States, one of the chief charms of the landscape is the soft carpet of green which covers the soil. In a characteristic Oriental scene, this charm is lacking, The grass may straggle here and there, or at special seasons it may show an unwonted luxuriance in certain places; but the universal carpet of green is chiefly conspicuous by its absence. (S. S. Times.)
The scene on the mount
The disciples understood their instructions, and immediately arranged the vast throng on the sloping sides of the mountain, in ranks, a hundred in number, each rank containing fifty persons in file. The ranks, as we may easily conceive, were placed at such convenient distances from each other, that the disciples could easily pass between them. In this form the five thousand men were disposed of--the women and children being, in all probability, placed by themselves in some convenient situation. As when He created the wine at Cana, the six waterpots were set in order preparatory to that miracle, so here His request for order was obeyed, preparatory to the work which He was about to do. As the many thousands of Israel, in their encampings and marches were so arranged that all alike enjoyed the full advantage of having the tabernacle, and pillar of cloud, and brazen serpent lifted up full in their view, so now the whole multitude, by the arrangement effected, were placed in a position to enable every man to see and to hear Him who was the True Tabernacle, the True Pillar of Cloud, and the True Brazen Serpent lifted up. He stands at the bottom of that green mountain slope, and the twelve are round about Him. Receding from the place which they occupy, fifty men are seated, each behind, but a little raised above, his companion, in file, and in close order. On the right hand there are fifty ranks thus arranged. On the left hand there are fifty ranks. Jesus stands in the centre, and His eye with ease ranges over the whole company, whilst His voice distinctly reaches them. If we may suppose the sun about to set, the surrounding mountains glowing with his departing rays, the waters of the lake still retaining the lingering reflection of the sun’s fading beauty, we have before us a scene such as we may believe Jesus Himself delighted to survey, and such as we may well long to see often recurring in our fallen world--multitudes waiting for the “true bread,” and the Lord Himself present to bestow it in rich abundance. (A. Beith, D. D.)
And Jesus took the loaves and when He had given thanks, He distributed
Feeding the multitude
I. WHATEVER WE HAVE IS THE GIFT OF GOD: money, talents, time, influence, etc.
II. WHATSOEVER GOOD THINGS GOD HAS GIVEN US, WE MUST GIVE THEM ALSO TO OTHERS. Nothing is given exclusively for self.
III. NO GIFT MUST BE UNDERVALUED BECAUSE IT IS SMALL. What is insignificant to us may be made vastly useful by the blessing of God.
IV. THERE IS A HUNGRY MULTITUDE AROUND US WAITING FOR OUR GIFT.
1. Some are starving for want of peace and comfort in religion--neighbours, friends, members of our own families.
2. Some are starving for want of a little kindly sympathy.
3. Some are starving in sickness and pain for the want of loving help and ministry.
V. THIS GIFT MUST BE DISPENSED WITH SELF-FORGETFULNESS. It was this forgetfulness of self that made Henry Lawrence, the gentle, godly hero of the Indian Mutiny, the best beloved of all his soldiers. When he was dying, the General whispered, as his last words, “let there be no fuss about me, bury me with the men.” When another hero, Sir Ralph Abercromby, had got his death-wound, in the battle of Aboukir, they placed a private soldier’s blanket under his head, thus causing him much relief. He asked what it was. He was answered that “it was only a soldier’s blanket!” He insisted on knowing to whom it belonged. They told him it belonged to Duncan Roy, of the 42nd. “Then see that Duncan Roy has his blanket this very night,” said the dying man; he would not, to ease his own agony, deprive a common soldier of his comfort. (H. J. W. Buxton, M. A.)
Thankfulness and distribution
I. THE DUTY OF THANKSGIVING.
1. Christ is our example in this. He placed Himself voluntarily in a condition of need, and when the need was supplied as here He expressed His gratitude to God.
2. Christ is the object of our thanksgiving. This miracle expresses Christ’s continuous power to relieve human want. This is now regularly done and consequently is over-looked. Sometimes He reduces men from affluence to indigence in order to teach them grateful dependence on Himself.
3. This thanksgiving is due to Christ for temporal and spiritual mercies.
II. THE DUTY OF DISTRIBUTION.
1. Here also we are instructed by the example of Christ.
2. In temporal good things we must remember that we are stewards of God’s bounty.
3. We must distribute our spiritual goods
(2) By supporting the ministry, missions, schools, etc. (S. Robins, M. A.)
The maintenance of natural and spiritual life
This miracle differs from others
1. In that it is not so open to the cavils of unbelief. The others are often explained on the theory of Christ’s superior knowledge and skill. Here this utterly breaks down.
2. The miracles of healing were wrought to draw the minds of men to Christ as Creator; this to show Himself the maintainer of both the natural and spiritual life.
I. CHRIST THE PRESERVER OF MEN.
1. Of their bodies. Life can no more maintain itself than create itself.
2. Of their souls, by His Spirit.
II. CHRIST EMPLOYS MEANS IN PRESERVING MEN. He consulted His disciples, He employed bread, He gave bread to the disciples for distribution. So
1. Physically Christ preserves men by the employment of natural resources utilized by intelligence and industry.
2. Spiritually by means of His Word, public worship and sacraments.
III. CHRIST PRESERVES MEN SEPARATELY. There was a multitude to the disciples, but there was no multitude to Him. He saw each in the singularity of His own Being and need. He who gave the individual life of the millions of our race, maintains it second by second. It is needful to remember this
1. In order that we may recognize that our individual life is His.
2. That we may recognize His hand in all our gifts.
(1) Of prosperity.
(2) Of adversity. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
I. He multiplied by division, “distributed.”
II. He added by subtraction, “filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves.” (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Giving and receiving
The disciples grudged not of their little to give others some, and it grew on their hands, as the widow’s oil did in the cruse. Not getting, but giving, is the way to thrive. Nothing was ever lost by liberality. (J. Trapp.)
A constant miracle
An analogy, and, so to speak, a help to the understanding of this miracle, has been found in that which year by year is accomplished in the field, where a single grain of corn multiplies itself and in the end unfolds in numerous ears. And with this analogy in view many beautiful remarks have been made; as this, that while God’s every-day miracles had grown cheap in men’s sight by continual repetition, He had therefore reserved something, not more wonderful, but less frequent, to arouse men’s minds to a new admiration. Others have urged that here, as in the case of the water made wine, Christ did but compress into a single moment all those processes which in ordinary circumstances, the same Lord of nature, causes more slowly to succeed one another. (Archbishop Trench.)
Christ the Lord of nature
He took a fragment of a barley loaf into His hand, and to teach His Church that His grasp had in it the fecundity of the earth, the moisture of the flowers, the influence of the sun, the comprehension of all times and seasons, and the excellency of all power, as He broke it, it enlarged itself far beyond those goodly ears of wheat which Pharaoh saw in his dream, and every crumb became an handful. (Bp. Hacker.)
Christ’s use of means
The five loaves were almost nonentities, but He nevertheless took them. Jesus appears always to have acted on the same principle. He used what came to hand. What man could do, man must do. As far as Nature could go, Nature must perform her part. He came in where man and nature stopped. See how, at this moment, God is dealing with every one of us. He has wrought for us a free and perfect salvation, by no merit, by no act of ours. He requires in you repentance and faith. True, they both come from Him, so did “the five loaves,” they came from Him. But you must give to Him first a willing and free act of your own. He “takes the loaves”; and then, over and above He feeds your soul and makes it live for ever and ever by the bread of life. You have a little grace. A mere nothing compared to what is wanting; to what it might have been if you had used well what God had given you. But God has given you something. You have some good desires, convictions of sin, power to pray, and to deny yourself, sparkles of love. Do you want this to become more? Then put what you can into Christ’s hands constantly and the transforming and magnifying will multiply it. You have some thoughts, feelings, powers, capacities, actions, which you can now in a solemn way give to Jesus. Consecrate them. Do not say, “Oh, I have not got anything worth the giving; it is of no use at all.” Give Him the little, and he qill make it much. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Christ did not provide great delicacies for the people, but they who saw His amazing power here were obliged to rest satisfied with barley bread, and fish without sauce. (Calvin.)
Christ the Bread for the world
I. THE PREPARATION FOR THE SIGN “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Now, notice what a lovely glimpse we get there into the quick rising sympathy of the Master with all forms of human necessity. Before we call He answers. But, farther, He selects for the question Philip, a man who seems to have been what is called--as if it were the highest praise--an “intensely practical person”; who seems to have had little faith in anything that he could not get hold of by his senses, and who lived upon the low level of “common sense.” “This He said to prove him.” He hoped that the question might have shaped itself in the hearer’s mind into a promise, and that he might have been able to say in answer, “Thou canst supply; we need not buy.” So Christ does still. He puts problems before us too, to settle; Lakes us, as it were, into His confidence with interrogations that try us, whether we can rise above the level of the material and visible, or whether all our conceptions of possibilities are bounded by these. And sometimes, even though the question at first sight seems to evoke only such a response as it did here, it works more deeply down below afterwards, and we are helped by the very difficulty to rise to a clear faith. Philip’s answer is significant. He was a man of figures; he believed in what you could put into tables and statistics. Yes! And, like a great many other people of his sort, he left out one small element in his calculation, and that was Jesus Christ. And so his answer went creeping along the low levels, dragging itself like a half-wounded snake, when it might have risen on the wings of faith up into the empyrean, and soared and sung. So learn that when we have to deal with Christ’s working--and when have we not to deal with Christ’s working?--perhaps probabilities that can be tabulated are not altogether the best bases upon which to rest our calculations. Learn that the audacity of a faith that expects great things, though there be nothing visible upon which to build, is wiser and more prudent than the creeping common sense that adheres to facts which are shadows, and forgets that the one fact is that we have an Almighty Helper and Friend at our sides. Still further, under these preliminaries, let us point to the exhibition of the inadequate resource which Christ, according to the fuller narrative in the other Evangelists, insisted upon. Christ’s preparation for making our poor resources adequate for anything is to drive home into our hearts the consciousness of their insufficiency. We need, first of all, to be brought to this: “All that I have is this wretched little stock; and what is that measured against the work that I have to do and the claims upon me?” Only when we are brought to that can His great power pour itself into us and fill us with rejoicing and overcoming strength. The old mystics used to say, and they said truly: “You must be emptied of yourself before you can be filled by God.” And the first thing for any man to learn, in preparation for receiving a mightier power than his own into his opening heart, is so know that all his own strength is utter and absolute weakness. “What are they among so many?” And so the last of the preparations that I will touch upon is that majestic preparation for blessing by obedience. Sit you down where He bids you, and your mouths will not be long empty. Do the things He tells you, and you will get the food that you need.
II. THE SIGN ITSELF.
1. As to the first, there is here, I believe, a revelation of the law of the universe, of Christ as being through all the ages the sustainer of the physical life of men. What was done then once, with the suppression of certain links in the chain, is done always with the introduction of those links. It was Christ’s will that made this provision. And I believe that the teaching of Scripture is in accords,nee with the deepest philosophy, that the one cause of all physical phenomena is the will of a present God, howsoever that may usually conform to the ordinary methods of working which people generalize and call laws. The reason why anything is, and the reason why all things change, is the energy there and then of the indwelling God, who is in all His works, and who is the only will and power in the physical world. And I believe, further, that Scripture teaches us that that continuous will, which is the cause of all phenomena and the underlying subsistence on which all things repose, is all managed and mediated by Him who from of old was named the Word; “in whom was life, and without whom was not anything made that was made.” Our Christ is Creator, our Christ is Sustainer, our Christ moves the stars and feeds the sparrows.
2. And so, secondly, there is in the sign itself a symbol of Him as the true Bread and food of the world. Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us, and we feed on the sacrifice. Let your conscience, your heart, your desires, your anticipations, your understanding, your will, your whole being, feed on Him. He will be cleansing, He will be love, He will be fruition, He will be hope, He will be truth, He will be righteousness, He will be all.
3. And notice finally here, the result of this miracle as transferred to the region of symbol. “They did all eat, and were filled”; men, women, children, both sexes, all ages, all classes, found the food that they needed in the bread that came from Christ’s hands. If any man wants dainties that will tickle the palates of Epicureans, let him go somewhere else. But if he wants bread, to keep the life in and to stay his hunger, let him go to this Christ, who is “human nature’s daily food.” The world has scoffed for eighteen centuries at the barley bread that the gospel provides; coarse by the side of its confectionery, but it is enough to give life to all who eat it. And more than that; notice the inexhaustible abundance. “They did all eat, and were filled.” Other goods and other possessions perish with the using, but this increases with use. The more one eats, the more there is for him to eat.
And all the world may live upon it for ever, and there will be more at the end than there was at the beginning. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The feeding of the five thousand
What is it, what is it in us, that will ensure this taking of the supplies and bestow them upon us? First of all, what was it in this people?
1. They would not have sat down, you may be very sure, if they had not been very hungry. Desire draws blessing.
2. Confident expectation brings Him with all His supplies. Yes, expectation of blessing fulfils itself in a great many regions, in a great many common things of life. If a man expect to be successful, he will be in a great many of them. It is what you are making up your mind to do you will do. And in the spiritual region the measure of the expectation is the measure of the success. The expectation which has got the essential element of faith in it is the confidence in the things unseen, as though they were present. Expectation, yea, an expectation right in the teeth of sense, is the sure way to bring down the blessings.
3. Well, then there is another last point, and that is: the use of the appropriate means, which are appropriate simply because they are appointed. “Make the men sit down; and Jesus therefore took the loaves.” Well, in regard to some things in this world, yes, some outward things, we very often do come to a point where the only thing is to sit still and see the salvation of God; and in a very profound sense they also work, as well as they also serve, who only stand, or sit, and wait. But I think that this generation wants a lesson, and the Christian communities of this generation want the lesson--sit down there and be quiet, and let His grace sink into you, as it won’t do with you for ever fuss, fuss, fussing, and moving from this place to the other. Why, if you go into the woods, and into a coppice, the nightingales, and the thrushes, and the whole of the quick-eyed creatures that rustle among the leaves there, shyly hide themselves there as long as your foot is rustling over the leaves; no other living creature will stir. Sit down quietly, don’t even move your eyelids, and when you have sat for awhile, still as any stone, one after another they begin to peep out of their copses, and come out into the open, and in an hour’s time the whole place will be alive with beauty and with happiness. Yes, and so it is in a loftier fashion in this great kingdom of our Master’s. The men that go hurrying through the gospel sphere see nothing of its beauty, nothing of its delicate, recondite beauties and mysteries. You have got to be quiet. And so go ye into a desert place and rest--sit still. That does not mean any vacuous indolence, drowsing and dormant, but it means suppressing the sensuous life, the life of the enemy that belongs to the outer world, in order that the life of the spirit may rise stronger and stronger, for as the eye of the flesh closes, the eye of the spirit opens. They are like the doors in banks, you shove one open and the other shuts. And so to be quiet is to hear Christ speak. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Gather up the fragments
Sermon for the New Year
The natural thought would be--let the fragments lie; a divine munificence can again be equal to a similar emergency; henceforth we will be in sublime disdain of fragments--a niggardly economy.
But Christ prevents any such bad generalization from the abundance of His great gifts, by the command, “gather up the fragments.”
I. Here then emerges the great law that GOD IS ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE PARTICULAR ABOUT FRAGMENTS. This law God Himself obeys. God is particular about fragments in
1. Keeping them. You cannot destroy matter.
2. In using them. The little things at the basis of nature.
3. In adorning them. You shall find even a Divine lavishing of adornment in things so minute that only a microscope can reveal them.
II. We are confronted by a new year. How may we make it a happy one? By becoming ourselves OBEDIENT TO THE GREAT LAW WHICH GOD OBEYS.
1. Seize fragments of time for self-culture and in the consciousness of growth find the new year a happy one. Emerson says, “One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the last day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is doomsday.”
2. Seize fragments of chance for doing good, and in that consciousness find the year a happy one. This was said by a member of one of the Protestant churches in Paris: “For you must know it is a rule in our church that when one brother has been converted he must go and fetch another brother; and when a sister has been converted, she must go and fetch another sister. That is the way 120 of us have been brought from atheism and Popery to simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” If you would but feel that “must go and fetch another”--you would find for yourself a radiant year.
3. Seize fragments of happiness as they lie about you day by day. Happiness does not come so much in nuggets as in the minuter golden particles. Do not despise them. Look for the securing of the little happiness.
4. If you have not done it yet, seize the fragment of time left you to make your peace with God through Jesus Christ. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)
There are certain matters in society that may be called fragments, certain customs that stand isolated and yet are very closely connected with religion.
I. HUMANITY TO ANIMALS. All animals must live, and are entitled to consideration. They have rights of their own.
1. The insect world. Why should we destroy a spider for killing a fly when we organize shambles for the sake of slaughtering the animals on which we live? There are many insects that we are not obliged to preserve, but which we need not go out of our way to destroy wholesale. They have just one day of existence, and it is a pity to abridge it.
2. Those animals that stand nearest man have been comparatively left to his passions or selfishness. It is not right that they should be transported and slaughtered without the least care for their suffering.
3. The wholesale destruction of birds for the personal adornment of ladies is not only inhuman but is wasteful. The development of insects is so enormous that if ‘they were not reduced by birds it would be fatal to our wheatfields and gardens.
II. THE LAW OF HUMANITY TOWARDS SUBORDINATES IN INDUSTRY. is more than a fragment, it is half a loaf.
1. The law of sympathy should regulate the law of wages as well as the law of profit. Men have no right to pay their employees at starvation rates, nor in the cheapest currency.
2. Times of payment ought to be considered and wages paid not on Saturday, when there is every temptation to spend them in the public house, but on Monday.
3. Ought not a portion of every man’s wages to be secured to his wife, as his partner and the family provider, by the state?
4. According to the spirit of the gospel whoever employs men becomes responsible, as God’s overseer, for their morals and instruction and happiness. We are our brothers’ keepers, particularly where for our profit they are led into circumstances of such severe temptation as exist in large houses of business.
5. When young women are compelled to stand all the day it is time the law, in the interest of future generations, stepped in. (H. W. Beecher.)
“Fragments” or, “broken pieces?”
(see R.V.):--The general notion, I suppose, is that the “fragments” are the crumbs that fell from each man’s hands as he ate, and the picture before the imagination of the ordinary reader is that of the apostles carefully collecting the debris of the meal from the grass where it had dropped. But the true notion is that the “broken pieces which remain over” are the unused portions into which our Lord’s miracle-working hand had broken the bread, and the true picture is that of the apostles carefully putting away in store for future use the abundant provision which their Lord had made, beyond the needs of the hungry thousands. And that conception of the command teaches far more beautiful and deeper lessons than the other.
I. We have that thought to which I have already referred as more strikingly brought out by the slight alteration of translation, which, by the use of “broken pieces,” suggests the connection with Christ’s breaking the loaves and fishes. We are taught to think of THE LARGE SURPLUS IN CHRIST’S GIFTS OVER AND ABOVE OUR NEED. Whom He feeds He feasts. His gifts answer our need, and over-answer it, for He is able to do exceeding abundantly above that which we ask or think, and neither our conceptions, nor our petitions, nor our present powers of receiving, are the real limits of the illimitable grace that is laid up for us in Christ, and which, potentially, we have each of us in our hands whenever we lay our hands on Him.
II. Then there is another very simple lesson, which I draw. This command suggests for us CHRIST’S THRIFT (if I may use the word) IN THE EMPLOYMENT OF HIS MIRACULOUS POWER. Christ multiplies the bread, and yet each of the apostles has to take a basket, probably some kind of woven wicker-work article which they would carry for holding their little necessaries in their peregrinations; each apostle has to take his basket, and, perhaps emptying it of some of their humble apparel, to fill it with these bits of bread; for Christ was not going to work miracles where men’s thrift and prudence could be employed. Nor does He do so now. We live by faith, and our dependence on Him can never be too absolute. Only laziness sometimes dresses itself in the garb and speaks with the tongue of faith, and pretends to be trustful when it is only slothfuh “Why criest thou unto Me?” said God to Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” True faith sets us to work. It is not to be perverted into idle and false depending upon Him to work for us, when, by the use of our own ten fingers and our own brains, guided and strengthened by His working in us, we can do the work that is set before us.
III. Still further, there is another lesson here. Not only does the injunction show us Christ’s thrift in the employment of the supernatural, but it teaches us our duty of THRIFT AND CARE IN THE USE OF THE SPIRITUAL GRACE BESTOWED UPON US. Christian men I be watchful stewards of that great gift of a living Christ, the food of your souls, that has been by miracle bestowed Upon you. Such gathering together for future need of the unused residue of grace may be accomplished by three ways.
1. There must be a diligent use of the grace given. See that you use to the very full, in the measure of your present power of absorbing and your present need, the gift bestowed upon you. Be sure that you take in as much of Christ as you can contain before you begin to think of what to do with the overplus. If we are not careful to take what we can and to use what we need of Christ, there is little chance of our being faithful stewards of the surplus. The water in a mill-stream runs over the trough in great abundance when the wheel is not working, and one reason why so many Christians seem to have so much more given to them in Christ than they need is because they are doing no work to use up the gift.
2. A second essential to such stewardship is the careful guarding of the grace given from whatever would injure it. Let not worldliness, business, care of the world, the sorrows of life, its joys, duties, anxieties, or pleasures--let not these so come into your hearts that they will elbow Christ out of your hearts, and dull your appetite for the True Bread that came down from heaven.
3. And, lastly, not only by use and by careful guarding, but also by earnest desire for larger gifts of the Christ who is large beyond all measure, shall we receive more and more of His sweetness and His preciousness into our hearts, and of His beauty and glory into our transfigured characters. The basket that we carry, this recipient heart of ours, is elastic. It can stretch to hold any amount that you like to put into it. The desire for more of Christ’s grace will stretch its capacity, and as its capacity increases the inflowing gift greatens, and a larger Christ fills the larger room of my poor heart.
IV. Finally, A SOLEMN WARNING IS IMPLIED IN THIS COMMAND, AND ITS REASON “THAT NOTHING BE LOST.” Then there is a possibility of losing the gift that is freely given to us. We may waste the bread, and so, sometime or other when we are hungry, awake to the consciousness that it has dropped out of our slack hands. The abundance of Christ’s grace may, so far as you are profited or enriched by it, be like the unclaimed millions of money which nobody asks for and that is of use to no living soul. You may be paupers while all God’s riches in glory are at your disposal, and starving while baskets full of bread broken for us by Christ lie unused at our sides. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Gather up the fragments
I. FRAGMENTS OF TRUTH. Precious fragments! with which we need not quarrel because fragmentary, for we are taught by degrees, we are fed as able to bear it. No one could reasonably complain of crumbs that they were not bread, because not each of them a whole loaf. The smallest portions of God’s word are, notwithstanding their smallness, His word, and to be valued as such--not one to be lost. Precious fragments! concerning which we need not murmur, because we have the fatigue of gathering. “If any will not work neither shall he eat,”
II. FRAGMENTS OF TIME. Now there are two reasons which should more especially incite us to endeavour to redeem time.
1. We have need to treasure up its very minutes, for they are the fragments of a gift which God bestows.
2. For every hour of it He will call upon us to render an account, that He may “receive His own with usury.”
3. And there is another reason which ought to influence us, but which is often overlooked, and that is, that in course of time we become the result of the time we live. Time leaves its mark upon us; not merely those outward marks of change and scars of decay, but those still more indelible features and lineaments of character which are constantly stamping us for eternity, and which give force to the assertion that “time has a quality, as it has a quantity.” Time improved moulds and shapes the mind after the fashion of these improvements.
III. Again (as connected with the thought of time, its fragments, its waste, and its use), there is also the consideration that there are certain MEANS OF GRACE, which we may regard in the light of fragments, and which have to be carefully gathered. “Gather up the fragments that remain,” value and employ the holy seasons which may yet be granted you, and for which you will have to render an account. It is the same with regard to private prayer. What use have we made of the means of grace? I remember to have read a book entitled “A Dying Man’s Regrets,” and he was a very good and holy man, singularly devoted to the service of his God, and yet what did he say? These are his words, “Ah! if I were to return to life, I would, with the help of God, and in distrust of myself, give much more time to prayer than I have hitherto done. I would reckon much more upon the effect of that than on my own labour, which, however much it is our duty never to neglect, yet has no strength except so far as it is animated by prayer. I would especially strive to obtain in my prayers that fervour of the Holy Spirit which is not learnt in a day, but is the fruit of a long, and often a painful apprenticeship. Oh my friends” (he added, raising himself with energy on his sick bed) “lay hold of the opportunity and redeem it, cultivate new habits of prayer. Bring into prayer, with a spirit of fervour, a spirit also of order and of method that will increase its power, as it increases the power of all human things, and co-operated with the Divine agency itself.”
IV. Lastly, there are the ACTS OF DUTY that we are to perform, and these also often present themselves to us in very small fragments. The lives of most of us are made up of such fragments. It is not a great thing that is required of us. It is “the trivial round, the common task,” that is,.for the most part, “the calling in which we are to abide,” and “therein to abide with God.” We are often apt to despise common things because they are so common, forgetting that we might lift them to a much higher dignity, if we but infused into them a nobler principle, doing them as in God’s sight, by God’s help, and to God’s glory. (J. M. Nisbet.)
Fragments of instruction
(Sermon to the Young):--There are ninny fragments of truth, any one of which, perhaps, is not large enough for a whole discourse, but which ought not to be wholly lost. There are a hundred small things any one of which does not seem to be of much importance compared with the great Gospel themes, but which, taken together, amount to a great deal, e.g
I. EVERY ONE SHOULD BE WILLING TO CREEP BEFORE HE WALKS. There is hardly a young man that goes out from his father’s house that who does not want money before he earns it. Who does not want a reputation for being smart before he is smart? But yea need not be ashamed because you do not know more than those of your age are expected to know; above all you need not be ashamed of frugality. Do not let your pride be hurt by living within your means. Make two things a matter of pride. 1, That you will not live one farthing in debt.
2. That you will be the richer if only by one shilling at the end of the year than you were at the beginning.
II. EVERY ONE SHOULD EDUCATE HIMSELF. The school, books, teachers, give a man a chance, but after all he is his own schoolmaster.
1. A handworker ought not to be content with handwork, but should teach his band to think as well.
2. Every man ought to have some general knowledge
(1) of his own body and mind;
(2) of the structure of the earth;
(3) of the history, geography, and policy of his own country and of others;
(4) of the sciences.
3. But all education does not come from reading.
(1) God gave men eyes that they might see; and yet very few people see anything.
(2) What was your tongue put into your head for but to inquire with? Learn the art of asking questions.
III. BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE COMPANY YOU KEEP. Pick your company from those who are superior to you and can teach you something. Life will go ill with you if you look down for your company.
IV. AIM AT REFINEMENT. This belongs to no place or class. You ought to be refined, not because of your trade, but because of yourself. A mechanic may be a gentleman if he likes.
V. CULTIVATE CHIVALRY. Always take the side of the weak.
VI. DO NOT DESPISE ETIQUETTE. Life is made a great deal pleasanter and intercourse a great deal smoother when men observe the little forms of propriety in life.
VII. RESPECT womanhood. No matter how a woman looks, she is of the same sex as your mother and sister or wife and daughter.
VIII. CULTIVATE THE HABIT OF UNIFORM GENEROSITY IN SOCIAL INTERCOURSE. Be on the look out to make others happy. (J. M. Nisbet.)
The fragments that remain
Every dispensation of Providence is a kind of miracle. We must make the most of it.
I. EVERY POSITION IN LIFE may be made great or little, as we desire to make the most or the least of it. To do the necessary duties of each station is easy enough, but to gather up all its outlying opportunities; to be ready to lend a helping hand here or give a kind word of counsel there; to fill our place in life instead of leaving it half empty; to be in our work entirely make all the difference between a useful and a useless man.
II. We may have A SIGNAL VISITATION OF JOY OR SORROW. It is possible to drive it out of our thoughts and cut off all its consequences; but it is better to gather up the fragments and see what it has taught us of our strength or weakness, God and our soul.
III. We may have known A NOBLE CHARACTER AND EXAMPLE. It has gone from us. Shall we blot it out of our remembrance or gather up the fragments, the sayings, doings, memories that may cheer, sustain, guide and warn.
IV. Consider our feelings of RELIGION ITSELF. Few and far between may be our prayers and thoughts of serious things; but do not despise what you have. One verse from the Bible may be enough to sustain us in sore temptations; one prayer may stick closer to us than a brother; one fixed determination to do right may be a rallying point round which our whole better nature may form itself. True “we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs of our heavenly Father’s table; but His “property” is always to have mercy, and will bless and own our humbled efforts. (Dean Stanley.)
The fragments that remain
I. Fragments of TIME. Myriads waste hours, days, years, and find themselves beggars at death.
II. Fragments of INFLUENCE. “No man liveth unto himself.” It may be unconsciously exercised; like magnetism it never slumbers, like gravitation it knows no Sabbath. It is ever drawing to the Cross or to ruin.
III. Fragments of CONSCIENCE. Our sins weaken and scatter the power Divine. Some benumb its energy, others flatter it by deceit.
IV. Fragments of FAITH. Christ its faintest beams, they lead to heaven.
V. Fragments of LOVE. Gather up every fragment of retiring lingering affection.
VI. Fragments of CONSECRATION. As the needle always turns to the pole, so our life should centre in God. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Love enriches itself
This which remained over must have immensely exceeded in bulk and quantity the original stock; and we thus have a visible symbol of that love which exhausts not itself by loving, but after the most prodigal outgoings upon others abides itself far richer than it would else have done; of the multiplying which there always is in a true dispensing, of the increasing which may go along with a scattering. (Archbishop Trench.)
Having by the miracle taught a lesson of beneficence, Christ now inculcates economy.
I. THE SIN OF WASTEFULNESS.
1. It breaks the law which bids us “use the things of this world as not abusing them.”
2. It is shameful ingratitude to our Father in heaven to waste that daily bread given to us in answer to prayer.
3. Every shilling needlessly squandered is a diminution of our power to do good.
II. THE NATURE OF WASTEFULNESS. It is not confined to the destruction of the necessaries of life, but may fairly be extended to unprofitable consumption,
1. Fashion and vanity are great wasters.
2. Intemperance is waste
(1) Of bodily health.
(2) Of the means of saving others from starvation.
3. Luxury is waste because
(1) Frequently unnecessary.
(2) Encouraging extravagance in children.
III. HOW TO GUARD AGAINST WASTEFULNESS.
1. Not by niggardliness to the neglect of the duties of Christian hospitality, but in general by the rational enjoyment as against the perversion of the blessings of providence.
2. By everyone “ruling well his own house,” impressing servants with the sin, folly, and dishonesty of wastefulness.
3. By preventing what is perishable from being spoiled through carelessness.
4. By preventing a consumption of the fruits of the earth by overfeeding such animals as are kept chiefly for pleasure.
IV. THE BENEFITS OF FRUGALITY.
1. The cultivation of good habits; temperance, charity, etc.
2. Addition to the sum of human happiness. (J. Hewlett, D. D.)
Fragments not to be wasted
1. This is the command of the last gospel of the last Sunday of the Church’s year.
2. This command in its connection shows us the union of the vastness of God’s liberality with the minuteness of the accuracy of His economy. He “provides you all things richly to enjoy,” but He looks to see what you do with the cup of cold water. His are “the cattle on a thousand hills,but a sparrow cannot fall without His notice.”
3. The text may be applied to the use of
I. THINGS THAT CAN BE MEASURED BY MONEY.
II. CRUMBS OF TRUTH.
III. THE MEANS OF GRACE.
IV. SCANTY OPPORTUNITIES.
V. LITTLE DUTIES. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Divine avoidance of waste
Many things that appear useless have some hidden value. In jeweller’s shops every particle of filing is preserved for the assayer. Paper trimmings of large establishments become of value to the extent of thousands of pounds. In Copenhagen a hospital is supported by the money raised from cigar tips. The pieces of bread swept into the dust heap from the tables of England would, if saved and given to missions, double the means at present at their disposal.
I. NOTICE THE ECONOMY IN THE DIVINE ADMINISTRATION.
1. In nature there seems to be waste in great stretches of uncultivated ground, rocky ridges, unseen flowers, unfathomed depths; and in stellar regions there seems to be infinite waste of light and force. Why all this? Because there must be no appearance of niggardliness on the part of omnipotence. Yet no part of this lavishment is really waste. No atom is lost. All is used over and over again, as vapours, heat, sand, soil, etc.
2. In the world of thought there is no waste. From Copernicus, Tycho, Brake, Kepler, Newton, etc., men now gather power to gain further knowledge. Watts, and Stephenson, and Moore are only founders of inventions on which others build.
3. In the spiritual sphere, devotion, faithfulness, endurance, suffering, is not waste. John in prison, Stephen stoned, Christ crucified, are all incentives to fealty and love.
II. THE AIM IN THE DIVINE ECONOMY OF FRAGMENTS.
1. It is a benefit to man that he is required to “gather.” Christ could have created more bread, but it had not been good for the disciples to live on miracles. Eden could have been kept right, but it was better for man to keep it. Birds and animals are provided with clothing and food; man has to provide for himself because a higher being. Difficulties enable us to value things more.
2. Christ here warned men of the great losses that may attend trifling neglects: Ships sink by little leaks. Constant trifling wastes may ruin the best business.
3. He showed more power in the gathered fragments than in feeding the five thousand.
4. He taught the disciples His care for those whom others would despise. (Homiletic Magazine.)
No waste in Nature or Art
Nature is a rigid economist. In her household there is no waste. Everything is utilized to the utmost. The decay of rocks forms the soil of plants; and the decay of plants forms the mould in which future plants will grow. The sunlight and carbonic acid gas of past ages which seemed to be wasted upon a desert world, have been stored up in the form of coal for the benefit of man. The water that seems to be dissipated in the air descends in the dew and rain to refresh and quicken the earth. The matter that has served its purpose to one object goes by death and decomposition to form another object with a different purpose to serve. The materials which the animal kingdom receives from the mineral and vegetable kingdoms must be restored in order that they may be carefully circulated without diminution or waste over the whole earth. The gases that disappear in one form reappear in another. Forces are changed into their equivalents. Heat becomes motion, and motion heat. Nowhere is there any waste. In the ashes of every fire, in the decay of every plant, in the death and decomposition of every animal there is change, but not loss, death, but not waste. Everything is made the most of. The fragments of every product of nature are gathered up carefully and made to serve a useful purpose in a new form at nature’s feast. Amid all her lavishness nature is very saving. The brilliant hues of flowers which the poet and artist love are not mere idle adornments, but have a practical purpose to fulfil. The beauty and fragrance which we so much admire appear only when the fertilization of the plant by insect agency is necessary; and when this task is accomplished, she withdraws them, as we put out the lights and remove the garlands when the banquet is over. In the most economical manner Nature gets her new effects not by producing new objects, but by effecting a few modifications upon the old ones; and when she makes a blossom upon an apple-tree she simply shortens and alters what would otherwise have been a common leafy branch; all the parts of the inflorescence of the commonest wayside weed, the bract, the calyx, petal, stamen, pistil, and seed, in spite of all their differences of form and colour, are but successive transformations of the leaf. Thus our Lord teaches us by the common processes of Nature the lesson of economy. In the sphere of human art we find that there is a growing tendency to economize materials. The distinguishing characteristic of our arts and manufactures is economy. Substances which our forefathers threw away are now converted into useful and valuable products. We extract beautiful colours from the dung-heap, and delicious perfumes and essences from the offal of the streets. Every day we are finding out more and more that nothing is useless; that even the waste and refuse of our manufactures may be turned to profitable account, and made to minister to the necessities or the comfort of man. By the work of our own hands, therefore, our Lord is teaching us the lesson of economy. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
The economics of Nature
Though the wealth of God is uncountable, He takes care even of His pence. There is no waste in his workshop. All things go towards the up-building of some newer life. Whatsoever you behold is but part of the great wheel of life everywhere returning. The cloud becomes the rain, the rain the river, the river the sea, the sea the cloud again. One of the glories of science is to abolish the word “waste.” Even the rag-picker has his function to perform, a higher one perhaps than yours. It is better to gather rags than to wear overmuch finery, because those rags go to the mill and become paper, on which the lovely and heroic deeds of men are inscribed. When death comes he will make mock of your fine clothes, and you will go your way to the rag heap. He who rescues rags is often more useful than he who wears them, and he might have written across him “Gather up the fragments,” etc. He gathers rags, bones, etc. He sorts them. Then they are sold and made into new materials, which in their turn come round again to rags. I take up a sheet of paper upon which to write, and I say of it, “Rags of my youth come back again--come to clothe my soul this time.” (George Dawson, M. A.)
An apprentice made a gorgeous cathedral window from the fragments of glass his master threw away. When David Cox used to sketch many things on paper and then cast them aside as not being up to his ideal, they were cast into the waste-paper basket or scattered on the floor. His old housekeeper, however, from reverence to her master, collected these torn and crumpled pieces. When the gifted artist died, and his effects were sold, the old housekeeper had her relics framed and realized some thousands of pounds, on which she was able to pass the rest of her days in comfort. There was unexpected value in fragments and scraps! Were we as careful to try and save time, or to seize opportunities of winning souls, what glory might not be brought to Christi (Homiletic Magazine.)
The word for “basket” in all the places where this miracle is mentioned (Matthew 14:1-36; Mark 6:1-56.; Luke 9:1-62.; John 6:1-71), kophinos; in the two places where the later miracle of feeding is described, the word for basket is spuris. These two words indicate two different kinds of baskets. It was in a spuris basket that Paul was let down from the walls of Damascus; so that we can hardly err in recognizing in the spuris the large, deep, and round woven basket which is used for so many purposes in Palestine, and into which a man could, on occasion, be packed. The kophinos, on the other hand, which in the classics sometimes indicates a fish-basket, seems to be the light, flat woven tray-basket, which is in use among fisher-folk and others who had light burdens to carry. (S. S. Times.)
I. In all the PROCESSES OF NATURE. In the ravages of oceans, the flow of rivers, the crumbling of mountains, “nothing is lost; the drop of dew that trembles on leaf or flower, is but exhaled to fall anew, in summer thunder shower.”
II. OF ALL THE COUNTLESS FORMS OF LIFE that have flourished and died since the beginning
“The little drift of common dust,
By the March winds disturbed and tossed,
Though scattered by the fitful gust,
Is changed but never lost.”
III. OF ANY WORK DONE FOR GOD, however humble. Sermons, prayers, contributions, etc. (Isaiah 55:11; Acts 10:4; Matthew 10:42). What an encouragement to parents, teachers, ministers, reformers. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Then those men when they had seen the miracle
The sequel to the miracle
THE EFFECT OF THE MIRACLE ON THE MIND OF THE MULTITUDE. They, like all Jews of the time, were expecting the Prophet like unto Moses. The Divine commission of Moses was authenticated by the miraculous manna; what then could this miracle mean but that He who worked it was the antitype of Moses. And then Moses had been king as well as prophet. Who could be better qualified for “leader and commander of the people” than Jesus: Time and place were both favourable for raising the standard of rebellion, and five thousand resolute hearts formed no mean nucleus of an army which would soon include every Jewish patriot. Measures, therefore, were taken to compel Christ to yield to their wishes.
1. In this incident we have an example of zeal without knowledge. Christ was indeed a King, but had they apprehended in what sense nothing would have been further from their wishes.
2. Zeal without knowledge must at all times be most injurious to the true interests of the cause of Christ.
II. THE PROCEDURE OF CHRIST (John 6:15).
1. He withdrew.
(1) To frustrate their purpose.
(2) To show that His kingdom was not of this world.
(3) To ascend a higher throne, not by popular election, but by the cross.
2. He withdrew to pray, thus indicating the nature of the glory He sought. He had much to plead for on behalf of the multitude on whom the miracle had been lost, and in behalf of His disciples who had more than half taken the infection. Lessons:
(1) Those who misuse Christ and His blessings must not wonder if they are deprived of His presence.
(2) Spiritual safety is closely connected with retirement from dangerous associations. Christ not only withdrew Himself but sent the disciples away Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45).
III. THE DANGER OF THE DISCIPLES (verses 17, 18).
1. Those who seek and find their delight in Christ’s presence know the bitterness of His absence. How often are Christ’s disciples tossed with tempests and constrained to hard and apparently fruitless service!
2. The Master is ever at hand when the storm is fiercest and where the labour is hardest.
IV. THE ADVENT OF CHRIST.
1. Aroused their fears.
2. Elicited their prayers.
3. Secured their safety.
4. Brought them safely to shore. (A. Beith, D. D.)
Three views of Christ
I. AMID THE MOUNTAINS (John 6:15).
1. A couch of repose after the physical exhaustion of the day.
2. A temple of prayer (Matthew 14:23; Mark 6:46).
(1) For Himself that Be might resist the temptation He had just escaped as in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10), and that He might be supplied with strength for the coming miracle.
(2) For the people who were as sheep without a shepherd.
(3) For the disciples gone on their perilous voyage.
3. A tower of observation of His disciples as now He watches us from heaven.
II. UPON THE SEA (John 6:19-20).
1. The mysterious apparition.
(1) What it was. Christ really walking on, not swimming in, the sea, not walking on the shore. There is no difficulty here to those who believe the previous miracle.
(2) Why it came. To proclaim Christ Lord as the Controller of nature, as the bread had proclaimed Him its Creator.
(3) When it appeared. Between three and six o’clock in the morning when the rowers were at their wits’ end. So Christ interposes when our need is greatest (Amos 5:1).
(4) How it was regarded. With fear, as Christ’s unusual appearances often are.
2. The familiar voice.
(1) What it said (John 6:20). A note of assurance (Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 54:11).
(2) How it acted. It dispelled their alarms.
III. IN THE BOAT (John 6:21).
1. The wind was hushed (Matthew 14:32). To lull the soul’s hurricanes when Christ steps within (John 14:27).
2. The disciples were amazed (Mark 6:51), and led to worship Matthew 14:33). Christ’s supremacy over nature unmistakably betokened His Divinity.
3. The voyage was completed.
1. The dependence Jesus ever felt on prayer.
2. The notice Christ continues to take of His people.
3. The ability Christ possesses to help in the time of need.
4. The glory Christ shall yet bring to His people and to this material world.
5. The object of all Christ’s manifestations to lead men to recognize His Divinity. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
This is of a truth that Prophet
The distinguishing characteristics of Christ as a Teacher
I. THOSE WHICH CANNOT BE IMITATED.
1. His originality.
2. His miraculousness.
3. His authority.
II. THOSE WHICH MUST NOT BE IMITATED.
1. His positiveness.
2. His self-assurance.
3. His self-representation.
III. THOSE WHICH SHOULD BE IMITATED.
1. His naturalness.
2. His simplicity.
3. His variety.
4. His suggestiveness.
5. His definiteness.
6. His catholicity.
7. His spirituality.
8. His tenderness.
9. His faithfulness.
10. His consistency.
11. His devoutness. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
The misinterpretation of the Divine sign by the perverseness of the carnal mind
They draw from the sign a correct conclusion (a true doctrine) and a false application (a bad moral). So with orthodox faith a false (ecclesiastical or secular) morality is often associated. (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
This is of a truth the prophet
1. They beheld in Jesus the fulfilment of prophecies fondly remembered, of hopes long deferred. The Law-giver who was to be a second Moses; the Deliverer who was to be a more mighty conqueror than Joshua; a King more glorious than David, wiser than Solomon, was come at last.
2. They who said so were not men learned in the Scriptures, like the Jewish scribes and rulers; book-learning, even of the highest sort, is apt to make those who have it slow in forming their judgments, backward and cold in declaring them. Nor were they men of the city, who might have gained some knowledge at second hand from those who had searched the Scriptures. But they were a crowd of rude, simple folk, come together from the hill country of Galilee, where old traditions had been handed down from age to age by word of mouth. With an instinct more true, more strong, than the opinions of the learned, they perceived that the bread which they received in such abundance could only have been supplied by God Himself, and that in Him who fed them thus God was revealed as clearly as when He spake by the profits to their forefathers.
3. Confessions of this kind, all the more impressive from their being artless and involuntary, are often to be met with in the four Gospels, and are just such as we might expect men would make on seeing of a sudden the supernatural power and wisdom of Christ (see John 1:49; Luke 5:8; Mark 15:39).
4. It is not to be supposed that the like effects should be wrought in us, who have heard and read a hundred times the record of these things. Miracles the most amazing, discourses the most persuasive, the heartrending tales of sufferings inconceivable, sound in our ears as old familiar truths; and familiarity too often leads to neglect, even though it may by no means breed contempt. They who live in sight of a beautiful landscape lose in some degree the perception of its loveliness. They would like to view it with fresh eyes; as the strangers do who come to visit them.
There is stealing over us a spirit of indifference, which for any saving purpose is as dangerous as the spirit of downright unbelief.
5. God does not suffer us to remain without a warning in this deadly stupor. Not by miracles, not by the visitation of angels, but in the course of His providence, by what we call the accidents of life, He arouses us and makes us see the Saviour as plainly revealed to our inward vision as He was to those men sitting on the grass and eating the bread which He gave them in the wilderness.
6. And what sort of things are they which bring us to see in His beauty and majesty that Saviour who hitherto has had no form or comeliness in our sight, so that we have even hid our faces from Him? Have we been led to look with abhorrence on one of our darling sins and yearn for the purity which once we had, and which we cannot of ourselves recover? And has a ray of comfort from Him been shed upon us, kindling a new hope in our breasts, making us embrace as a living truth what had become to us a dead form of words, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners? Or has the heavenly ray reached you by another path? It is in love that thou art chastened, that the weight of thy affliction, which is but for a little moment, may gain thee the exceeding and eternal weight of glory. I have been the Man of sorrows, and now am at God’s right hand. I know thy afflictions, and even the glory here am touched with a feeling of them. But such is God’s law, equal for all;” only through tribulation canst thou enter the kingdom here above.” Have such consolations given a new turn to your thoughts, and thrown some light on the deep mystery of your life? If so, you might well exclaim, “This is of a truth the Prophet that cometh--that Herald of life and joy, so greatly needed by the sons and daughters of affliction, so longed for by me, sorrow-stricken, sick at heart as I am! This is He, the Desire of all nations!” And if, in any of these ways, the good impression has been made upon you, take care to keep it by giving good heed to it, and especially by often calling to mind the circumstances under which you first received it. Otherwise it will soon wear out like the stagnant pool of Bethesda, troubled for an instant by the angel’s wing. (W. W. G. HumphryG. Humphry, B. D.)
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and … make Him a King
Christ not a King by force
1. Some men have greatness thrust upon them. From all such Christ separates Himself, knowing that what is done by compulsion may by compulsion be undone. So He would not have a kingdom forced upon Him, nor would He be forced on a kingdom. Wonderful words are written on His royal banner: “Put up thy sword,” “My kingdom is not of this world.”
2. This is the second time that He declined a crown. It is not every man who has two such chances. Everything depends on how you get hold of your kingdom. If you have offered false worship for it, it will rot in your grip; if you have been forced on reluctant hearts, they will east you off in the spring tide of returning power.
3. There is something in this Man more than in any other man. The more His character is studied, the more independent we shall be of theological evidences. The grand claim of Christ to supremacy goes right up to the centre and necessity of things.
I. NOTHING HAS TO BE DONE IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BY VIOLENCE, by mere force. Did not Christ come to be a King? Yes. What matter then the way of becoming one? Everything. A man must prove his title to his seat, or he may be unseated.
1. It is not right to do right in a wrong way. It is right that you should come to church: it would be wrong to force you to come. The end does not sanctify the means.
2. Force is powerless in all high matters.
(1) You can force a man to kneel, to repeat devotional words while you stand over him sword in hand; but he defies you to make him pray.
(2) You can force a man to pay his debts, but you cannot make him honest. Honesty cannot be created by force, nor dishonesty be punished by it.
(3) You can compel a nation to build a church, but you cannot compel it to be religious. The very attempt to force a man to be religious destroys the temper which alone makes religion possible.
I. While all this is true on the human side, the real point to be considered is that JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF WOULD NEVER REIGN BY MERE FORCE. If you could force men to Christ, you could never force Christ to men. It is the Infinite that declines. Jesus reigns by the distinct consent of the human mind. “If any man will open to Me, I will come in.” “Come unto Me all ye,” etc.
III. If He will not be a King by force, BY WHAT MEANS WILL HE BECOME KING? 1, Preach Me, is one of His injunctions. Show My doctrine, purpose, spirit, throughout the world. That is a roundabout way, but the swing of the Divine astronomy is in it. It is not the thought of a common man.
2. Live Me: “Let your light so shine,” etc.; “I have given you an example;” “Follow Me.”
3. Lift Me up. “If I be lifted up,” etc.
(1) On the Cross of Atonement.
(2) By us when we love His law, submit to His bidding, reproduce His temper, receive with unquestioning heart all the gospel of His love.
IV. Now for the philosophical explanation of all this. “WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.” This Man lays hold of our entire love, and thereby secures an everlasting reign. The man who proceeded to capture human nature as this Man proceeded is presumably a true king. No adventurer could have acted as Jesus Christ.
1. Little child, Jesus would not have you forced to be good. He says, “I am knocking at the door of your heart; let Me in.”
2. He makes no proposition about going out.
3. The Church, like the Master, should not rule by force, but by love. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Secret prayer feeds the soul as secret morsels feed the body; therefore it is said to be the banquet of grace, where the soul may solace itself with God, as Esther did with Ahasuerus at the banquet of wine, and have whatsoever heart can wish or need require. While the disciples were perilling and well-nigh perishing, Christ was praying for them; so He is still for us at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (J. Trapp.)
Jesus on the mountain above the political designs of men
I. He alone THE FREE ONE who is more a King than any prince on earth.
II. He alone THE CLEAR-SIGHTED ONE, who sees above all craftiness of policy.
III. He alone THE SILENT BUT DECISIVE DISPOSER OF ALL THINGS. (Lange.)
The kingship of Christ
Like Joseph our Lord suffered for the sin He so carefully avoided. The charge of claiming to be King was brought up against Him at His trial. Yet while shunning the bauble of an earthly sceptre, He was King of kings, and will for ever wear many crowns. To make Him King was of the Father, not of poor mortals. How low their ideas of Messiah’s kingdom! What had loaves and fishes multiplied to do with “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”? (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
And when even was now come His disciples went down unto the sea and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum
A night upon the deep
I. OF DISAPPOINTED HOPE.
II. OF UNSUCCESSFUL EFFORT.
III. OF DEEPENING ALARM.
IV. OF DIVINE MANIFESTATION.
V. OF SUPERNATURAL DELIVERANCE. (T. Whitelaw, D,D.)
Jesus absent in darkness
It is sometimes worth while to try to meet the mournful and worried state of mind in tile churches, when the good are longing, and perhaps waiting, for a revival of religion to come.
I. THE PICTURE. In the course of description of the scene on Lake Genesaret, it will not be difficult to suggest these points:
1. The close and rather humiliating connection between wistful souls and weary bodies.
2. The disheartening result of a rapid transition from exhilarating crowds to unromantic and lonely labour.
3. The feeling of desertion when, perhaps, Jesus is praying for us all the time.
4. Desolate frames of feeling give no release from diligent duty. Our question now is, What did those disciples do?
II. THE LESSON.
1. They kept on rowing. That is, they did precisely what they would have done if Jesus had arrived.
2. They headed the boat for Capernaum. That was what He bade them do Matthew 14:22).
3. They bailed out the water if any rushed into the boat. All the worldliness in the world’s sea cannot sink Christ’s Church, if only the waves are kept on the outside of it.
4. They strained their eyes in every direction for the least sign of Christ’s coming.
5. They cheered each other. (C. S. Robinson.)
The absent Christ
It is always dark until Jesus comes to us, or until we go to Jesus. This is the case with
I. THE AWAKENED SINNER who, in contact with Jesus, passes from darkness into light.
II. THE DESPONDING CHRISTIAN (Psalms 130:1-8; Psalms 130:1-8.).
III. THE AFFLICTED CHRISTIAN.
IV. THE BEREAVED. “If Thou hadst been here our brother had not died.” But when He comes He is the Resurrection and the Life. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Christians in darkness when Christ is not near
I. CHRIST’S THOUGHTS ABOUT HIS DISCIPLES.
1. He leaves men for a time in fear and danger.
(1) After the fall the whole world was thus left till Christ came in the flesh.
(2) After the Incarnation He remained thirty years in obscurity. He remained far distant from Bethany till Lazarus was dead. He fingered on the mountain while His disciples were struggling with the storm.
(3) At this day His people wonder at His absence, and exclaim, “Thou art a God that hidest Thyself.”
2. His delay is no proof of His neglect. His delights were with the children of men before His abode was among them. When absent from Lazarus His heart was full of a brother’s love. Here His purpose was to allow their extremity to become His opportunity. So when He left the world it was that the Comforter might come. And now it is only love that detains Him within the veil.
3. Never, and nowhere, do they who wait on the Lord wait in vain. To weary watchers the time seemed long but the coming was sure. “Faithful is He that promised.” “He that keepeth Israel shall not slumber.”
II. THE DISCIPLES’ THOUGHTS ABOUT CHRIST.
1. It was a matter of the heart. In knowledge they were children; and like children, too, in single-eyed, confiding love. Afterwards they became more enlightened. But their first love was not weaker than their last.
2. Observe how this child-like love operates in time of trial.
(1) The waters were permitted to swell and frighten the children, although their Elder Brother held those waters in the hollow of His hand. But these true men would neither be bold in the absence of their Lord, nor faint in fear when He was at their side.
(2) The storm and darkness made their hearts quiver, and all the more surely did these hearts turn and point toward the mountain-top when Jesus, the Daysman, stood laying His hand upon God.
(3) But these dangers though great were material and temporal; whereas the dangers which induce us to seek a Saviour are our own sin, and the wages that it wins. But these burdens will make you doubly welcome.
(4) The example of these Galileans is shown here as in a glass, that every mourner may thereby be encouraged to long for the presence of the Lord Psalms 50:15).
(5) Love to Christ in a human heart, kindled by Christ’s love to man and laying hold of the love that lighted it, is the one thing needed. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
Christ, though absent, has not deserted us
Jesus was absent all the while. He leaveth them, as it were, in the suburbs of hell. Howbeit as the eagle when she flieth highest of all from the nest doth ever cast a jealous eye upon her young, so doth this heavenly eagle. (J. Trapp.)
Night with Jesus
1. It was night, The disciples were alone, which made it double night.
2. It was night at sea. To be without Jesus in the day and on land was sad, but this was sadder.
3. It was a night of toil: rowing four miles in the teeth of the wind; and Christ’s absence made their labour doubly hard.
4. It was a night of danger. The storm had broken loose and there was no Jesus. Let us look at these works in their more general aspect in relation to the Saint and to the Church.
1. The sinner’s history is one long starless night.
2. The saint has his night, too, of sorrow, bereavement, and pain.
3. The Church, too, has her night--poverty, persecution, desertion. There shall be no night there, but there is night now.
II. NIGHT WITHOUT JESUS.
1. The sinner’s night is altogether without Him.
2. The saint has night when Jesus seems distant. Without Him altogether we cannot be--“Lo, I am with you always.” But there are times when He is not realized; and the issue of these is to bring Him nearer.
III. NIGHT WITH JESUS. With Him the darkness is as the light. For having Him we have
6. Assurance of the coming day.
IV. DAY WITH JESUS. He does not say, “Let Me go, for the day breaketh.” And if His presence has made the night pleasant, what will not that presence make the coming day! (H. Bonar, D. D.)
They see Jesus walking on the sea
Does He not always walk upon it? Is not His majestic tread on the Galilean waters typical
I. OF HIS MARCH ALONG THE AGES? No figure seems more literal than that by which we speak of the waves, the current, the sea of time. How constantly is the lapse of years, obliterating races, memorials, great names, the dykes set up by arms, laws, industries and enterprise. Of the civilized nations now on earth but one in Christ’s time had a name or a place except the Jews. The languages then spoken are now dead. The manners and religions have passed away. Meanwhile, Jesus has walked upon the waves. The gospel has never been submerged or been less than the one shaping, controlling power.
1. At the outset fierce and bitter persecution assailed Christianity, but from beneath the heel of the Caesars it mounted their throne.
2. Then commenced the severer trial of corrupting prosperity; and still its ordinances, doctrines, and influence could not be wholly corrupted.
3. Invading races threatened to destroy it, but yielded to it.
4. During the dark ages it gave birth to noble charities, home life, etc.
5. In these latter ages how many and powerful have been the assailing forces, scientific and infidel; but no sooner has any fountain of knowledge become deep and clear than it has invited His tread and rolled tributary waves to His feet.
6. And lo! as centuries roll on His circuit widens. His steps lay hold on the ends of the earth and the islands of the sea.
II. OF HIS WAY IN THE HEART OF MAN.
1. How fierce the waves that threaten our peace and well being! Passion, appetite, lust, pride, desire, fear. What power but Christ’s can walk these waves? But let Him enter and these billows know their Lord.
2. What miracles of mercy has He not wrought in these subject souls!
(1) Here was intemperance or lust. No love could stem the torrent; but Christ entered and appetite was quelled and all is now pure and peaceful.
(2) In that spirit passion raged; Christ entered and vengeance has given place to love and forgiveness.
3. In every soul into which He enters, He walks as sovereign. The forces of character mould themselves at His command.
III. OF HIS PATHS AS HERALD AND GUIDE TO THE LIFE ETERNAL. (A. P. Peabody, LL. D.)
Christ in the night storm
I. Many of my hearers may be just now in a FEARFUL NIGHT-STORM OF TROUBLE.
1. One is in the darkness of a mysterious providence.
2. Another is under a tempest of commercial disaster. He has lost “the rigging” of his prosperity; and his pride has come down as a top-sail comes down in a hurricane.
3. Another one is toiling with the oars against a head-sea of poverty.
4. The guiding rudder of a dear and trusted friend has been swept away by death.
5. Still another one is in a midnight of spiritual despondency, and the promise-stars seem to be all shut out under gloomy clouds. My friend A--is making a hard voyage, with her brood of fatherless children to provide for. Friend B--has a poor intemperate husband on board with her; and Brother C--‘s little bark hardly rises out of one wave of disaster before another sweeps over it. There are whole boat-loads of disciples who are “toiling at rowing” over a dark sea of trouble.
II. THE HOUR OF THE CHRISTIAN’S EXTREMITY IS THE HOUR OF CHRIST’S OPPORTUNITY. At the right moment Christ makes His appearance. We do not wonder at the disciples’ astonishment and alarm. But straightway Jesus speaks unto them, and in an instant their fears vanished and “the wind ceased.” Now, good friends, who are breasting a midnight sea of trouble, open the eye of faith, and see that Form on the waves! It is not an apparition; it is not a fiction of priestly fancies. It is Jesus Himself! One who has been tried on all points as we are, and yet without sin. Christ comes to you as a sympathizing, cheering, consoling Saviour. His sweet assurance is, “Lo! I am with you. Fear not; I have redeemed thee.” Receive Him into the ship. No vessel can sink or founder with Jesus on board. Let the storms rage, if God sends them. Christ can pilot you through. It is I! There may be a night coming soon on some of you, when heart and flesh shall fail you, and the only shore ahead is the shore of eternity. If Jesus is only in the bark, be not afraid. Like glorious John Wesley, you will be able to cry aloud in the dying hour, “The best of all is, God is with us!”
III. THE TEACHINGS OF THIS INSPIRING SCENE TO THOSE WHO ARE IN A MID-SEA OF CONVICTIONS OF SIN AND TROUBLINGS OF CONSCIENCE. The storm of Divine threatenings against sin is breaking upon you. You acknowledge that you are guilty. Alarming passages from God’s Word foam up around your distressed and anxious soul. You cannot quell this storm, or escape out of it. Toiling at the oars of self-righteousness has not sent you a furlong nearer to the “desired haven.” You have found by sore experience that sin gives no rest, and that your oars are no match against God’s just and broken law. Friend! Listen! There is a voice that comes sounding through the storm. Hearken to it! It is a voice of infinite love, “It is I!” “Whosoever believeth in Me shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.” If you will only admit this waiting, willing, loving Jesus into your tempest-tossed soul, the “wind will cease.” Christ can allay the storm. Receive Him. Do all He asks, surrender the helm to Him, and you can then feel as the rescued disciples did when they knelt down in the drenched bottom of their little boat, and cried out, “Truly this is the Son of God!” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
It is I, be not afraid
The Lord’s voice to His people
I. PROCLAIMING HIS PRESENCE.
1. In unexpected places.
2. At unwonted times.
3. In unfamiliar forms.
II. DISPELLING FEAR
1. Of danger.
2. Of death.
3. Of evil. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The recognition of Christ in the hour of death
The recognition of Christ coming to help and comfort in the hour of severest trial is ever the Christian’s privilege. If he see Him not in the storm, he must look again and again, for he has but failed to recognize Him. This truth we would apply only to that last fearful storm which wrecks the bark in which the soul has been crossing the sea of life.
I. TO RECOGNIZE HIM WE MUST EXPECT HIM.
1. He has promised to be there. “Lo, I am with you alway.” “When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee.”
2. He who has given His life for us will not fail us in that most trying moment.
II. BY WHAT SIGNS MAY THE CHRISTIAN KNOW HIM?
1. The Christian soul knows Him by His visage. Infinite love breaks through every disguise when viewed by the soul fitted to recognize it.
2. Knows Him because He announces Himself: “It is I, be not afraid.”
3. Knows Him because of the calm that comes with Him. Conclusion: Martyrs and Christians in all ages have borne testimony to the recognition of Christ in the last hour of life. (Homiletic Monthly.)
The symbolism of the voyage
A believer must have on the sea of life, Patience for his tackling, Hope for his anchor, Faith for his helm, the Bible for his chart, Christ for his captain, the breath of the Spirit to fill his canvas. (J. Trapp.)
Afraid of Christ
Of Him in whom was laid up all their comfort. How oft are we mistaken and befooled by our fears! (J. Trapp.)
He waits to be gracious. Our extremity is His opportunity. God brings His people to the mount, with Abraham, yea, to the very brow of the hill, till their feet slip, and then delivers them. When all is given up for lost then comes He in, as oil of an engine. (J. Trapp.)
The storm on the lake
My experience in this region enabled me to sympathize with the disciples in their long night’s contest with the wind. I have seen the face of the lake like a huge boiling cauldron. The wind howled down the valleys from the north-east and east with such fury that no efforts of rowers could have brought a boat to shore at any point along that coast. To understand the cause of these sudden and violent tempests we must remember the lake lies low--six hundred feet lower than the ocean--that water-courses have cut out profound ravines and wild gorges, converging to the head of the lake, and that these act like gigantic funnels to draw down the cold winds from the mountains. On the occasion referred to we pitched our tents on the shore, and remained for three days and nights exposed to this tremendous wind. We had to double-pin all the tent ropes, and frequently were obliged to hang with our whole weight upon them, to keep the quivering tabernacle from being carried up bodily into the air. No wonder the disciples toiled and rowed hard all that night. (W. M.Thomson, D. D.)
The disciples and their absent Master
I have observed that a shipmaster, especially when the presence of currents and the proximity of land make his burden heavy, shakes the compass sharply, and then watches the point on which the quivering needle finally settles down. The shaking makes the master more sure that the needle points truly to its pole. In those days the magnet was not known. No trembling compass on the deck that night told the steersman how to hold his helm, after the mountains had disappeared in night; but an instrument more mysterious and equally true within those simple seamen had once been touched by divine, forgiving mercy, and pointed steadfastly now to the Source of saving power. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
The pathway of the King
I. THE STRUGGLING TOILERS. Is it not the history of the Church in a nutshell? Is it not the symbol of life for us all? The solemn law under which we live demands persistent effort, and imposes continual antagonism upon us; there is no reason why we should regard that as evil, or think ourselves hardly used, because we are not fair-weather sailors. The end of life is to make men,; the meaning of all events is to mould character. Anything that makes me stronger is a blessing, anything that develops my morale is the highest good that can come to me. And so be thankful if, when the boat is crossing the mouth of some glen that opens upon the lake, a sudden gust smites the sheets and sends you to the helm, and takes all your effort to keep you from sinking. Do not murmur, or think that God’s Providence is strange, because many and many a time when “it is dark, and Jesus is not yet come to us,” the storm of wind comes down upon the lake and threatens to drive us from our course. Let us rather recognize Him as the Lord who, in love and kindness, sends all the different kinds of weather which according to the old proverb, makes up the full summed year. The solitary crew were not so solitary as they thought. That little dancing speck on the waters which held so much blind love, and so much fear and trouble, was in His sight, as on the calm mountain-top He communed with God. No wonder that weary hearts and lonely ones, groping amidst the darkness, and fighting with the tempests and the sorrows of life, have ever found in our story a symbol that comes to them with a prophecy of hope and an assurance of help, and have rejoiced to know that they on the sea are beheld of the Christ in the sky, and that “the darkness hideth not from” His loving eye.
II. THE APPROACHING CHRIST. If we look for a moment at the miraculous fact, apart from the symbolism, we have a revelation here of Christ as the Lord of the material universe, a kingdom wider in its range and profounder in its authority than that which that shouting crowd had sought to force upon Him. His will consolidates the yielding wave, or sustains His material body on the tossing surges. Two lessons may be drawn from this. One is that in His marvellous providence Christ uses all the tumults and unrest, the opposition and tempests which surround the ship that bears His followers as the means of achieving His purposes. We stand before a mystery to which we have no key when we think of these two certain facts; first, the Omnipotent redeeming will of God in Christ; and, second, the human antagonism which is able to rear itself against that. And we stand in the presence of another mystery, most blessed, and yet which we cannot unthread, when we think, as we most assuredly may, that in some mysterious fashion, He works His purposes by the very antagonism to His purposes, making even head-winds fill the sails, and planting His foot on the white crests of the angry and changeful billows. How often in the world’s history has this scene repeated itself, and by a Divine irony the enemies become the helpers of Christ’s cause, and what they plotted for destruction turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. Another lesson for our individual lives is this, that Christ, in His sweetness and His gentle sustaining help, comes near to us all across the sea of sorrow and trouble. A sweeter, a more gracious sense of His nearness to us, is ever granted to us in the time of our darkness and our grief than is possible to us in the sunny hours of joy. It is always the stormy sea that Christ comes across, to draw near to us; and they who have never experienced the tempest have yet to learn the inmost sweetness of His presence. Sorrow brings Him near to us. Do you see that sorrow does not drive you away from Him.
III. THE TERROR AND THE RECOGNITION. I do not dwell upon the fact that the average man, if he fancies that anything from out of the Unseen is near him, shrinks in fear. I do not ask you whether that is not a sign, and indication of the deep conviction that lies in men’s souls, of a discord between themselves and the unseen world; but I ask you if we do not often mistake the coming Master, and tremble before Him when we ought to be glad? Let no absorption in cares and duties, let no unchildlike murmurings, let no selfish abandonment to sorrow, blind you to the Lord that always comes near troubled hearts, if they will only look and see. Let no reluctance to entertain religious ideas, no fear of contact with the Unseen, no shrinking from the thought of Christ as a Kill-joy keep you from seeing Him as He draws near to you in your troubles. And let no sly, mocking Mephistopheles of doubt, nor any poisonous air, blowing off the foul and stagnant marshes of present materialism, make you fancy that the living Reality, treading on the flood there, is a dream or a fancy or the projection of your own imagination on to the void of space. He is real, whatever may be phenomenal and surface. The storm is not so real as the Christ, the waves not so substantial as He who stands upon them. They will pass and melt, He will abide for ever. Lift up your hearts, and be glad, because the Lord comes to you across the waters. And hearken to His voice: “It is I! Be not afraid.” The encouragement not to fear follows the proclamation, “It is I!” What a thrill of glad confidence must have poured itself into their hearts, when once they rose to the height of that wondrous fact I There is no fear in the consciousness of His presence. It is His old word, “Be not afraid.” And He breathes it whithersoever He comes; for His coming is the banishment of danger and the exorcism of dread.
IV. THE END OF THE TEMPEST AND OF THE VOYAGE. It is not always true, it is very seldom true, that when Christ comes on board opposition ends, and the purpose is achieved. But it is always true that when Christ comes on board a new spirit comes into the men who have Him for their companion, and are conscious that they have. It makes their work easy, and makes them “more than conquerors” over what yet remains. With what a different spirit the weary men would bend their backs to the oars once more when they had the Master on board, and with what a different spirit you and I will set ourselves to our work if we are sure of His presence. The worst of trouble is gone when Christ shares it with us. Friends! Life is a voyage, anyhow, with plenty of storm, and danger, and difficulty, and weariness, and exposure, and anxiety, and dread, and sorrow, for every soul of man. But if you will take Christ on board it will be a very different thing from what it will be if you cross the wan waters alone. Without Him you will make shipwreck of yourselves; with Him your voyage may be as perilous and lonely as that of that poor Shetland woman in the Columbine a month ago, but He will take care of you, and you will be guided on shore, on the one little bit of beach where all the rest is iron-bound rocks, on which whoever smites will be shattered to pieces. “Then are they glad … where they would be.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The day following
Jesus the Bread of Life
OUR LORD’S AVOWAL OF HIS DIVINE NATURE AND HIS HEAVENLY ERRAND. More than thirty times in this one discourse does He use the personal pronouns “Me” and “I,” in such connections as that it would be blasphemy if He were anything less than really God. The Jews saw this (John 6:41-42), the disciples also (John 6:66).
II. THE SPECIAL DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL WHICH ALWAYS SEARCHES THE HEARTS OF MEN. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is what universally tests pride the most severely. In this discourse our Lord intentionally sifts His hearers. He avows with startling suddenness the most extreme views of human helplessness without vicarious redemption. Then He puts the plaintive question, “Will ye also go away?”
III. THE PARAMOUNT NECESSITY OF AN ATONEMENT FOR HUMAN SINS. “Without shedding of blood is no remission.” So striking are these utterances of Christ, that there can be no mistaking them. They cannot possibly be discharged of their meaning by any notion of mere pattern-setting on His part. Bread is not example, and blood is not conduct, and eating is not imitation.
IV. LET US BE SATISFIED WITH THE EXPLANATION FURNISHED US HERE OF THAT SENSE OF CRAVING AND RESTLESSNESS WHICH MANY FEEL UNDER THE APPEALS OF THE GOSPEL. The soul hungers after Christ. The sound of feeding awakes deeper pangs. Every living thing must eat or die. (C. S.Robinson, D. D.)
Jesus the Bread of Life
I. THE SELFISHNESS OF MEN REGARDING JESUS CHRIST (John 6:22-24). The people before us, having “come to Capernaum seeking Jesus,” desired Him only for a temporal benefit. This is like many in our day. They go to church, pretend to be religious, make a show of piety, because it is fashionable, profitable for trade, or a convenient method of getting “bread” without toil. The pious fraud is a more dangerous enemy to Christianity than outspoken infidelity.
II. MEN’S SELFISHNESS IN RELIGION REBUKED (John 6:25-27).
1. By having the shallowness of their pretensions exposed (John 6:26). How keen-cutting these words are! And so it is everywhere in the Bible--hypocrisy is condemned with severity. Any one who would speak for Jesus must not be afraid to rebuke the pretender.
2. Presentation of the true motive (John 6:27). We must be sincere in seeking Christ as the Saviour of the soul--i.e., “everlasting life” must be with us a deeper consideration than the life of the body. To give this eternal life, or righteousness, unto the world was the purpose of Jesus’ coming here: “For Him hath God the Father sealed”--i.e., set apart and given authority to perform the high office of imparting to all believers the Bread of Life. To secure this, salvation must be our only motive.
III. BELIEF IN CHRIST MAN’S SUPREME WORK (John 6:28-29). It is in the human heart to think of salvation as a matter of “works” (John 6:28). The Scriptures everywhere declare that to be saved--i.e., “to work the works of God,” we must believe on the Son of God (John 6:29). Man’s good works exclude this belief. But true belief or faith, includes good works Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:26). Both Jesus and Paul declare that faith saves the soul. James explains the kind of faith that saves.
IV. MAN’S UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT JESUS (verses 30, 31). From the miracle of the loaves, the multitude would gladly have received Him as a king; but, being informed that they must believe on Him as a Saviour, they demanded more evidence (verses 30, 31), intimating that Moses, in giving the manna for long years, was greater than Jesus, who only furnished one meal. So men are always willing to exalt Christ as a great personage, but are reluctant to receive Him as their Redeemer. Yet He must be this or nothing.
V. JESUS URGES THIS HIGH CLAIM (verses 32, 33). He admits of no comparison. Moses did not give the manna (verse 32); manna did not secure life (verse 49); Jesus was the Bread from heaven which conferred eternal life (verses 35, 41, 48, 50, 51). His atonement secured the Holy Spirit, who works regeneration, to experience which is to enter into life. This is what Christ means in verse 51.
VI. THE CONDITIONS OF OUR SECURING JESUS AS OUR LIFE (verses 34-36).
1. The Divine condition. The Holy Spirit must convict, enlighten, draw (verses 37, 45).
2. The human condition. Man must come of His own free will (verses 35, 36, 53).
VII. JESUS THE EXECUTOR OF THE FATHER’S WILL (verses 37-40). This will was to secure eternal life to all believers. Those who do not take Jesus as the source of their life perish through unbelief. All who do are kept in perfect safety. This is God’s will, and Christ is able to execute it. (A. H. Moment.)
Jesus the Bread of Life
I. A TRUE MIRACLE MAY FAIL TO PRODUCE ANY RELIGION, in which case it fails of its chief purpose. This one simply stimulated an appetite for loaves and fishes, without stimulating gratitude for those already given.
II. THE PURPOSE OF GOD IN GREAT MANIFESTATIONS OF POWER IS TO TURN ATTENTION TO THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST (chap. 5:36). The works of God in creation and government have no greater end than this. We do not please God by admiring His work in nature, in being awed by miracles; but in being led by the gift of daily bread to faith in Him who is the Bread of Life.
III. A WONDERFUL PYRAMID OF PROMISES POINTS THE SINNER TO A PERSONAL SAVIOUR (John 6:35; John 6:37).
IV. THE PERSONAL FAITH IN CHRIST DETERMINES THE CHARACTER OF OUR PERSONAL RESURRECTION. Four times in this chapter Christ repeats this, or a similar refrain: “I will raise him up at the last day.” Whether we share the resurrection of shame and everlasting contempt spoken of by Daniel, or that which causes us to shine as the brightness of the firmament, will depend on our faith in Christ now. (Monday Club.)
The meat that endureth
I. CHRIST’S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART is seen in exposing the false motives of those who followed Him. So now He reads all secret thoughts (1 Samuel 16:7). The folly of hypocrisy is as great as its sinfulness. It is not hard to deceive the wisest of men; but it is impossible to deceive Christ (Revelation 1:14; John 21:17).
II. WHAT CHRIST FORBIDS. Labour for the meat that perisheth.
1. Our Lord did not mean to encourage idleness. Labour was the lot of Adam in his innocence, and of Christ Himself.
2. Our Lord rebuked excessive attention to the body to the neglect of the soul. One thing is needful (Matthew 6:33).
III. WHAT CHRIST ADVISES. Labour for this meat that endureth.
1. How are we to labour? In the use of the appointed means. Bible study, prayer, struggling against sin, etc.
2. Labour like this is uncommon. In prosecuting it we shall have little encouragement from men, but much from Christ (Matthew 11:12).
IV. WHAT A PROMISE CHRIST HOLDS OUT (John 6:27). Whatever we need, Christ is willing to bestow. He has been sent for the very purpose. (Bishop Ryle.)
Tiberias--A city of Galilee, in the most beautiful part of it, on the western shore of the lake. It was named by Herod Antipas, in honour of the Emperor Tiberius. It was the capital of the province, from its origin until the reign of Herod Agrippa
II. Many of its inhabitants were Greeks and Romans, and hence foreign customs prevailed. Our Lord, who spent much of His time in Galilee, appears never to have visited this city--probably because Herod, the murderer of John the Baptist, chiefly resided in it. After the dissolution of the State, it was for several centuries the seat of a renowned Jewish school, and one of the four sacred cities, Here the Mishna was compiled (A.D. 190) by the Rabbi Judah Hakkodesh, and the Masorah originated in a great measure at Tiberius. Coins of the city are still extant of the times of Tiberius, Trajan, and Hadrian. The ancient name has survived in that of the modern Tubarieh, which occupies the original site. Near it are the warm baths, which the Roman writers reckoned among the greatest curiosities in the world. The population at present is between 8,000 and 4,000, and the town is the most mean and miserable in all Palestine--a picture of disgusting filth and frightful wretchedness. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
When the people saw that Jesus was not there … they took Shipping, and came to Capurnaum
Abuse of the miracle of the loaves and fishes
A COMMENDABLE PURSUIT (John 6:24).
1. Where they sought Him. At Capernaum. Probably His abode. He has His house on earth still, and should be sought in His own ordinances.
2. How they sought Him. They lost no time and spared no trouble.
3. Why they sought Him.
(1) Not because they were anxious for instruction.
(2) Nor because, conscious of their spiritual necessities, they longed for the bread of life.
II. A REPREHENSIBLE MOTIVE (John 6:25-26). Not that self.regard is always improper, but here it was unjustifiable. Three things are shown here.
1. Our Lord’s knowledge.
2. His faithfulness.
3. His requirement: sincerity of purpose.
III. AN IMPORTANT EXHORTATION.
1. What it forbids.
2. What it enjoins. These words contain
(1) A striking contrast.
(2) An encouraging assurance.
(3) A decisive pledge. (Miracles of the Lord Jesus.)
Seeking for Jesus
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE STATE DESCRIBED.
1. It has a large amount of hopefulness in it.
(1) Indifference is gone.
(2) Some kind of faith is implied.
(3) The face is turned in the right direction.
2. There is much that is doubtful, The seeker disobeys the great command of the gospel, which is to believe, for Christ is not far from any one of us.
II. THE PERPLEXITIES OF THIS STATE. First seekers are very often perplexed.
1. As the result of their ignorance of the way of salvation, which is to take God at His word, and to believe that Jesus is what He is--the Atonement for sin.
2. To increase their perplexity, they are often distracted with fear. Persons in a panic act generally in the worst manner for their own safety. So the sinner, conscious of guilt and God’s anger, scarce knows where to flee.
3. The mind is usually harassed with a thousand questions--about doctrine, about Satan’s suggestions.
4. It is also much grieved to find that it cannot even now cease from sin, as though this could be before pardon.
III. THE DANGERS OF THIS STATE.
1. Present peace and comfort is lost.
2. There is the peril of despair.
3. Seeking may die out in indifference.
4. Something short of Christ may be taken up.
IV. DIRECTIONS FOR SEEKERS.
1. Give attention to the object of faith. Christ as presented in the gospel.
2. Clear away everything that would hinder your believing.
(1) Cherished sin.
(2) Evil company.
3. Remember that, till you have believed, your danger is of the most imminent kind. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Seeking for Jesus
Hear, dear friend, your true position. It is the case of a soldier on the battlefield, wounded, bleeding, life oozing away from him. He is perishing; but he is sufficiently sensible to know it and to call for help. The surgeon is on the field within hearing; the sufferer pleads for relief with many cries and entreaties. So far well; but I pray you remember that crying and weeping will not of them- selves heal the sick man; the surgeon must actually come and bind up his wounds. So remember that your prayers and seekings of themselves cannot save you. Jesus must come to you, and it is madness for you to refuse Him by your unbelief. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Ye seek Me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth.
The carnal eye on the work of God
How different are things sometimes from what they seem! How pleasant to see a multitude in quest of the Son of God; but Our pleasure disappears when we know that their wondering worship was a beggarly pursuit of material food. It was not wrong for the Jews to feel the cravings of nature, or to rejoice in the miraculous supply, if along with that went spiritual desire and gratitude. The conduct of the Jews represents the manner in which men regard the work of God in
I. Material nature. If there is not a perpetual miracle there is a perpetual display of that by and for which miracles have been wrought. The natural is as full of God as the supernatural; and it is an ignorant piety which cannot see God in the ordinary and regular. Nature’s greatness is a display of His greatness, and its beauty of Ills, etc. But men estimate nature as a material machine, just the place for man, fitted to be his home, workshop, recreation ground. They do not value the work for the sake of the worker.
II. THE EVENTS OF PROVIDENCE. The Scripture doctrine is that all things are of God and have a probationary character. Job saw God in the loss as well as the gift of His children and property, and in the calamities which proceeded from the elements as well as in those which proceeded from the wickedness of men. And God’s end is not merely to enable us to eat and sleep well, but to exercise us unto Godliness; to make us soft by sorrow for impression, or glad by prosperity for gratitude. But the earthly sense cleaves to us. We call things “providential” when they conduce to prosperity; but who ever does so when he loses an estate or breaks a limb? Yet the evil thing may be better than the good.
III. SOCIAL GOOD. There are those who value man only in his lowest capacities and relations, never in his soul. Education is estimated for its influence on labour; morality because it would lighten the rates and give security to life and property; religion because of its relation to economy.
They have no sense of the dignity and destiny of our nature; and no appreciation of mental culture and spiritual faith for their own sakes.
IV. PERSONAL GODLINESS. Godliness is profitable; but the final end of God is not our good but His glory. That man has much to learn whose supreme solicitude is how he may be enriched by the love of God, and not how he may receive its holy impression and fulfil its holy ends. He who is saved must think more of God than of self. But when many receive the truth it is only because unbelief would be ruinous; they obey the law because obedience has its recompenses. The gospel is good news, not only because it blesses us, but because it reveals our Father. (A. J. Morris.)
Christ sought from sinister motives
Lapidaries tell us of the Chelydonian stone, that it will retain its virtue and lustre no longer than it is enclosed in gold. A fit emblem of the hypocrite, who is only good while he is enclosed in golden prosperity, safety, and felicity. (T. Brooks.)
The great want of mankind
Here are two objects set before us--the bread that perisheth and the bread that endureth unto everlasting life--material things and spiritual things--things temporal and things eternal. It is characteristic of material things that they perish, or, what is much the same thing, that our connection with them shall very soon cease. To me there is something sad in this. When I stood the other morning on Primrose Hill before breakfast, looking at the great sun, young as ever, looking down with a smile of unutterable kindness--when I looked at the green fields beyond--when I cast a look, a most affectionate look, upon the whole scene, my bosom heaved with a sigh. “Well, I shall not see many more springs. I must look on this for the last time. It must perish from my sight.” You say that was weakness. Well, I cannot help it. This is a beautiful world--a world of life and joy and affection, and there is something sad in the thought that one must leave it. And we have not only the certain knowledge of it, but we have the feeling that it will be so. That at once suggests to me a contrast between myself and nature. Nature is young and old at the same time. She appears wrinkled with age every autumn, but blooming with youth every spring. She is dead every winter--alive every summer. But man becomes old, and not young again. Man dies indeed, and the gloomy winter passes over him, and there is no reviving him again in this state. The things that perish! Don’t labour too much for this world. Why, it will make no difference to you forty years to-day what amount of this world you have. But spiritual things endure for ever. The human spirit is immortal--the blessings of religion are eternal. In the New Testament you will find that the word “eternal,” or something equal to it, is connected with the blessings of religion. I think, then, that the lesson taught by the text is THE SUPREME IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION. Now, where shall I go for my illustration? What shall I bring in proof of this? In the first place, I could prove and illustrate this subject from a man’s own nature. Secondly, I could do so from the design of God’s providence. Thirdly, I could prove it from God’s Holy Word. Fourthly, from the testimony of the best and wisest and holiest men that ever lived; and in the last place, and above all, I could prove the unutterable importance of your becoming holy and good--or, in other words, the supreme importance of religion--from yonder cross--the life and death of the Son of God. Religion, goodness, purity, holiness, is the great want of man. Every echoing rock sends back the sound--the great want is religion.
1. Let us begin then with man as an individual. Stand in the right place to look at man. Don’t look at him from the exchange, or market, but place man in the right light. Let the light of eternity fall upon him. Place the picture in the right light. What is man? A moral responsible being, all whose movements are watched. This is man, in himself, a sinful, fallen being, as he knows and feels. Then there is another feature in the picture. An immortal being is man, a person bound for an endless voyage, a pilgrim on an endless journey. Well, now, I ask you what is the great want of such a being? Riches? No. Earthly enjoyments? No. Human fame and greatness and glory? No. What is his great want? Goodness, religion. What ought he to care for fame? What ought he to care for the glory and grandeur of the world? What ought he to care for the enjoyments of sense--for the heaping up of gold, so much thought of? It is religion he wants. As an intelligent, a moral, a sinful and an immortal being, it is religion he wants, and it is religion he must have, or he will be wretched in the most splendid palace, and have an aching head on the easiest pillow. But has he religion--real religion? he shall be content in the midst of poverty--he shall havepeace in the midst of the storm. Gas-light is very useful in its way, but it is a poor apology for the sun. It gives light in the midst of the street, but turn the corner and you are in deep shadows directly. It goeth not down to the deep cellar. But let the sun be up and you will find light in your house. It passes through the windows, and by its rays fills the whole house with light and cheerfulness. The things that perish we are thankful for. We bless God for our health and the comforts we possess, and we use them, I hope, thankfully and prayerfully, but they are only as the star-light. Religion is to our spirits what the sun is in a temporal sense. It filleth the whole nature of man. It brings the highest subjects for the contemplation of his intellect. It opens the sublimest regions for his imagination. It meets the son of sin with a free pardon in its right hand, and as the sense of death which I have described comes over him, it points him to an eternal home and says, My child, labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life. Religion alone can meet the wants of his nature.
2. And now to pass from the individual to the family, what is the great want there? What will make a family happy? A large estate? No, no. Fine apparel? Not exactly. Splendid paintings? Not altogether. Musical instruments? These things have an elevating influence, and I would not despise them. I remember what an artist friend told me some time ago. I was looking at his engravings--taken from some of the masterpieces of Italy--and I said, “Well, these are very good”; for though I was not examining them with an artist’s eye, I liked them, and I knew what had influence over me. “Ah,” he said, “they are companions.” And so they are--refining, elevating companions; but do you know there is somethingmore important than them--more important to a family than the fine arts, than music, paintings, costly furniture, vast estates, noble mansions? What is it? It is that the hearts of the family be good; that religion be enthroned there: Why, let religion be in your family, and you have a fountain of happiness. This would unite us all. This would create a paradise in families where there is now discord. Oh, fathers--oh, mothers--oh, children--possess religion, that you may meet again in the land of life and light, to be eternally with the Lord and with each other.
3. We have passed from the individual to the family, and now let us enter the Church. I would say, then, to you as a Church and congregation, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” Labour for those mental states, those spiritual emotions, those principles of eternal life which will make the worship of God interesting and delightful to you. Let me add another thought, ere I pass on. Grant that the preacher is uninteresting--that he is cold or dull; grant that his emotions are less earnest than your own; but allow me to ask you what business have you to come to a chapel or a church to be merely passive at the hands of the preacher? Why, you are not mere harps to be played upon by the fingers of the preacher--not mere dead bodies to be galvanized into artificial life--not machines to be set in motion by the word of a man. You are thinking, living, immortal spirits. You must awaken cheerfulness within you by having religion, and then you will have no more dulness in your religious services. You have observed, perhaps, that when there has been long dry weather, clouds may float about in the sky, but will not send down a drop of water upon the parched earth. What is the reason? There is no attractive power in the earth to draw down the clouds towards it. Like draws to like. A wet earth would draw down wet clouds. A true illustration this of power in the pulpit. A congregation spiritually lifeless derives no benefit from the sermon. The feelings of the preacher are sent back to him. The cloud pours forth no rain. But let the earth be moist--let the church be in a healthy spiritual state--and the cloud will burst over it, and the Church mill be baptized with the unction of the Holy One. Therefore do I say, as well to the Church as to the family or to the individual, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”
4. And, brethen, let us pass from the individual, and the family, and the Church, to the great world. Let me, however, name two or three classes.
(1) There, for instance, is that mighty class called “the people.” Religion, and nothing but religion, can make the English working man what he ought to be. Why, look at your burning, parched, thirsty desert. No trees, grass, corn, flowers, grow in that place, and why? What is wanted to make it fertile? The husbandman may go there with his ploughs and harrows; he may sow the seed; but there is one great want, before which the other wants need not be mentioned. What is that want? A noble rolling river to pass through it--that is what it wants. Then would trees flourish in it, and flowers bloom, and the corn wave in the August sun. And what do English people want? Education? Yes. A better material condition? No doubt they do. Better houses to live in than some of them possess? Undoubtedly. But there is one want greater than all others, and I tell you English people will not get the houses they ought to have, or the material comforts they ought to enjoy, without it. They are always looking out for good to come to them from above--from Parliament, from orators, from the franchise; but I say to English people, “Look within.” What, you don’t mean to tell us that we shall never be much better off till we have better characters? I do. If you look at the history of the world you will find reason for believing that your condition will improve as you become nobler, holier, purer, more heaven-like. “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life.”
(2) Look at the neglected ones in England. There are thousands in London who have never found their place in life--well-educated and well-disposed, but disappointed men, going up and down in the world trying to find their places, but unable to do so. Yes, I have known servants to ride on horses, and I have seen princes as servants walk. I have seen fools in high places, and scholars, gentlemen, and able men concealed in corners. I have seen weeds--worthless, ugly weeds--spread their large open leaves, and hiding beneath them the blushing rose and the delicate lily; and I have always felt disposed to brush the uncomely thing away. What do they want? They want religion; that which would cause them to trust God, to leave the world that neglects them, and patiently to do the little thing that is at hand, seeing that they cannot reach the great thing that is in the distance. Religion, the great power of religion, to keep them in the quiet path of duty.
(3) I intended speaking also a word to my young friends, but I have no time left. The young man who is just commencing life’s pilgrimage looks forward to success in business. God bless you, my youthful hearers, and help you to realize this; but there is one thing you want more than all. What is it? Faith in the great Redeemer, religion, goodness--that is what you want.
(4) And then there is the ruined class. Character is gone, prospects are gone, health is gone, and there is nothing left but remorse. What can be done for these? Oh the beautiful vision of love--Jesus saying, “Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” (T. Jones.)
The sermon on the loaves
I. A SOLEMN REPROOF (John 6:26).
1. To whom addressed? To the witnesses of the miracle. Excitement is not religion, and those who to-day cry Hallelujah! may to-morrow cry Crucify!
2. By whom spoken? By one who could search the heart, and whose mercy on the previous day gave Him a right to speak.
3. For what given. Not for seeking Him, but for seeking Him with a bad motive which was
(1) Sensational--they saw the phenomenon but were blind to its significance.
(2) Sensual--they followed as the ex follows the farmer for a bunch of hay.
II. AN EARNEST EXHORTATION (John 6:27).
1. Labour discommended.
(1) The import: not to discourage the toil for daily bread (Genesis 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10), but to condemn the spirit that attached supreme importance to earthly things (Matthew 6:25).
(2) The reason. These commodities were perishing (Colossians 2:22), and contributed at best to the support of the decaying (1 John 2:16-17; 2 Peter 3:11).
2. A labour enjoined.
(1) The perfect legitimacy of human effort (Genesis 2:15; Luke 16:16; Luke 16:16; John 9:4).
(2) The proper object of human effort: that which is spiritual, vivifying, permanent (Matthew 6:20).
(3) The absolute necessity of human effort (Matthew 7:15; Luke Philippians 3:14; Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 11:6).
III. A CLEAR DIRECTION (John 6:27-29).
1. Whence the abiding meat must be sought.
(1) The accessibility of the source “Son of Man;”
(2) The sufficiency of the supply;
(3) The authority of the giver.
2. How the abiding meat may be got.
(1) As a gift (Romans 11:6; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
(2) Through the medium of faith merit is excluded (Job 9:2-3;Isaiah 57:12; Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11).
(3) Approved by works (Romans 6:16; Romans 6:16; Ephesians 2:10 : Titus 2:14; James 2:20-26). Lessons:
1. Christ’s power of reading the heart of man.
2. The supreme importance of motive in religion.
3. The transcendent value of the salvation of the soul.
4. Christ’s clear conviction that faith in Himself would lead to eternal life. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Perishable and unperishable food
I. DECAYING FOOD loses not only
1. Its efficiency; but
2. Its healthful nature, and
3. Its very nature itself.
II. THE FOOD WHICH ENDURETH has
1. Eternal efficiency.
2. Eternal freshness.
3. Eternal durability. (Lange.)
The preference of spiritual food to natural
I. THE PROHIBITION. “Labour not,” etc.
1. What is understood by meat.
(1) All temporal enjoyments as carnal pleasures, popular applause. Earthly riches.
(2) Called here meat because it was the meat the Jews then sought for (John 6:26); because all things of this world amount really to nothing else, and to persuade them, by this notion of earthly things, not to labour so much for Ecclesiastes 5:11).
2. Why called the meat which perisheth. Because
(1) We can enjoy it but awhile.
(2) It perisheth while we use it (Matthew 15:17).
(3) It serves but a perishing life (1 Corinthians 6:13).
3. In what sense must we not labour for this meat?
(1) Negatively. Not but that we ought to take a moderate care about earthly things; because--
(a) It is commanded (Genesis 3:19);
(b) Otherwise we should be worse than infidels (1 Timothy 5:8);
(c) We have bodies to look after;
(d) We should not presume upon providence;
(e) We are to endeavour to help others (1 Corinthians 16:2).
(a) We must not labour for much of the world (Jeremiah 45:5;Isaiah 5:8).
(b) Not by unlawful means (Leviticus 19:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).
(c) Not with carking care and mistrust of God’s providence Psalms 37:5-6; Matthew 6:25).
(d) Not for earthly things, only for themselves, but for the glory of Proverbs 3:9).
(e) Not for them more than for the heavenly (Matthew 5:33).
(f) Not so as to set our affections on them (Colossians 3:2).
4. Why are we not thus to labour for these things. Because
(1) They perish.
(2) We may be deprived of them if we do (Proverbs 10:22), or God may curse them to us (Malachi 2:2).
(3) God will give them without this sinful labouring (Matthew 6:33).
(4) By so doing we lose better.
5. The use. Consider:
(1) How uncertain they are (1 Timothy 6:17); in getting them Matthew 6:27); keeping them (Proverbs 23:5); enjoying Psalms 78:30-31; Psalms 106:15); in improving them; in continuing with them (Luke 12:20).
(2) How unsatisfying: as to the senses (Ecclesiastes 1:8; Ecclesiastes 4:8); much more to the soul (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
(3) How dangerous. They are apt to draw us into sin (1 Timothy 6:9), and off from duty (Proverbs 30:9); to divert our care for our souls (Luke 21:34); to keep us from heaven (Psalms 17:14), and to throw us into hell (Matthew 19:23-26).
II. THE COMMAND.
1. What is meant by meat? Christ Himself (verse 35); His doctrine and religion (verse 63), which He commands to be laboured after.
(1) Because they were now seeking food.
(2) To show the need of Him for spiritual life (verses 53-55); to begin it (1 Timothy 5:6; 1 John 5:11-12); to preserve it John 15:4-5); to make it comfortable.
(3) To show the union between Christ and His disciples (John 17:21-23).
2. Why is it said to endure unto everlasting life?
(1) Because it is never diminished though never so many partake of Matthew 11:28),
(2) It nourishes our never-dying souls (Matthew 11:29).
(3) It brings to everlasting life.
(4) Christ will endure for ever (Hebrews 7:25).
(5) It is by Him that we shall endure for ever (John 6:54-58).
3. Why must we labour for this? It is the only means of our going to heaven (Acts 4:12). For
(1) It is only through Christ that sins can be pardoned;
(2) Our persons accepted (Galatians 2:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21);
(3) Our lusts subdued (Acts 3:26);
(4) Our natures sanctified (John 1:16);
(5) Our souls saved (Acts 16:31).
4. How must we labour?
(1) By believing in Him (Acts 16:31; John 3:16);
(2) By conforming our lives to His laws (John 14:15; John 14:15; Jam 2:26; 1 John 3:3; Galatians 5:6; Romans 13:10).
Conclusion: Wherefore labour for this meat, for
1. Other things are impertinent; this necessary (Luke 10:42).
2. Others empty, this satisfying (verse 35).
3. Others corporeal, this spiritual (verse 63).
4. Others transcient, this everlasting (verse 58).
5. Others uncertain, this most certain, for Christ will give it. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Spiritual labour and food
I. There is something FORBIDDEN. We are not to labour exclusively, or excessively, for the satisfaction of our bodily wants, for that food which only perishes in the using, and only does us a little temporary good.
II. There is something COMMANDED. We ought to work hard and strive for that spiritual food--that supply for the wants of our souls, which once obtained is an everlasting possession.
III. There is something PROMISED. The Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, is ready to give to every one who desires to have it, that spiritual food which endures for ever.
IV. There is something DECLARED. The Son of Man, Jesus Christ, has been designated and appointed by God the Father for this very purpose, to he the dispenser of this spiritual food to all who desire it. (Bp. Ryle.)
The fruitful labour for eternal food
I. THE MEAT THAT PERISHETH.
1. What is meant by it?
(1) All outward things whatsoever. The covetous soul feeds on his money; the ambitious man, chamelion like, on airy applause; the sensual man, on base pleasures. All carnal men, serpent like, eat dust--perishable things.
(2) Knowledge, if it be only of perishable things, perisheth, for the world’s frame and politics have an end.
(3) The truths of God are indeed the food of the soul, but unless the goodness of those truths be the food of the will and the affections, and unless we are moulded into the form of those truths they too are perishable.
2. The argument against labouring for this.
(1) We do not regard the lustre of things, but their continuance. All flesh is grass, and the most excellent things of Nature, wit, honour, and learn- ing, are as the flowers of the grass.
(2) In lusting after the world, the lust itself perisheth, and the immoderate seeking after it destroys us. He that is rich to-day may be poor to-morrow; he may be in credit now, with Haman, and be in discredit ere long; he may be in health now, and sick soon.
(1) We should take heed that we do not redeem any perishing thing with the loss of that which does not perish--our soul.
(2) We should not scruple to neglect any earthly thing to gain advantage to our souls.
(3) Learn here a point of heavenly wisdom: when we are tempted to too much delight in the creature we should present to our- selves the perishing nature of outward things.
II. LABOUR NOT FOR THE MEAT THAT PERISHETH.
1. Does Christ read a lecture of unthriftiness and negligence? No; He meant labour not for it
2. How shall we know when our labour is immoderate, etc.? When they hinder us from or in holy things; when they keep us from holy duties; when they fill us full of distractions.
3. Why does Christ begin with this discussion?
(1) Because when the soul is invested with anything that must first be removed, as thorns must be rooted before seed can be sown.
(2) But here is the prerogative of Christianity; heathens can teach the negative part, but only Christ the positive.
III. THE MEAT THAT ENDURETH, etc.
1. What it is? Our Saviour, as He is contained in the means of salvation, with all the blessed privileges, prerogatives, and graces that we have by and in Him.
2. But why is he so considered?
(1) Whatever sweetness, comfort, or strength there is in meat, it is for the comfort, etc., of the body; so whatsoever is comfortable and cherishing in Christ it is for our good. How doth the soul feed on the wonderful love of God in Christ incarnate and Christ Crucified, and on the privileges secured by Christ glorified?
(2) As in bodily life there is a stomach, a power to work out of the meat that which is for strength and nourishment, so in the soul there is faith to act in the same way with Christ.
(3). As our life is nourished and maintained with that which has died, so that which principally maintains the life of the soul is Christ crucified.
(4) As in meat, before it can nourish us there must be an assimilation, so Christ can never nourish us till we be united to Him.
(5) As we eat again day after day because there is a decay of strength, and as there are new concerns that require new strength, and consequently a need of a continual repairing of our strength by food, even so there is a perpetual need to feed upon Christ, because every day we have fresh work to do.
(6) As after eating there is strength and comfort gotten for the affairs of this life, so after the soul has digested Christ it is strengthened for holy duties.
3. Wherein lies the difference between this and other meat?
(1) As Christ is from heaven, so all His graces and comforts are to carry us to heaven. All other things are earthly.
(2) Earthly food cannot give, but only maintain life; but Christ is such food as gives life.
(3) The nourishment we have from outward food we turn to ourselves; but Christ turns us to Himself, and transforms us into His likeness.
(4) All other meats are consumed, and the appetite for them eventually perishes; but Christ is never consumed, and the relish for Him will grow eternally.
4. What is wanted is to get a stomach for this meat.
(1) A good stomach is produced by sharp things; so faith should be quickened by the law.
(2) Exercise getting a stomach by diligence in holy exercises.
(3) To whet our appetite, consider the necessity of spiritual strength and comfort.
(4) Let us converse with those that are spiritual.
(5) Let us remember that the table Christ has spread may be removed.
5. To make a trial whether we have, as we should do, relished Christ. If so, then
(1) We have a baser esteem of all earthly things.
(2) We are strengthened to duties and against temptations and corruptions.
(3) The desire is satisfied.
(4) Thankfulness is engendered.
IV. LABOUR FOR THIS MEAT.
1. Its necessity: we are to labour for food, the great need.
2. Its excellency; it endureth to everlasting life.
3. Its possibility: Christ is
(3) has authority to give it. “Him hath God the Father sealed.” God has become man on purpose to give it you. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The true aim of life
I. IS NOT THE ATTAINMENT OF MATERIAL GOOD. Multitudes live as if it were. Nor is this mistake confined to the prosperous merchant; it is found among the poor. Strenuous efforts are put forth, but only for that which perisheth.
II. CONSISTS IN THE ATTAINMENT OF SPIRITUAL LIFE IN CHRIST. He is the true food of the soul. Eternal life is the result of receiving Him as the Living Bread.
III. TO TEACH THIS WAS THE AIM OF CHRIST’S MISSION. “Sealed.” The impress of the Father’s will is in His life and words. He was sealed
1. By His miracles.
2. By His teaching.
3. By His resurrection. (Family Churchman.)
Going to Christ for our own ends
The lesson here set obviously checks any going to or following of Jesus for our own ends. And it has two main applications.
1. The first of these is plainly gross, viz., that we may not make a gain of godliness in the sense of getting direct bodily benefit by religion. A religious man is mostly assumed to be a respectable man, and a respectable man is trusted. So, alas, occasionally some people profess religion in order to get a character for respectability and to bring money into the pocket.
2. But the lesson before us has another application. We cannot be told too clearly or too often that there is another kind of covetousness, or thinking about self, which is not coarse like that which I have just mentioned, and yet leaves us short of the real special gifts which God gives through Jesus Christ. Should we not think less of a child whose only thought in connection with its parents was about what it could get from them? Should we not look upon that child as almost unnatural which was always scheming to make its father and mother show more concern for its condition? Surely we should. And, so in a figure, it is with God. We may be certain that we miss His best blessings when we set about calculating what benefits He will bestow upon us. In short, God would ever have us trust Him more, and leave all the “giving” to Him. (Harry Jones, M. A.)
Worldly things are disappointing and perishing
The fashion of this world passeth away, as the water of a river that runs by a city, or as a fair picture drawn upon the ice that melts away with it. Men come to the world’s felicities as to a lottery, with heads full of hopes, but return with hearts full of blanks. (J. Trapp.)
Earthly pursuits end miserably
As a river leads a man through sweet meadows, green woods, fertile pastures, fruit-laden fields, by glorious buildings, strong forts, famous cities, yet at last brings him to the salt sea; so the stream of this world carries along through rich commodities, voluptuous delights, stately dignities, all possible content to flesh and blood, but, after all this, brings a man to death, after death to judgment, after judgment to hell. (T. Adams.)
Him hath God the Father sealed
I. BECAUSE THERE IS THE IMPRESSION OF GOD UPON HIM. As the seal imprints in the wax the likeness of that which is on it, so God hath imprinted on Christ His own image (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:1-2).
II. THE USE OF A SEAL IS TO APPROPRIATE AND DISTINGUISH FROM OTHER THINGS, so God hath appropriated Christ to be His own Son, and hath distinguished Him as Mediator by a special anointing and qualification above all.
III. Especially by SEALING IS MEANT AUTHORITY. As a magistrate that hath the king’s broad seal is authorized, so God hath authorized Christ to be a Mediator, as He was foreordained; and so, when the fulness of the time was come, He was authorized by the greatest testimony that ever was
1. By the Blessed Trinity at His baptism (Mat 3:37).
2. By His miracles (John 10:38).
3. By His resurrection (Romans 1:4).
IV. THE USE of this is
1. To bless God the Father for sealing as well as God the Son for being sealed.
2. To magnify the offices of Christ.
3. To encourage us to seek forgiveness. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
Christ sealed by the Father
I. CHRIST WAS SEALED. To seal, when the act of a sovereign, is to impress the characters of his own signet upon any instrument by which his will is declared, and which is then treated as proceeding from him. We behold
1. The impress of Divinity upon His doctrine, in the vastness of the subjects, and the ease with which they are treated, the obscure manner in which the wisest of men have always spoken of them, and the light which brightens around them whenever our great Teacher opens His lips; in that exhibition of the secrets of the heart; in the anxious inquiries so answered as to leave us nothing more to ask; when to these I add the dignity so worthy of Divine majesty, the condescension so accordant with an infinite love, the indignation so expressive of perfect holiness;--I see upon the seal the characters peculiar to God.
2. The seal of miracles. The character of a true miracle is not that it is merely a strange and wonderful occurrence, but that i¢ is above all human power; so extraordinary as to show an interposition of God, giving sanction to the claims of His Son.
3. We see upon our Lord the broad and striking seal of fulfilled prophecy.
4. The seals at His crucifixion. Even his enemies were compelled to give their testimony to him. Caiaphas, Pilate, the Centurion, the people that “smote upon their breasts.” The sun sinking to deep eclipse, the rending of the veil, the earthquake, the rising of the dead.
5. To the great seals of the resurrection and ascension of Christ the gift of the Holy Ghost was the public confirmation of both; and that this is an evidence which remains to this day.
II. THE GREAT END FOR WHICH THIS INTERPOSITION OF GOD TOOK PLACE--that we might “labour for that meat which endureth to everlasting life.” From the sacrificial death of Christ flows
1. Pardon; and here the true life of the soul begins.
2. The heavenly knowledge, which is the proper food of the renewed mind. A scientific knowledge is the food of souls intelligent, so is heavenly knowledge the food of piety. It leads up all the powers of the mind into right and vigorous exercise.
3. Love. It flows only from this--“Christ loved me.”
4. Purity. Sin enfeebles; purity is strength.
1. If Christ is not this life and bread to your souls, how disproportionate are the means employed to save you, and the end which has in reality been accomplished I
2. The aggravated guilt which is incurred by the very signs set before us, unless they accomplish their saving end.
3. For whatever you labour beside the bread of heaven, it is” meat that perisheth.” (R. Watson.)
The authority by which Christ as a Mediator acted
I. THE OFFICE OR WORK TO WHICH HIS FATHER SEALED HIM. In general to the whole work of mediation (1 Peter 3:18). God sealed Him
1. A commission to preach the glad tidings of salvation to sinners Luke 4:17-21).
2. To the priesthood. He called Him
(1) To offer Himself up a sacrifice for us (chap. 10:18; Philippians 2:8).
(2) To intercede for us (Hebrews 7:21-25).
(3) To the regal office (Matthew 28:18).
II. THE IMPORT OF THE SEALING.
1. The validity and efficacy of His mediatorial acts. In this lies much of the believer’s comfort and security.
2. The great obligation lying on Jesus to be faithful to the work He was sealed to. Christ felt this obligation (John 9:4; John 5:30).
3. His complete qualification to serve the Father’s design in our recovery, in the point of
(1) Faithfulness (Hebrews 3:2);
(2) Zeal (John 2:16-17; John 4:32);
(3) Love (Hebrews 3:5-6);
(4) Wisdom (Isaiah 52:13);
(5) Self-denial (John 8:50).
4. Christ’s sole authority in the Church to appoint and enjoin what He pleaseth.
III. THE MANNER OF THE SEALING.
1. By solemn designation (Isa 42:1; 1 Peter 2:4; John 10:36).
2. By supereminent and unparalleled sanctification. He was anointed as well as appointed (Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 61:3; Luke 4:1; Psalms 45:7; John 3:34; Colossians 1:19), the type of which was the Holy oil by which kings and priests were consecrated.
3. By the Father’s immediate testimony from heaven (Matthew 17:5).
4. In all those miraculous works wrought by Him (Acts 10:38; JohnMt 11:3, 5).
IV. THE NECESSITY OF THE SEALING.
1. Else He had not corresponded with the types which prefigured Him, and in Him it was necessary that they should be all accomplished. Kings and High Priests had their inaugurations by solemn unctions (Hebrews 5:4-5).
2. Hereby the hearts of believers are more engaged to love the Father. Had not the Father sealed Him, He had not come. So men are bound to ascribe equal honour and glory to both (John 5:23).
3. Else we had no ground for our faith in Him (John 5:31).
V. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THIS.
1. Hence we infer the unreasonableness of infidelity (John 5:43; John 5:43; Isaiah 53:1).
2. How great is the sin of those who reject such as are sealed by Jesus Christ (John 20:21; John 20:21; Luke 10:16)!
3. How great an evil it is to intrude into the office of the ministry without a due call! It is more than Christ Himself would do.
4. Admire the grace and love both of the Father and the Son.
5. Hath God sealed Christ for you? Then draw the comfort of His sealing for you, and be restless till ye be sealed by Him.
(1) Remember that God stands engaged by His own seal to confirm whatever Christ hath done in the business of our salvation. On this ground you may plead with God.
(2) Get your interest in Christ sealed to you by the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), the effects of which are great care to avoid sin (Ephesians 4:30); great love to God (John 14:22); readiness to suffer for Christ Romans 5:3; Romans 5:5); confidence in addresses to God (1 John 5:13-14); great humility (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:3). (J. Flavel.)
Christ’s example and comfort to His disappointed servants
The missionary, Henry Martyn, at Dinapore, used to gather around him every week a crowd of poor Hindoos. They came eagerly, but, alas! Martyn soon perceived that they were more concerned about the loaves which he was in the habit of distributing amongst them than about the Bread of Life in the gospel! He was ready to despair, and had almost resolved to give up his preaching. Then he remembered this 26th verse, and he said to himself, “If the Lord Jesus was not ashamed of preaching to such bread-seekers, who am I, that I should give them over in disgust?” The next time he preached on John 6:27, and had the delight of being asked by two or three Hindoos, “What must we do to be saved?” (R. Besser, D. D.)
The bread and the sealing
In order to understand the Oriental aspect of this obscure passage, it is necessary to remember several closely related facts. In the East, bakers are under more immediate official investigation than any other tradesmen. Their weights are inspected by an official appointed for the purpose, and the quality of their bread is tested from time to time. In these milder days confiscation is the penalty attached to roguery in the making of bread; but it is not very long since cheating bakers were nailed up by the ear (Turkey), or even by a grim pleasantry, roasted in their own ovens (Persia). Under these circumstances, it is not to be wondered at that Oriental bakers have been in the habit of stamping their name upon their bread, or, as an Oriental would say, of sealing (khatham, khatama, etc.) it, as a measure of precaution, lest they should be made to suffer for the sins of their neighbours as well as their own. The talmudic word for “baker” is nakhtom, or nakhtoma, which has been connected with khatham, “to seal,” by no less an authority than Professor Franz Delitzsch; so that it would seem that this act of sealing or stamping bread was sufficiently characteristic in the time of our Lord to give a name to the baker. In this view, our Lord’s words could be paraphrased as follows: “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life; which the Son of Man shall give unto you, even Himself the Bread of Life--for Him, the heavenly Bread, hath God the Father sealed as His own, even as those who make the bread which perisheth, stamp it with their names.” It has also been pointed out that, in the Roman Church, the consecrated wafers, which the priests teach to be the real body of our Lord, are stamped with a seal which usually bears the letters I.N.R.I.,--the initials of the Latin meaning, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Another rabbinical authority calls attention to the talmudical question: “What is the seal of the holy blessed God? Rabbi Bibai in the name of Rabbi Reuben saith ‘Truth.’ ‘But what is truth?’ Rabbi Ben said, ‘The loving God and King eternal.’… There is a story of the great synagogue weeping, praying, and fasting. At last there was a little scroll fell from the firmament to them in which was written ‘Truth.’ Rabbi Chinanah saith, ‘Hence learn that truth is the seal of God.’“ (S. S. Times.)
Then they said unto Him, what shall we do that we might work the works of God
THE SPIRITUAL IGNORANCE AND UNBELIEF OF THE NATURAL MAN.
1. When our Lord bade His hearers, “Labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, they began to think of works to be done.”
2. When He spoke of Himself as one sent of God and the need of faith in them, the response was, “What sign showest Thou?” and this directly after the miracle (Mark 6:6).
3. We should remember all this in our efforts to do good and not be discouraged if our words seem thrown away.
II. THE HIGH HONOUR WHICH CHRIST PUTS ON FAITH IN HIMSELF. Faith and works elsewhere seem contrasted, but here Christ declares that believing on Him is the greatest of all works. Not that He meant that there was anything meritorious in believing; but--That it is the act of the soul which specially pleases God. Without it it is impossible to please Him.
2. That it is the first act that God requires at a sinner’s hands.
3. That there is no life in a man till he believes.
III. THE FAR GREATER PRIVILEGES OF CHRIST’S HEARERS THAN OF THOSE WHO LIVED IN THE TIMES OF MOSES. The manna, wonderful as it was, was as nothing compared with the true bread.
1. The one could only feed the body; the other could satisfy the soul.
2. The one was only for the benefit of Israel; the other for the whole world.
3. Those who ate the former died and were buried, and many of them lost for ever; those who ate of the latter would be eternally saved. (Bp. Ryle.)
A plain answer to an important inquiry
I. FAITH IS THE COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF ALL TRUE WORK.
1. There lies within it every form of holiness, as a forest may lie within an acorn. It may be microscopic in form, but it only wants development.
2. All the graces come out of faith (see Hebrews 11:1-40.).
II. FAITH IS IN ITSELF MOST PLEASING TO GOD. Because
1. It is the creature acknowledging its God. The man who says my own good deeds will save me sets himself up in independency of God. But when a man submits himself to God’s way of salvation, the rebellious heart submits to the Divine authority, and the poor erring creature comes into its right place.
2. It accepts God’s way of reconciliation. It thus shows a deference to God’s wisdom, and confidence in His love, and yielding to His will.
3. It puts honour on Christ whom the Father dearly loves. That which dishonours Christ must be obnoxious to God.
4. It puts us in a right relationship with God, i.e
(1) A relationship of dependence;
(2) of child- like rest.
III. FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST. IS THE TEST OF WORKING FOR GOD.
1. Without faith the spirit of work is wrong. Suppose you said to me, “I will spend my life in your service, but I am not going to believe what you say.” All that you do must be destitute of real excellent because you begin by malting God a liar in not trusting Him (1 John 5:10).
2. Without faith the motive of work fails and becomes selfish; whereas faith aims at God’s glory.
IV. FAITH IS THE SEAL OF ALL OTHER BLESSINGS.
1. Of our election (John 6:37). If you believe in Christ you are one that the Father hath given Him.
2. Of our effectual calling. If you believe the Father hath drawn you to Christ.
3. Of our final perseverance (John 6:47).
4. Of our resurrection (John 6:39; John 6:49), (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The people’s question
Faith and works are both factors in the work of salvation. Faith is the life root of which works are the fruit. The Jew sought to justify himself by his works, and then inferentially organized his faith to work the works of God, with Him was to drive a bargain with God. “What good thing must I do?” Christ shows that the way to the Father was by no such circuitous route, but by faith in Himself.
I. A GRAVE INQUIRY. This is not a Jewish question. It is the question of humanity.
1. Man has never been able to throw off a belief in God nor to escape the apprehensions such a belief creates. Hence, in their unrest and great mental hunger, men still ask this question.
2. You see evidences of this mental disquietude in the breaking away from the restraints of creeds, in retreats from the simplicity of the present into the traditions of the past; in the rush of various systems of mediatorial penance, in the impossibility of successfully impugning the Divine record and in the despair which ensues on its rejection. Philosophy in its wildest departures from God can neither answer this question nor escape the responsibility of discussing it. Men seem to treat it as a scoff, but they arc compelled to do homage to its impressiveness in the vague worship of the unknown.
II. CHRIST’S ANSWER.
1. The work of God is not the alone work of God’s appointing. It is God and man mutually working. A fractured relation of the soul and God necessitates for its readjustment the correlation of two forces.
(1) In this work a factor is demanded that we cannot supply. “A man can receive nothing except it be given him from above.” That which our working secures is just the willingness to receive what God alone can give.
(2) The want that goes in quest of God is not God’s work but ours. On the other hand, to pacify the disquieted heart by renewing it is not man’s work, but God’s. Our first lesson, therefore, touches the pride of our self-sufficiency. We are powerless with all our power when power is needed most.
(3) Then there are things which we must cease to do. We must “cease to do evil,” get clean away from all dependence on our own works.
2. The work of man.
(1) To believe in Christ’s mission. Christ claims to have been sent into the world by the Father to perform a specific work. Miracles were His credentials. His own profound self-consciousness of His mission explains and necessitates this supernatural signature. Now, if Jesus believed Himself to be the “Sent” and the “Son of God,” and was not, He was deceived and a deceiver; but if He was, we cannot put ourselves into harmony with God otherwise than as we accept this mission.
(2) Accepting the mission. What does a man do when he believes in the Person of Christ? What does a blind man do when he commits himself to a guide? He puts himself out on trust. A drowning man, when he clings to his plank, lives suspensively on that to which he clings. A penitent sinner, when he believes in Christ, does both. And this is the work of God for all men. (John Burton.)
The work of God
There was nothing peculiar about this question. All men are asking it, some listlessly, some with agonizing importunity. There is much implied in it; amongst other things that there is some alienation between God and man which must be removed. Unfallen angels do not ask it.
I. MAN’S WAY OF ANSWERING THE QUESTION.
1. One man imagines that the works of God are to be performed by the members of the body, by prayers, genuflexions, etc. The result is that the man blinded goes down to death, or he is forced by experience to own that he has not found what he sought and to turn away from externals, still saying, “What shall I do?” etc.
2. The next stage he reaches is that of substituting moral for ceremonial acts. Hence the constant disposition to make social charities the test of character, and to establish an order of irreligious saints. In this delusion thousands live and die. But to others, goaded by conscience, this is not enough. “We have tried to do right, but we find our good works imperfect and marred by the sins that have run side by side with them. What shall we do?” etc.
3. The man has now been brought to the necessity of expiation. He must make good his past failures by working the works of God. But where shall he begin? Perhaps by refraining from sin. This unexpected difficulty drives him to repentance. He will weep over his offences. But he finds that he can no more break his heart than change his life. The sinner, abandoning the impossible effort, asks in despair, “What shall I do?”
4. This is the highest ground man ever reached by himself. If he goes beyond he goes down.
(1) Some accordingly descend to the lower ground of meritorious abstinence and self-mortification. Because they have not been able to appease God by renouncing sinful pleasures, they will now do it by renouncing innocent enjoyments.
(2) A descent in another direction leads to a desperate transfer of responsibility. As the sinner cannot work the works of God himself, the Church or a priest shall do it for him.
II. CHRIST’S WAY. The whole point here is the contrast between believing and working. They would not have been surprised had He enjoined some task. To a self-righteous spirit, difficulty, danger, pain are inducements rather than dissuasives; but a requisition to believe on Him was something different, comprehending as it did a belief of His Divine legation and authority, of His ability and willingness to save, and a full consent to be saved by Him.
1. It was this simple and implicit trust that created the difficulty, and the same feeling of incongruity is experienced now. “After spending a lifetime in working out my own salvation, must I be told at last that I have only to believe?”
2. Let this reluctance subside, and men will ask in what sense faith is the work of God.
(1) Some have taught that the act of believing is meritorious, and is accepted in lieu of all the rest. But how can this be reconciled with God’s justice?
(2) Men have run to the opposite extreme, and held that faith dispenses with all moral obligation, which is at variance with the constant requisition of obedience.
3. The true meaning of the words may be summed up in two particulars.
(1) Our access to God and restoration to His favour are entirely independent of all merit or obedience on our part. The saving benefit of the atonement is freely offered to us. Unreserved acceptance of it must, of course, exclude all reliance on any merit of our own. This is all we have to do to begin with.
(2) We are saved, not in sin, but from sin, and when belief in Christ is represented as the saving work which God requires, it is not to the exclusion of good works, but rather the source from which they flow. (J. Addison Alexander, D. D.)
Faith and its operations
I. FAITH IS HERE CONSIDERED AS THE WORK WHICH GOD ENJOINS IN EVERY INDIVIDUAL. Why is it that men do not believe the testimony which God has so clearly made?
1. A wilful turning aside from God and a determination to take up with the nearest trifle is one reason.
2. The deceitfulness of the human heart is another. Sin possesses in a most astonishing degree the faculty of hiding its own deformity.
3. The reasons of this disobedience vary in different men according to their different characters and circumstances.
4. What does the Holy Spirit do when He introduces the principle of faith into the heart of man?
(1) He removes every obstacle which we cherished in our natural state.
(2) He fixes in us principles of obedience, and makes duty a delight.
5. What is this faith? A continual reliance on Christ as a Saviour. 6 What does this faith do? It delivers the believer from the charge and dominion of sin and purifies the heart.
II. GOD’S SENDING HIS SON INTO THE WORLD.
1. This was an act of sovereignty.
2. Christ was sent as the medium of God’s moral government and as the channel of salvation.
3. What a view this gives us of the mercy and love of God!
4. How this heightens the guilt of the rejection of Christ!
III. THIS OBEDIENCE OF FAITH IS THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE DESIGN OF GOD AND THE COMPLETION OF THE SAVIOUR’S TRIUMPH. (W. Howels, M. A.)
Faith the sole saving act
1. The Jews inquired as though there were several works of God. Christ narrows down the terms of salvation to a single one.
2. In this as in many incidental ways our Lord teaches His Divinity. Imagine Paul or David resting the destiny of the soul on faith in himself.
3. The belief is natural to man that something must be done in order to salvation. The most supine expect to have to rouse themselves some day. Let us examine
I. THE COMMON NOTION UNDERLYING THE QUESTION. When a man begins to think of God and his relations to Him, he finds he owes Him service and obedience. His first spontaneous impulse, therefore, is to begin the performance of the work he has hitherto neglected. The law expressly affirms that the man who doeth these things shall live by them. He proposes to take the law just as it stands and to live by service.
II. THE GROUND AND REASON OF CHRIST’S ANSWER.
1. Because it is too late in any case to adopt the method of salvation by works. The law demands and supposes that obedience begins at the very beginning of existence, and continues down uninterruptedly to the end of it Galatians 5:3). If any man can show a clean record, the law gives him the reward he has earned (Romans 4:4; Romans 11:6). But no man can do this Psalms 58:3; Ephesians 2:3).
2. This is the conclusive ground for Christ’s declaration that the one great work which every fallen man must perform in order to salvation is faith in another work.
III. THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION BY FAITH.
1. Faith is a work, a mental act of the most comprehensive and energetic species. It carries the whole man in it, heart, head, will, body, soul, spirit.
2. Yet it is not a work in the common signification, and is by Paul opposed to works, and excluded from them. It is wholly occupied with another’s work. The believer deserts all his own doings, and betakes himself to what a third person has done for him, and instead of holding up prayers, almsgiving, penances, or moral efforts, he holds up the sacrificial work of Christ.
3. St. John repeats this doctrine in his first epistle (1 John 3:22-23). The whole duty of sinful man is here summed up and concentrated in the duty to trust in another person than himself and in another work than his own. In the matter of salvation, when there is faith in Christ there is everything; and where there is not faith in Christ there is nothing.
1. Faith in Christ is the appointment of God as the sole means of salvation Acts 4:12).
2. There are enjoyments in the human conscience that can be supplied by no other method.
(1) The soul wants peace. Christ’s atonement satisfies the demands of a broken law.
(2) The soul wants purity. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. (Prof. Shedd.)
Faith and works
All upon which the name of Paulinism has been bestowed is contained in embryo in this verse, which at the same time forms the point of union between Paul and James. Faith is the highest kind of work, for by it man gives himself; and a free being can do nothing greater than to give himself. It is in this sense that James opposes works to a faith which is nothing more than intellectual belief; and it is in a perfectly analogous sense that Paul opposes faith, active faith, to works of mere observance. The faith of Paul is really the works of James, according to the sovereign formula of Jesus: “This is the work of God that you believe.” (F. Godet, D. D.)
The value of faith
Faith will be of more use to us than any other grace, as an eye, though dim, was of more use to an Israelite (bitten by a serpent) than all the other members of his body. It is not knowledge, though angelical, nor repentance, though we could shed rivers of tears, could justify us; but only faith, whereby we look on Christ. (T. Watson.)
Works are useless for our salvation
Coin that is current in one place is valueless in another. Suppose an Indian, far in the western wilds, were to say, “I will become a trader with the whites. I will go to New York city and buy up half the goods there, and then come back and sell them, and then what a rich Indian I shall be.” He then collects all his wampum beads, which are his money, and compared with other Indians he is very rich, and away he journeys to yonder city. Imagine him going into Stewart’s, and offering his wampum there in exchange for their goods. They are refused. They were money in the woods--in the city they are worthless. And there are thousands of men who are carrying with them, to offer at the judgment, what is no better than the Indian’s beads. They are reckoning on their generosity, their prompt payment of all their debts, their various good natural qualities; but when they present them, they will all be found worthless trash. The things that have made them strong, and valued, and important here, will there be worse than useless to them. (H. W. Beecher.)
Faith is trust in another
The daughter of a celebrated physician was once attacked by a violent and dangerous fever; but she exhibited great resignation and tranquillity. She said she was ignorant of what might effect her cure, and if it were left to herself to prescribe, she might desire remedies which would be prejudicial. Shall I not gain everything, she added, by abandoning myself entirely to my father? He desires my recovery; he knows much better than I do what is adapted to the restoration of my health; and having confidence, therefore, that everything will be done for me which can be done, I remain without solicitude either as to the means or aa to the result. Religious faith, in like manner, trusts itself in the hands of God, in the full confidence that it will be well in the end. (J. Upham.)
The preciousness of faith
Faith is the vital artery of the soul. When we begin to believe we begin to love. Faith grafts the soul into Christ as the scion into the stock, and fetches all its nutriment from the blessed vine. (T. Watson.)
Faith and works
That is a very instructive anecdote which St. Simon relates respecting the last hours of the profligate Louis XIV. “One day,” he says, “the king, recovering from loss of consciousness, asked his confessor, Pere Tellier, to give him absolution for all his sins. Pere Tellier asked him if he suffered much. ‘No,’ replied the king, ‘that’s what troubles me. I should like to suffer more, for the expiation of my sins?’” Here was a poor mortal who had spent his days in carnality and transgression of the pure law of God. He is conscious of guilt, and feels the need of its atonement. And now, upon the very edge of eternity and brink of doom, he proposes to make his own atonement, to be his own redeemer and save his own soul, by offering up to the eternal Nemesis that was racking his conscience a few hours of finite suffering, instead of betaking himself to the infinite passion and agony of Calvary. This is a “work”; and, alas I a dead work, as St. Paul so often denominates it. (Prof. Shedd.)
Faith in God
In the first Punic war, Hannibal laid siege to Saguntum, a rich and strongly-fortified city on the eastern coast of Spain. It was defended with a desperate obstinacy by its inhabitants; but the discipline, the energy, and the persistence of the Carthaginian army were too much for them; and, just as the city was about to fall, Alorcus, a Spanish chieftain, and a mutual friend of both the contending parties, undertook to mediate between them. He proposed to the Saguntines that they should surrender, allowing the Carthaginian general to make his own terms; and the argument he used was this: “Your city is captured, in any event. Further resistence will only bring down upon you the rage of an incensed soldiery, and horrors of a sack. Therefore surrender immediately, and take whatever Hannibal shall please to give. You cannot lose anything by the procedure, and you may gain something, even though it be a little.” Now, although there is no resemblance between the government of the good and merciful God and the cruel purposes and conduct of a heathen warrior, and we shrink from bringing the two into any kind of juxtaposition, still, the advice of the wise Alorcus to the Saguntines is good advice for every sinful man in reference to his relations to eternal justice. We are all of us at the mercy of God. But the All.Holy is also the All-Merciful. He has made certain terms, and has offered certain conditions of pardon, without asking leave of His creatures, and without taking them into council; and were these terms as strict as Draco, instead of being as tender and pitiful as the tears and blood of Jesus, it would become us criminals to make no criticisms even in that extreme case, but accept them precisely as they were offered by the Sovereign and the Arbiter. (Prof. Shedd.)
The simplicity of faith
The complexity sometimes charged upon the Christian doctrine of faith is not greater than exists in any analogous or corresponding case. Tell the drowning man to be of good cheer, for you will save him, and you call upon him to perform as many acts as are included in the exercise of saving faith. For, in the first place, you invite him to believe the truth of your assertions. In the next place, you invite him to confide in your ability and willingness to save him. In the last place, you invite him to consent to your proposal by renouncing every other hope and agreeing to be saved by you. There is nothing more abstruse or difficult in saving faith. The difference is not in the essential nature of the mental acts and exercises, but in the circumstances under which they are performed. (J. A. Alexander, D. D.)
Creed and conduct
It is a very common charge against Christianity that “it puts creed above conduct.” Whether there is any truth in that charge depends upon what is understood by the term “creed.” When Jesus was asked directly concerning right conduct, he answered that a right belief is the basis of right conduct. If that be giving a first place to “creed,” let it be borne in mind that it is Jesus Christ Himself who makes the assignment. A popular saying nowadays is that “it doesn’t make any difference what a man believes if he only acts right”; but a Boston clergyman once improved on that saying by the simple change, “It doesn’t make any difference what a man believes if he doesn’t act right.” If a man is a persistent evil-doer, the soundness of his theological convictions will not compensate for his wrong conduct. But when God has sent His Son to be a Saviour and a Guide, it makes all the difference in the world whether a sinner accepts or refuses to believe on the One who is the only Mediator between God and man. So far, a correct belief is all-essential as a basis of right conduct and of safe conduct. That is the truth as Jesus puts it. (H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
What sign showest Thou then that we may see and believe
Christ the Christian’s food
Hewitson writes: “I think I know more of Jesus Christ than of any earthly friend.
” Hence one who knew Him well remarked, “One thing struck me in Mr. Hewitson. He seemed to have no gaps, no intervals in his communion with God. I used to feel, when with him, that it was being with one who was a vine watered every moment.”
Christ is the true manna
Christ is heavenly meat and drink. “My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32). Other meat and drink is terrene and earthly. Your bread grows out of the bowels of the earth. Your wine is the blood of an earthly grape. The flesh you eat is fed of the tender grass that springs out of the earth. If the earth should prove barren, you would soon feel a famine!, The king himself is served by the field” (Ecclesiastes 5:9). It is true, the blessing comes from heaven, but all the materials of meat and drink are earthly. But Jesus Christ is the Bread of heaven and the Wine of heaven. The manna came from the clouds only; but Christ from the beautiful heaven, even from the bosom of the Father. (Ralph Robinson.)
Christ the gift of God to all men
When the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine’s doctrine was impugned, and his discourses complained of before the ecclesiastical courts, he was enabled to vindicate himself with great dignity and courage; and expressions sometimes fell from his lips which, for a time, overawed and confounded his enemies. On one occasion, at a meeting of the synod of Fife, according to the account of a respectable witness, when some members were denying the Father’s gift of our Lord Jesus to sinners of mankind, he rose and said, “Moderator, our Lord Jesus says of Himself, ‘My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.’ This He uttered to a promiscuous multitude; and let me see the man who dares to affirm that He said wrong?” This short speech, aided by the solemnity and energy with which it was delivered, made an uncommon impression on the synod, and on all that were present.
Christ gives life
Christ is such meat and drink as preserves from death. Other meat and drink cannot keep man from the grave. That rich man that fared deliciously every day was not made immortal. “The rich man died and was buried” (Luke 16:22). All that generation that fed on manna, and drank the water out of the rock, died (John 6:49). But Christ preserves the soul from death (John 6:50). This is the bread of God that came down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. It immortalizes the soul that feeds on it. He that believeth on Him hath eternal life (John 6:51). Other meat and drink cannot preserve a living body from death, much less can it give life, and restore breath to a dead body. Put the most delicate meat, the strongest drink, into the mouth of a dead man, and they will not give him life if the soul be quite departed. They may recover from a swoon, they cannot from death. But the flesh and blood of Christ quicken the dead. Christ, by putting His flesh and blood into the mouth of the dead soul, conveys life into it. His flesh and blood make the lips of the dead to speak. “As the Father raiseth the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21). If thou hast any spiritual life in thee, thou didst receive it from the enlivening virtue of Christ’s flesh and blood communicated to thee by the Spirit of life. (Ralph Robinson.)
Christ, like the manna, is an abundant supply
I recollect when I was able to journey through the country preaching, I for some years stayed occasionally with a fine old English farmer. He used to have a piece of beef upon the table, I do not know how many pounds it weighed, but it was enormous. I said to him one day, “Why is it that whenever I come here you have such immense joints? Do you think that I can eat like a giant? If so, it is a great mistake. Look at that joint, there,” I said; “if I were to take it home, it might last me a month.” “Well,” he said, “if I could get a bigger bit I would, for I am so glad to see you; and if you could eat it all, you should be heartily welcome. I want everybody that comes here to-day to feel that I will do my very best for you.” He did not measure my necessities to the half-ounce, but he provided on a lavish scale. I quote this homely instance of giving heartily to show you how, on a divine scale, the Lord makes ready for His guests. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The mistakes of the Galileans
I. THE SECONDARY FOR THE PRIMARY (John 6:31-32). Confounding the instrument with the agent; Moses with Jehovah.
1. The man of science falls into this mistake when he talks about forces and laws otherwise than as expressions of the Divine power and will.
2. The Christian does the same when he ascribes conversion to the eloquence of a preacher instead of to the quickening influence of the Spirit Zechariah 4:6; John 6:63; Ephesians 2:1).
3. Every person similarly errs who forgets that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).
II. THE SHADOWY FOR THE SUBSTANTIAL (verse 33). This tendency followed the Jews all through their career, and there is a like tendency when religion is made a thing of forms and ceremonies.
III. THE IMPERSONAL FOR THE PERSONAL (verse 35). The Jews imagined the bread of life to be a better sort of manna (see John 4:15; the samemistake). Plainly as Christ indicated this bread to be a Person they continued thinking of a thing. So do those who suppose that education, moral culture, social refinement, etc., is the bread of life.
IV. THE TRANSIENT FOR THE ETERNAL (verse 49).
1. The manna was a temporary gift; even when the Israelites ate of it they died. The bread of life on the contrary
(1) Endures into everlasting life (verse 27), and
(2) Will satisfy every want of the soul.
1. The men who err most in life and religion are those who walk by sight and not by faith.
2. Christ is a greater sign than any of His miracles.
3. His best recommendation is the satisfaction He imparts.
4. Men may have a desire after Christ without faith.
5. None who come to Christ in sincerity, will depart from Him in sorrow. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
The manna a type of Christ
I. MIRACULOUS IN THEIR ORIGIN: came down from heaven.
II. COVERED WITH NEW (2 Corinthians 4:3).
III. APPARENTLY INSIGNIFICANT (Isaiah 53:2).
IV. MYSTERIOUS (Isaiah 53:8).
V. DAILY (Exodus 16:21). “Give us this day” is founded on this repeated miracle. Christ’s grace must be used continually.
VI. GATHERED BY MAN BUT GROWN BY GOD. Human and Divine meet in conversion (John 4:44), and Divine bounty never supersedes man’s industry.
VII. ALL GATHERING HAD ENOUGH. Sincerity not the degree of faith avails Exodus 16:18).
VIII. GRATUITOUS (Isaiah 55:1).
IX. SUFFICIENT FOR ALL.
X. OFFERED TO MURMURERS (Romans 5:8).
XI. Manna for a season the ONLY food (Acts 4:12).
XII. FURNISHED IS THE WILDERNESS (Psalms 78:19; Hebrews 6:8). (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Christ the bread of life
I. Christ Is the bread of God in His personal Divine life (John 6:32-40).
1. The typical and the true bread of God (John 6:32-33).
2. The false and the true appetite for this bread (John 6:34-38).
3. The liberating and quickening operation of this bread (John 6:39-40).
II. Christ GIVES the bread of life in His giving up of His flesh in His atoning death (John 6:41-51).
1. He gives it not to murmurers, but to those who are drawn and taught of the Father (John 6:41-47).
2. He gives it with the full partaking of eternal life (John 6:48-50).
3. He gives it in giving Himself (John 6:51).
4. He gives it in giving His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51).
III. Christ INSTITUTES the meal of life in making His flesh and blood a feast of thank-offering to the world (John 6:52-59).
1. The offence at the words concerning the flesh of Christ (John 6:52).
2. The heightening of the offence by the fourfold assertion concerning the flesh and blood of Christ (John 6:53-56).
3. The ground of this assertion; the life of Christ is in the Father (John 6:57).
4. The conclusion of this assertion (John 6:58-59).
IV. Christ TRANSFIGURES the meal of life into a meal of the Spirit (verse 60-65)
1. By His exaltation (John 6:62).
2. By His sending the spirit (John 6:63).
3. By His word (John 6:63).
4. By the excision of unbelievers (John 6:64). (J. P. Lange, D. D.)
The bread of life contrasted with manna
1. The manna could not detain for one moment the fleeting spirit of man; but the bread of life, like the tree of life, imparted immortality.
2. That was from the air; this from the real heaven of heavens.
3. That nourished the decaying body; this the never dying soul.
4. That left the multitude, after a few hours, hungry still; he who eats of this will never hunger. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Come down from heaven
I. WE HAVE A DIVINE LIFE IN CHRIST, because He has come from God to be the author of life for us.
II. THIS LIFE IS NEAR (Deuteronomy 30:12-13; Romans 10:6-8). No man could ascend up, therefore Christ came down. (John Calvin.)
I. WHAT IS IT TO LIVE.
Life in Christ
1. Anything lives when it fills up the capacity of its being. Animal life does not consist in material force but in organic vitality. In man, however, we see the added element of spiritual existence.
2. Here comes up the everlasting fact that man is not like the brute satisfied with meat and drink, but yearns for what is beyond. And as there is harmony in the universe there must be something more than the material for man.
II. THE HIGHER NATURE MUST HAVE ITS FOOD, OR IT DIES. Christ saw the spiritual nature of man in all its priceless capacity and quenchless immortality, and to that He addressed Himself when He bade His hearers eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.
III. EACH KIND OR NATURE IN THE UNIVERSE IS LINKED IN ITS OWN CHAIN OF DEPENDENCIES. The body depends on things material; but the moment we look on the spirit of man we must ascribe it to some higher source than matter. The affection of the human heart; the yearning for the beautiful and the good; the intellect; the sense of sin and moral freedom, whence came they? If you could take away every other proof of the existence of God, this spirit proves the Being of a moral and intelligent Source over and above the material world.
IV. EACH THING IS LINKED TO THINGS OF ITS OWN KIND.
1. The soul, living, intelligent, and morally conscious, is linked to an intelligent and moral God, and by Him, and in Him alone, can it live. It cannot link itself to mere sensation and matter.
2. Jesus brings men into communion with that infinite intelligence, love, and freedom by bringing man’s soul into communion with Himself, so that living in Him we live in the Father, and as Christ becomes assimilated to our inner spiritual being, so we truly live.
V. WE NOT ONLY LIVE IN, BUT BY JESUS. This brings into view His essential personality. “I am the Bread, the Way.” “He that believeth in ME,” etc. No other teacher ever so spoke. Plato or Confucius may have said, “Believe this truth,” but never, “I am the truth, believe in me.” Christ saves us not merely by the truth He revealed, but by Himself.
VI. THIS LIFE IS A PRESENT EXPERIENCE. Not merely is going to live, but liveth. Religion is an end as well as a means. It is not simply something that helps us to live by and by, but something by which we live now. The great essential things are those we live by, not for. Bread, water, air--we do not live for them, but by them. So we live by religion, heaven, Christ, not for them. Conclusion:
1. See what an argument this is for the truth of the religion of Jesus, because it shows us how we truly live. We live by Jesus now because
(1) He fills up our higher faculties;
(2) draws out our best affections;
(3) gives us the truth of our higher being.
2. Have you ever really lived? (E. H. Chapin, D. D.)
Jewish traditions connecting the manna with the Messiah
There was a tradition that as the first Redeemer caused the manna to fall from heaven, even so should the second Redeemer cause the manna to fall. For this sign, then, or one like it, the people looked from Him whom they were ready to regard as Messiah (cf. Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11)
. Philo says, “When the people sought what it is which feeds the soul, for they did not, as Moses says, know what it was, they discovered by learning that it is the utterance of God and the Divine Loges from which all forms of instruction and wisdom flow in a perennial stream. And this is the heavenly food which is indicated in the sacred records under the person of the First Cause, saying, “Behold I rain on you bread out of heaven!” (Exodus 14:4). For in very truth God distils from above the supernal wisdom on noble and contemplative minds, and they, when they see and taste, in great joy, know what they experience, but do not know the power which dispenses the gift. Wherefore they ask, ‘What is this that is sweeter than honey and whiter than snow?’ But they shall all be taught by the prophet that this is the Bread which the Lord gave them to eat “ (Exodus 16:15). (Bp. Westcott.)
Lord, evermore give us this bread
THE VAIN PRAYER. Because
1. It recognizes not the Giver in the bread.
2. It recognizes not the Bread of Life in the giver.
II. THE ANSWER OF JESUS aims to disclose their spirit
1. By insisting on the figure of the bread in His person.
2. By enlarging the figure: bread for hunger and thirst.
3. By explaining the figure: “Come to Me,” “Believe on Me.” (J. P.Lange, D. D.)
Three sayings of Christ
I. ABOUT HIMSELF (John 6:35).
II. ABOUT THOSE WHO COME TO HIM (John 6:37).
III. ABOUT THE WILL OF HIS FATHER (John 6:39-40). (Bp. Ryle.)
The true hunger of the soul awakened and satisfied in Christ
I. MAN’S HUNGER. There is in every finite existence one great appetite. No creature is independent; it must draw life from another. In man, who is a complex being, there are various kinds of hunger.
(1) Bodily hunger. Even as an upright creature man was made dependent on the fruits of the ground; and now his first question is, “How am I to get bread.” How much thought and labour are expended on it! It has impelled to every crime. Hunger pressed Israel into Egypt, and that involved mighty issues for both. Hunger brought Ruth into view and linked her with the royal ancestry of Christ. The greatest spiritual conflict in the world was connected with a state of hunger. The central petition of the Lord’s prayer is “Give us this day,” etc.
(2) Mental hunger. Man’s bodily appetite is typical of mental conditions.
(a) The heart hungers for happiness. Man, when left to himself, is an unhappy being.
(b) The intellect hungers for truth. Man has been made to inquire into, study, and know the truth of things.
(c) The will hungers for liberty. The triumph of a man’s life is to prevail over the conditions which would fetter him.
(d) The conscience hungers for righteousness. We are made to act in accordance with the supreme law of the universe, the will of God. All altars, sacrifices, priesthoods are witnesses to that.
2. Unnatural. Great multitudes, instead of seeking for legitimate satisfaction, lay hold of false food, and drug themselves. For these Satan keeps a great variety of delusions.
(1) For low natures coarse animal pleasures.
(2) For intellectual natures there are the sciences, etc.
(3) For light and giddy natures there is the world and all its glory.
(4) For ambitious natures, principalities and powers.
(5) For more serious and half-religious natures penancies, pilgrimages, rites, ceremonies, and good works. The result of eating such false bread is that the mere hunger of the soul is deadened, and a false appetite created, which grows with what it feeds on, and this bread of death instead of supporting the soul consumes it.
3. Supernatural; the longings which exist with any degree of strength only in the renewed nature. Along with the other tastes there may be a love of sin, but this partly consists of a hatred of sin and a love of all that is good, a counting of all things but loss, so that we may gain Christ.
II. THE DIVINE PROVISION.
1. On what ground does God provide for our bodily hunger? For the sake of Christ. He has tasted death for every man, and thus secured an ample day of grace and every blessing, temporal as well as spiritual. Thus in a literal sense Christ is the Bread of Life.
2. Christ is the true food for the human mind.
(1) We can only see the true beauty and deep spiritual meaning of nature through Him.
(2) He is the Bread of Life to the conscience. In Him the sins of the past are washed away and the law magnified and made honourable.
(3) He is the Bread of Life to the heart. The heart that loves not is dead--but Jesus has revealed and communicates the love of God. (F. Ferguson, D. D.)
Bread and water
You call these common things. Their excellence has occasioned their commonness, and their commonness corresponds to a common want in humanity.
I. LET US APPLY THIS SOCIALLY. Look on the greatest feast ever prepared. What are its delicacies? Simply an adaptation, decoration or adulteration of bread and water, and the seated guests are compelled to say, “This is well enough now and then, but only now and then,” let us have something plain. Bread and water survive. Empires of soups, etc., which are the image and superscription of the cook’s, who is bound like other fashionable slaves to produce something fresh, rise and fall; but bread and water are God’s, and they endure.
II. THE APPLICATION OF THIS IS OBVIOUS IN THE HIGHER SPHERES OF CULTURE. Reading and writing are the bread and water of the mind. Your duty to your child is done when you have given this; let him get the rest for himself. But fine cookery is imitated in fine intelligence, and sometimes with like results--mental indigestion. Hence we have imperfect French, caricatured German, and murdered music, and the native tongue and history passed by. When will people learn to prize bread and water and see that it is better to know a little well, than to know next to nothing about a great deal?
III. THESE ILLUSTRATIONS PREPARE FOR THE HIGHEST TRUTH OF ALL, viz., that Jesus Christ is the bread and water, without which man cannot live. He never says that He is a luxury which the rich only can afford. An adventurer would not have seen in metaphors so humble a philosophy so profound.
1. Man needs Christ as a necessity and not as a luxury. You may be pleased to have flowers, but you must have bread. Jesus has often been presented as an ornament, a phenomenon; but He preached Himself, and would have others preach Him, as bread and water.
2. What has been the effect of omitting to declare Christ as bread and water? Leaving the simplicity of Christ, we have elaborated theological sciences, worked out a cunning symbolism, filled the Church with many coloured garments, and constituted splendid hierarchies. All this means that man is a fool, and prefers vanity to truth. Poor souls are left to believe that they can only get to Christ through priests, catechisms, and ecclesiastical mumbling. Take the pure Bible and read it for thyself, and thou shalt see the Lord and eat heavenly bread.
3. History furnishes a most graphic confirmation of these views. J.S. Mill says: “Let rational criticism take from us what it may, it still leaves us the Christ.” Exactly: it leaves us bread. It modifies the theological cook and confectioner, but it leaves the living water. Men can’t get rid of Christ, because they can’t get rid of themselves. The Lord allows the chaff to be blown away, but saves every grain of wheat; yet nervous people think that the wheat is lost because the chaff is scattered. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Bread the symbol of Christ
He is to the soul what bread is to the body--its food.
I. Bread is NECESSARY food. Other things may be dispensed with, but all need bread,
II. It is food that SUITS all--old and young, weak and strong.
III. It is the most NOURISHING kind of food: nothing does so much good or is so indispensable to bodily development.
IV. It is food that we NEED DAILY. Other foods are at best only occasionally required.
V. It is the only food we are NEVER TIRED OF; hence it is on every table, unlike every other kind of food. (Bp. Ryle.)
The bread of life a representation of the Saviour
1. All life is valuable in its degree. Vegetable life is superior to dead matter, animal to vegetable life, rational to animal, the life of God to human life.
2. This latter was man’s once; but it was forfeited, and is now restored by the Spirit. Hence Scripture loves to present religion under the notion of life; not as a picture that is only resemblance, not as mechanism that is only form.
3. The relation in which Christ stands to this life. He is “bread,” its nourishment; bread, i.e., “bruised corn.” He becomes our Saviour by His death.
4. Bread is nothing to us unless eaten, so unless we “eat the flesh of the Son of God,” etc.
I. THE WAY IN WHICH WE DERIVE ADVANTAGE FROM HIM. By coming to Him or believing on Him.
1. This reminds us that Christ is accessible. “Where two or three,” etc.
2. It teaches us that faith is not a notion, but a principle always attended with an application of the soul to the Redeemer.
3. This application is not a single address, but a continued exercise. “Cometh.”
II. THE HAPPINESS HIS FOLLOWERS SHALL ENJOY.
1. They shall never hunger nor thirst again after the world. Having tasted the provisions of God’s house, their language is, “Lord, ever more give us this bread.” A covetous, sensual, ambitious Christian is one the Scripture knows nothing of.
2. They shall not hunger and thirst in vain. The new creature has appetites, but ample provision is made for them.
3. They shall not hunger and thirst always. The days of imperfect enjoyment will soon be over.
Conclusion; The subject is a standard by which we may estimate
3. The Christian. (W. Jay.)
The bread of life
I. IN WHAT SENSE IS OUR LORD THE BREAD OF LIFE?
1. He evidently intimated that there was in Him that which, if properly received, would communicate eternal life (John 6:51; John 6:53).
2. He obviously points to His sufferings and death as that from which we were to derive our life.
3. For Him to be to us the bread of life depends on two things
(1) That we receive the full pardon of our sins;
(2) that we have a meetness for glory by the sanctification of our souls.
II. WHO ARE THOSE WHO DERIVE BENEFIT FROM HIM? Not all, but only those who come in faith.
1. Before we can do this we must have a sense of our need of Him.
2. Those will not come to Him who fail to see His perfections, believe in His atonement, and hear His invitation.
3. There must be moral effort. “Labour.” We must evidently turn our backs resolutely on the sins we loved.
4. We must come to Him by the prescribed means--meditation on His Word and importunate prayer.
III. WHAT IS THE BENEFIT of which He speaks. The believer shall never hunger or thirst
1. After sin.
2. Nor anxiously after holiness; only with such a sweet desire as serves to animate the spirit on its road to that state where it will thirst no more. (B. Noel, M. A.)
Bread is for common use
I remember what bread was to me when I was a boy. I could not wait till I was dressed in the morning, but ran and cut a slice from the loaf--all the way round, too--to keep me until breakfast; and at breakfast, if diligence in eating earned wages, I should have been well paid. And then I could not wait for dinner, but ate again, and then at dinner; and I had to eat again before tea, and at tea, and lucky if I didn’t eat again after that. It was bread, bread, all the time with me, bread that I lived on and got strength from. Just so religion is the bread of life; but you make it cake--you put it away in your cupboard and never use it but when you have company. You cut it into small pieces and put it on china plates, and pass it daintily round instead of treating it as bread, common, hearty bread, to be used every hour. (H. W. Beecher.)
The soul needs to be often fed
When people are being strengthened of God, they are not content with one meal on the Sabbath; they want another, and perhaps a prayer-meeting or a Sunday-school for a dessert. They are not content with just two or three minutes’ prayer in the morning; they like, if they can, to slip out of business and get a word with God in the middle of the day. They delight to carry a text of Scripture in their memories to sweeten their breath all the day, and they cannot be happy unless they meditate upon the Word. I think you make a great mistake when you go galloping through the whole Bible, reading half a dozen chapters every day; you do much better when you get a text and ruminate upon it, just as the cows chew the cud. Turn the Scripture over and over, and get all the juice, sweetness, and nourishment out of it, and you will do well. The spiritually hungry man says, “I must go and hear some servant of God, and hear what God, the Lord, will speak to me. I must get as much of the heavenly food as I possibly can, for I need it so greatly.” (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Hunger a sign of health
Men who are mending find themselves hungry between meals. “Oh,” the doctor says, “that is a capital sign. You will get on now.” I love to see God’s people when the Lord is strengthening them, for then they leave off being dainty and fault-finding, and prove the truth of Solomon’s proverb, that to the hungry man every bitter thing is sweet. Then they come to Monday night prayer-meetings and week evening services. They used to be able to do very well from Sunday to Sunday, and I have known some of them get on with one meal on the Lord’s day, and like it all the better if that was quickly served and soon over. When the gracious Lord strengthens His people they become very sharp-set. Somebody said on Sunday morning to me, “Did you not feel it sweet preaching?” I replied, “I always feel it sweet preaching the gospel of the grace of God.” “Ah, but,” he said, “the people swallowed it all just as it came from your mouth, and they seemed so hungry after it.” Truly this makes a preacher happy. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ the best food
The old Grecians that had fed altogether on acorns before, after that bread came in amongst them they made no reckoning of their mast any more, but kept it only for swine. And leathern and iron money began to grow out of request amongst the Lacedemonians after that gold and silver came into use. So when a man hath once found the favour of God in his heart, and the love of God in Christ hath once lighted on it, and got assurance of it, he ceaseth then to be greedy of the world’s trash, which is in regard of it but dross or pebble-stones to gold and diamonds, as mast to the best bread corn; yea, rather of far less worth or value to that than either of these are to it. (Fuller.)
Feeding on Christ
If anybody were to say to me, “I have a man at home who stands in my hall, and has stood there for years, but he has never eaten a mouthful of bread all the time, nor cost me a penny for food,” I should say to myself, “Oh, yes, that is a bronze man, I know, or a plaster cast of a man. He has no life in him, I am sure; for if he had life in him, he would have needed bread.” If we could live without eating, it would be a cheap method of existence; but I have never found out the secret, and I do not mean to make experiments. If you are trying it, and have succeeded in it so far that you can live without Christ, the bread of life, I fear your life is not that of God’s people, for they all hunger and thirst after Jesus, the bread of heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
During the Irish famine of 1849 the Duke of Norfolk invented a curry-powder of which he boasted that if taken by the starving peasants it would destroy all cravings of hunger. How many remedies for the soul’s hunger arc mere mockeries of unsatisfying! Curry-powder is poor food at the best. (H. O. Mackey.)
Christ an incorruptible food
Christ is incorruptible meat and drink. All earthly meat and drink is of a fading, perishing nature. The best bread grows mouldy in a little time; the best flesh in time putrefies and taints; the best wine grows eager and sour in a little time, and becomes unfit for the body of man; the very manna itself, when it was kept till the morning of the next day, contrary to God’s command, bred worms, and stank (Exodus 16:20). But Jesus Christ knows no corruption. His flesh and blood is now as sweet and pleasant, after so many ages, as it was the first hour it was eaten and drank (chap. 8:27). And it will be as far from corruption at the end of the world as now it is. The manna in the golden pot corrupted not, though kept for many generations. Christ is manna in that golden pot; the humanity in the golden pot of the Divinity shall see no corruption. (Ralph Robinson.)
I. THE LORD JESUS IS TO BE RECEIVED BY EACH ONE OF US PERSONALLY FOR HIMSELF. Bread which is not eaten will not stay hunger. Water in the cup may sparkle, but it cannot slake thirst unless we drink it. How do we receive Christ.
1. By coming to Him, which represents the first act of faith. We return to the Christ from whom we have been alienated with a motion of the heart performed by desire, prayer, assent, consent, trust, obedience.
2. Believing on Him, in the sense of trusting Him.
3. Eating and drinking Him. It is monstrous that this should be taken literally, for what greater crime could there be than to eat the flesh of our Saviour? What He meant was receiving Him into our hearts. Now, in eating
(1) The food as a whole goes into our mouths; so as a whole Christ is received into our belief and trust.
(2) We masticate it, and even in this way the believer thinks of Jesus and discovers His preciousness.
(3) It descends into the inward parts to be digested; so Christ is to dwell and rest in the affections till His comfort is fully drawn forth.
(4) The food is next assimilated; so the great truths of Christ are inwardly received till our whole nature draws from them satisfaction and strength.
(5) As a man who has feasted well, and is no more hungry, rises from the table satisfied, so we feel that in our Jesus our entire nature has all it wants.
(6) The two points about Christ which He says are respectively meat and drink are
(a) His flesh, i.e., His humanity. Our soul feeds on the literal historical fact that “God was in Christ,” and was made flesh and dwelt among us.
(b) His blood, which clearly refers to His atoning death.
II. WHERE JESUS IS RECEIVED HE IS SUPREMELY SATISFYING
1. To our highest and deepest wants, not to mere fancies and whims. Hungering is no shame; thirst is not sentiment.
2. Christ meets the hungering of conscience, which feels that God must punish sin, but is appeased as it perceives that it has been punished in Christ.
3. Men, when awakened, have a hunger of fear, but when they find that Christ has died for them, fear expires and love takes its place.
4. The heart has its hunger, but in Christ its roving affections find rest.
5. There are vast desires in us all, and when we are quickened they expand, and yet are satisfied.
6. This perfect satisfaction is found only in Christ.
(1) Some have tried to be satisfied with themselves.
(2) Some have gone to Moses.
(3) Some have dosed themselves into a torpor with the narcotics of scepticism.
(4) Many stave off hunger by indifference, like the bears in winter, which are not hungry because they are asleep.
Conclusion: All believers bear witness that Jesus Christ is satisfying to them.
1. They never seek additional ground of trust beyond Christ.
2. They never want to shift their confidence.
3. Christ satisfies in the hour of death. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The “I am” of Christ
This form of expression is not found in the synoptists. It occurs not unfrequently in St. John, and the figures with which it is connected furnish a complete study of the Lord’s work.
I. I am the LIGHT OF THE WORLD (chap. 8:12).
II. I am the BREAD OF LIFE (verses 35, 41, 48, 51).
III. I am THE DOOR (10:7, 9).
IV. I am THE GOOD SHEPHERD (10:11, 14).
V. I am THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE (11:25).
VI. I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE (14:6). VII. I am THE TRUE VINE (14:1-5). (Bp. Westcott.)
It is not what a man eats, but what he digests, that nourishes him. Now, so it is with that truth which is food for the mind, which is the soul’s nutriment. There is a certain kind of truth which needs only to be heard, only to he received: facts about the sun or earth, about light and heat and electricity. All that you need to do in respect to these truths is to get them, to store them away in your mind. Thus, for instance, the sun is ninety-two millions of miles from the earth. Receive these facts, and you need go no farther with them. There is no necessary after process of assimilation. They are of themselves nourishment for the mind, without any such after process. But not so is it with moral truth--that truth designed to regulate and govern human action. This is worth nothing, unless it is wrought into the life; unless it be so assimilated as to lose the form of abstract truth, and become principle; unless it passes into, is converted into life. This is the way with bread, when it does any good. It does not remain bread. It turns to flesh and blood and bone. The bread of yesterday is the myriad-hued, the myriad-sided life of to-day. It is the eloquence of the orator, and the strength of the drayman. It is the skill of the artist, and the energy of the ploughman. And it is all this, through the wonderful process of assimilation, through the mysterious force of a transubstantiation, stranger than priest ever taught, or poet ever fancied. Now, the truth of this analogy furnishes an explanation of the fact that so many persons in the world have a great deal of Bible know- ledge, an abundance of moral truth, without having much of spiritual life. In such Cases, truth has remained truth. Doctrine lies within them, as so much doctrine. So moral truth remains as so much unassimilated knowledge in the minds of thousands. And this analogy, besides an explanation, suggests also the great duty we owe to our moral or spiritual being. It is this. The duty of assimilating the moral truth which we have received, of turning it into life. This should be our daily work. Is time nothing, and eternity everything? Do we believe this? Then we should be more careful for an estate there, than for building up one here. Is it true, that with- out holiness no one shall see the Lord? Do we believe this? If so, how important that this truth should be turned into a principle of action in our daily life. And we should come to place very little, if any, value upon the mere possession of truth. Many a post mortem examination discloses plenty of unused food within the body. Still, the man died--died, because his system did not take up and use the bread. So, many a post mortem moral examination, no doubt, will exhibit an abundance of moral truth within the soul. And farther than this I think we should go here. We should come to place comparatively little value upon doctrines, which we are unable to convert into life-force, from which we cannot gather spiritual guidance and strength. If the truth which we possess is not digestible, it is very poor stuff. But, without further amplification here, I ask your attention to the great matter suggested by the text--THE CONDITIONS OF SPIRITUAL ASSIMILATION.
1. And the first I mention is, something to be assimilated. The process denoted by this word is only the changing of one substance into another. Thus, the tree takes the air and the sun-light, and the rain, and turns them into tree, into roots and trunk, branches and fruit, into its own peculiar life. Every leaf on your vine in spring-time is an open mouth, asking for these surrounding substances, that it may convert them into life for itself. It does not want light and heat and moisture, as such. It does not lay them up as such, counting them treasures. No, but silently, surely, swiftly, it assimilates them to itself. The sunbeam, when your flower gets hold of it, is no longer a sunbeam. No; but it is blood in the veins of your rose, it is the blush upon its cheek, it is sweet odour filling the air. Now, not otherwise is it with the life of the soul. This life, like all others, grows by the process of assimilation. But there must be something to be assimilated; and what this something is the text distinctly affirms. It is Christ, who is the bread of life, the bread which is turned into life within the soul. Christ, and not something else; not philosophy, not art, not knowledge. Where in the history of the world has any of these supported moral life? Look at ancient Egypt, ancient Greece. Christ is its food; but this means the true Christ, and a whole Christ. The soul cannot live on the Pope, or what of Christ may come through the Pope. It needs a whole Christ. Then, again, take the case where Christ is shorn of His sympathy, of His boundless love, of His ineffable yearning, and the same result is apparent. The soul starves. Its bread again is only half bread. Then there is another half Christ, the sentimental one. A Christ who is no sin-bearer, who holds no relation to the Divine law as its atonement--a Christ, of whom it can, only by the widest possible metaphor, be said, that He was made a curse--a Christ with no blood I And the same sad result of spiritual life is here again witnessed. Souls are starved.
2. The second condition is a good moral atmosphere. This implies two things. First, that your homes should be favourable to Christian life; and second, that your daily business, outside the home, should be such and so conducted as to be the same. No church, no religious privileges, can do much for any man or woman, who either has no home, or whose home is a bad one. Why, suppose you only gave your body one or two hours a week of pure atmosphere. Could you preserve health? Could you live? If you go from the church into an atmosphere of frivolity and selfishness, of acrimony and impurity, you will be sure to arrest the process of spiritual assimilation. Shun evil and corrupt association. It is said that the Upas-tree is girt in with a circle of dead and rotting carcases of bird and beast. So, upon every side of these corrupt rings, are strewn the dead consciences, the lost souls of men. See to it, then, that you breathe the atmosphere of love and of kindness, of purity and of honesty, day by day.
3. The third condition of spiritual assimilation is activity, the exercise of the new and true life. Duty is a Divine and immutable condition of moral growth. “He that saveth his life shall lose it.” Selfish idleness will kill any soul. Something you must do for this world in which you live, if you would do the best for yourself.
4. A fourth condition of spiritual assimilation is thought, intelligence. Better believe half of what you do, intelligently, with your whole soul, than believe it all, languidly, ignorantly.
5. The last condition of spiritual assimilation which I mention, and the great one, is the presence of the vital principle--the vital principle which philosophy cannot find out, which chemistry cannot detect. See those two trees. One of them lifts up its bare and shrunken branches; the other is covered with leaves, and the birds sing among its branches. Yet the air, the sunshine, the moisture, all within reach of both of these trees. What makes the difference? Why, in one the vital principle is present, from the other it has departed. Take two members of the same family again. One stands before the cross, only to fall in worship. The other hunts through the soil, wet with the blood of the Saviour, for gold, and lifts up his face to blaspheme, when he finds it not. The cross is life to the one, but death remains in the case of the other.
Two or three remarks in conclusion.
1. It is Christ who is the Bread of Life--not the Church, not truth, not doctrines; but Christ the personal Christ.
2. Christ being the Bread of Life, character becomes a good test of the soundness of faith. He who is pure, who is Christlike in conduct, must have partaken of Him who is the only bread of such a life.
3. Many of us are daily guilty in this matter. We transgress, year after year, the plainest laws of spiritual health and of moral growth. (S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)
The Bread of Life
Every one acknowledges the golden cornfields to be full of the highest spiritual teaching. It is as if He who gave us the Written Word, which we call the Bible--“the Book”--specially designed the harvest-field to be to it a sort of companion volume; and to that purpose filled it to overflowing with the most striking and beautiful illustrations, which should be at the same time bright enough to catch the attention of the most untutored, and profound enough to richly repay the deepest study of the thoughtful and learned. Nor would our Saviour allow this beautiful supplementary volume to be neglected or overlooked. Let us listen for a moment to what science has to tell us of the character and position of corn in the economy of nature. Corn belongs to the second great order of plants--the lily order; and according to the evolutionist’s theory it is either a lilyin the making, or in a degenerate and degraded form. This latter theory is the generally accepted one. In process of the ages the corn-plant which was, and is still, of the lily order, gradually developed the invaluable property of producing corn, and did ibis at the expense of its beauty. It separated itself from its beautiful sisters, laid aside the glory of the coloured vesture and elegance which belonged to it as of right, and took instead the russet garments in which we see it now clad; and all in order that it might be of service in its day and generation, and give its own life and substance for the life and support of others. If this were so, what a wonderful little parable we have in its history of the law of self-sacrifice, and of the blessing and reward attending such sacrifice: for what if it that really happens to the corn as a result of its self-surrender? We call it now the “staff of life.” That is its usual and well-fitting title. To be singled out from all other plants in the world as the very staff of human life were, I say, marvellous honour for so small and insignificant a plant. But more than that; in giving its life as the staff of ours it, becomes itself a partaker of a nobler nature. In eating it we incorporate its nature with ours, so that it becomes part of our very selves--bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh--and in a very real sense it comes in this way to participate with us in theenjoyment of human life. What a striking illustration we have here, then, of some of our Saviour’s words! Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal; “ and the life-history of the corn emphasizes this truth in a way so remarkable that no one can help being impressed by it. But we have not exhausted this lesson even yet, nor have we reached a thousandth part of the honour God has designed to bestow upon the self-abasing little plant; for when the Lord Jesus Himself came down from heaven to give His life for the world, and one day stood and looked around Him for a figure by which He might signify something of His own Person and office, He could find nothing better to His purpose than the little corn-plant in its so-called degraded form and russet-dress. “I am the Bread of Life,” He said, “I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.” We can well appreciate the aptness of that simile. The plant that had laid aside its lily-dress, and put off all its glory--clothing itself in russet-brown, and stooping very low, that it might give its life for the many--and, moreover, that could even then only become life-giving bread by being first bruised and crushed and broken--I say we can well perceive how fitting a type in all these particulars it was of Him “who made Himself of no reputation,” etc. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him,” etc. (John Crofts, M. A.)
The Bread of Life
1. Every living thing is a feeding thing. That it feeds is the test and signal that it lives.
2. Moreover, every living thing, whatever it may be, whether lowest in the scale of existence, or highest, must have food appropriate to itself, or it cannot live. There is a pathetic story which comes to us from the earlier explorations of the vast island of Australia. In the central deserts of that island there grows a strange plant called the nardoo, bearing leaves like clover. The Englishmen Burk and Wells, who were making these explorations, in the failure of other food, followed the example of the natives, and began to eat the leaves and roots of this plant named nardoo. It seemed to satisfy them; it seemed to fill them with a pleasant sense of comfort and repletion. But they grew weaker every day, and more emaciated; they were not hungry, for the plant seemed to satisfy the calling of hunger. But all the effects of an unfilled hunger began to appear in them; their flesh wasted from their bones, their strength leaked till they scarcely had the energy of an infant; they could not crawl on in their journey more than a mile or two a day. At last one of them perished of star- vation; the other was rescued in the last extremity of it. On analysis, it was discovered that the bread made of this plant lacked an element essential to the sustenance of a European. And so, even though they seemed fed, the explorers wasted away, and one of them died, because they were feeding on a sustenance inappropriate.
3. Now all this is true of man’s higher and moral nature. The mistake men are constantly making is, that they seek to feed their higher nature upon wrong food, which may satisfy for the time, but in the long run cannot keep back the pangs of a noble spiritual hunger.
4. This is what Christ came into the world to be to men--the appropriate, satisfying, sustaining, upbuilding food for their highest nature.
(1) Christ, the Bread of Life, feeds and fills the human hunger for Divine sympathy.
(2) Divine forgiveness.
(3) Divine helping.
1. Do not refuse the Bread of Life because there are some things in Him you cannot understand, any more than you refuse the bread upon your tables, though there are mysteries in it that no science can explain.
2. See the adaptation to our needs of the great truth of our Lord’s Divine-human nature. He could not be the Bread of Life to us did He not possess such a nature.
3. Learn the essential meaning of religion. The essential meaning of my physical life is, that I come into contact with food. The essential meaning of my religious life is, that I as really and as utterly come into the Food of my spiritual nature--Christ. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)
Ye also have seen Me and believe not
The reason of faith
The grand distinction of Christianity is that it makes its appeal to faith, and upon that rests the promise of salvation.
2. But this is the scandal of men. If we hold any truth by reason, perception, or on evidence what need of holding by faith? And if we hold it without such evidence what is belief, but a surrender of our proper intelligence?
3. It is proposed to show how it is that we, as intelligent beings, are called to believe, and how, as sinners, we can in the nature of things, be saved only as we believe. This text sets us at the point when seeing and believing are brought together as not united; in John 6:40 they are united.
4. It stands on the face of the language
(1) That faith is not sight but something so different that we may see and not believe;
(2) That sight does not include faith or supersede the necessity of it, for after sight faith is expected;
(3) That sight is supposed to furnish a ground for faith, and involving guilt when faith is not exercised. Let us look at three kinds of faith.
I. Take the case of SIGHT. It has been a great question how it is we perceive objects. Berkeley denied that we saw them at all. The persons who saw Christ had only certain pictures cast in the back of the eye which were mere subjective impressions. How then do we bridge the gulf between sensations and their objects; how it is that having a true picture in the back of the eye we make it a tree. Some deny the possibility of any solution; but the best solutions conceive the soul to take these forms as more than objects perceived, that we complete sensation or issue it in perception by assigning reality to the distant object. What is this but the exercise of a sense faith. We thus see by faith.
II. Take that FAITH WHICH, after perception is completed, ASSIGNS TRUTH TO THE THINGS SEEN, and takes them to be historic verities. Thus after Christ had been seen in the facts of His life, it became a question what to make of those facts--whether there could have been conspiracy or self-imposition in the miracles. The mere seeing of a wonder never concludes the mind of the spectator. How many testify to having seen the most fantastic wonders, and yet they very commonly conclude by saying they know not what to make of them, doubting whether sleight of hand, ventriloquism, etc., may not account for them. The evidence to one who saw Christ was as perfect as it could be; but all that can be said is that a given impression has been made, and that impression is practically nought till an act of intellectual assent is added. Then the impression becomes to the mind a real and historical fact, a sentence of credit passed.
III. We come now to CHRISTIAN FAITH. This begins just where the last-named faith ends. That decided the greatest fact of history, viz., that Christ actually was. But what is now wanted and justified and even required by the facts of His life is a faith that goes beyond the mere evidence of proportional verities, viz., the faith of a transaction; and Christian faith is the act of trust by which one being, a sinner, commits herself to another Being, a Saviour. In this faith
1. Everything is presupposed that makes the act intelligent and rational. That Christ was what He declared Himself to be and can do what He offered to do, and that we can commit ourselves to Him.
2. The matters included in this act are the surrender of our mere self care, the ceasing to live from our own point of separated will, a complete admission of the mind of Christ, a consenting to live as infolded in His spirit.
3. Great results will follow.
(1) The believer will be as one possessed by Christ, created anew in Christ Jesus.
(2) New evidence will be created. As in trying a physician new evidence is obtained from the successful management of the disease, so the soul that trusts itself to Christ knows Him with a new kind of knowledge; has the witness in himself.
1. The mistake is here corrected that the gospel is a theorem to be thought out and not a new premiss of fact communicated by God to be received of men in all the threefold gradations of faith.
2. We discover that the requirement of faith, as a condition of salvation, is not arbitrary but essential for deliverance from sin. What we want is God, to be united to Him and thus to be quickened, raised, made partakers of the Divine Nature.
3. We perceive that mere impressions can never amount to faith, inasmuch as it is the commitment of our being to the Being of Christ our Saviour.
4. It is plain that what is wanted in the Christian world is more faith. We dabble too much in reason. We shall never recover the true apostolic energy without it. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Christ the true bread must be both seen and appropriated
Christians grow weak because they let their meat and drink stand by them. It is not the flesh in the pot, but the flesh in the stomach, that gives nourishment. It is not the drink in the vessel, but the drink taken down, that revives. Stir up spiritual hunger, and that will make you feed heartily on Christ. Eat and drink Christ by meditation, eat and drink Him by application. Let your faith draw in Christ in every ordinance. Keep your spiritual meals as constantly as you do your other meals. Your eating will help you to a stomach. Satisfaction and hunger are mutual helps one to another. Eating and drinking other meat takes away the appetite, but it increaseth the spiritual appetite. Fixed times of spiritual feeding every day are marvellous profitable. When you have prayed, call your heart to account what it hath taken in of Christ. When you have been reading, ask it what nourishment it hath received from the word. When the Lord’s Supper is over, inquire what refreshment is received. Put yourselves forward to frequent, constant, actual feeding. It is a pity such precious meat and drink should stand in corners when the soul hath so much need of it. (Ralph Robinson.)
If a man comes to a banker with a letter of credit from some other banker, that letter may be read and seen to be a real letter. The signature also may be approved, and the credit of the drawing party honoured by the other, as being wholly reliable. So far what is done is merely opinionative or notional, and there is no transactional faith. And yet there is a good preparation for this; just that is done which makes it intelligent. When the receiving party, therefore, accepts the letter, and entrust himself actually to the drawing party in so much money, there is the real act of faith, an act which answers to the operative, or transactional faith of the disciple. Another and perhaps better illustration may be taken from the patient or sick person as related to his physician. He sends for a physician, just because he has been led to have a certain favourable opinion of his faithfulness and capacity. But the suffering him to feel his pulse, investigate his symptoms, and tell the diagnosis of his disease, imports nothing. It is only the committing of his being and life to this other being, consenting to receive and take his medicines, that imports a real faith, the faith of a transaction. In the same manner Christian faith is the faith of a transaction. It is not the committing of one’s thought, in assent to any proposition, but the trusting of one’s being to a being, there to be rested, kept, guided, moulded, governed, and possessed for ever. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
All that the Father hath given Me shall come unto Me, and him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out
The certainty and freeness of Divine grace
GRACE TRIUMPHANT IN SPECIALITY.
1. Christ leads us up to the original position of all things. All men are naturally from the beginning in the hand of the Father as Creator, Governor, and Source and Fountain of election.
2. He proceeds to inform us of a great transaction. That His Father put His people into the hands of His Son as the Mediator. Here was the Father’s condescension in giving, and the Son’s compassion in receiving.
3. He assures us that this transaction in eternity involves a certain change in time. The only token of election is the definite open choosing of Christ.
4. He hints at a power possessed by Him to constrain wanderers to return. Not that any force is used, but by His messengers, Word, and Spirit, He sweetly and graciously compels men to come in accordance with the laws of the human mind, and without impairing human freedom. We are made willing in the day of Christ’s power.
5. He declares that there is no exception to this rule of grace. Not some but all, individually and collectively.
II. GRACE TRIUMPHANT IN ITS LIBERALITY.
1. The liberality of its character: “him that cometh,” the rich, poor, great, obscure, moral, debauched.
2. The liberality of the coming: no adjective or adverb to qualify. Not coming to the sacraments or worship, but to Christ. Some come at once; some are months in coming; some come running; some creeping; some carried; some with long prayers; some with only two words; some fearfully; some hopefully, but none are cast out.
3. The liberality of the time. It doesn’t say when. He may be seventy or only seven; at any season; on any day.
4. The liberality of the duration. “Never cast thee out,” neither at first nor to the last,
5. Something of the liberality is seen in the certainty, “in no wise.” It is not a hope as to whether Christ will accept you. You cannot perish if you go.
6. There is great liberality if you will notice the personality. In the first clause, where everything is special, Jesus used the large word “all”; in the second, which is general, He uses the little word “him.” Why? Because sinners want something that will suit their case. This means me. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
An account of the persons that come to Christ
1. What is meant by coming to Christ?
(1) An outward coming in application of the means. When we come to His ordinances we come to Him.
(2) Closing with Christ, embracing Him, believing on Him, and submitting to Him. Coming not with the feet but with the heart.
2. What is meant by the Father giving men to Christ?
(1) In God’s eternal purpose and counsel.
(2) In the drawing of our hearts to Him when God by His Spirit persuades us to close with Christ. This giving is mutual: Christ is given to us and we to Him, so there is a marriage-knot drawn and contracted between us.
I. ALL THAT THE FATHER HATH GIVEN ME SHALL COME TO ME.
1. This is an expression of some latitude and universality--“all” Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Peter 3:9). From which we learn how to make our calling and election sure, viz., by closing with the conditions of the gospel. We may know whether we are given to Christ by coming to Him.
2. This is an expression of restriction. None come to Christ but such as are given to Him (Joh 6:44; 2 Corinthians 3:5; Philippians 2:13). The reasons why none come to Christ but those whom God gives to Him are
(1) Because all others are ignorant of Him, and without the knowledge of Christ there is no coming to Him (Matthew 16:16-17).
(2) There is a perverseness in their wills and affections, so that though many know Him, they hang off from Him (John 3:19), so there must also be a drawing of their hearts which is the work of God alone.
3. From the word “come” we learn that men by nature are distant from Christ.
4. From the word “given” we see that all men are in the hands of God, for none can give what they have not got.
II. CHRIST’S ENTERTAINMENT OF THOSE WHO COME TO HIM.
1. His reception.
(1) He will take them into friendship with Himself (Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 33:11).
(2) None excepted (Revelation 22:17). There is nothing to exclude Isaiah 1:18; 1 Timothy 1:15).
(3) What an encouragement to all men to close with Christ.
(a) The nature of our sins cannot exclude us, since Paul, Manasseh, Mary Magdalene, etc., found mercy (Psalms 25:11). The ground of God’s pardon is not our sin, but His grace (Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 44:24-25).
(b) Nor the Humber of our sins (Hosea 14:4; Jeremiah 3:1).
(c) Nor any supposed imperfection in our humiliation. We are humbled sufficiently if we come.
(4) Consider the great advantage of coming.
(a) Pardon and the life of justification (Isaiah 55:7; Micah 7:19).
(b) Power over sin and the life of sanctification.
(c) Comfort and peace of conscience.
(5) To enlarge, we may come not only in conversion, but after it, for assurance, greater measures of grace, and progress. Let us then come boldly (Hebrews 4:16).
2. His custody and preservation. “I will keep him in.” (T. Horton, D. D.)
The Father’s gift the sinner’s privilege
I. THE EXPRESSION. “All that the Father,” etc.
1. Number. Who can measure the amplitude of “all”?
2. Definiteness. Not one more or less.
3. Relation. The Father sends His Son to men and men to His Son. The conditions of this relation are the Incarnation and Atonement on the part of Christ; coming or believing on the part of men.
4. Donation. This was mediatorial.
5. Value. What must be the worth of that which the Father could give and Christ accept?
II. THE PROMISE. “Shall come unto Me.”
1. The certainty. “He shall see of the travail of His soul.”
2. The act.
(1) Externally, they shall be brought in the providence of God under the means of grace.
(2) Spiritually. If you have come to Christ you have entered into the meaning of four words--conviction of sin, the suitableness of Christ, venturing on Christ, continual coming to Christ.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT. “I will in no wise cast out.”
1. Personality. “Him.” Sin is personal, so must salvation be.
2. Extent. Christianity is the only universal religion; it can take root everywhere because it makes its offer to everybody.
3. The removal of doubts.
(1) On the part of sinners.
(a) When they have been called late in life; but remember the dying thief.
(b) Sin suggests doubts. It is not what you have been, but what you are willing to be.
(c) Unworthiness and infirmity create doubts.
(d) Doubts arise from ignorance. All these are removed by the invitation.
(2) On the part of saints.
(a) Many feel a sense of inward corruption.
(b) Others are conscious of stupidity and perverseness.
(c) Lowness of attainment suggests doubts; and
(d) Remaining guilt and imperfection. But what are these in the light of the promise, “Him that,” etc.? (Dr. Andrews.)
Encouragement to seekers from the purposes and promises of God
I. GOD’S GRACIOUS PURPOSE.
1. God the Father is the prime Mover in the scheme of redemption. Beware of regarding the Father as an enemy and the Son as a friend. The Father’s love is perpetually magnified in Scripture.
2. The Father hath given His Son a multitude which no man can number.
3. This gift was a very burdensome one to the Son. A ransom must be paid and satisfaction given.
4. The acceptance of the gift was most willing, for the Son gave Himself to receive it (Ephesians 5:25).
II. THE ARTICLE OF THE COVENANT which secures the actual union of His people to the Redeemer. “Shall come unto Me.”
1. What is meant by coming to Christ?
(1) Seeking, implying a sense of need, danger, misery, condemnation, ruin.
(2) Finding, including an enlightened understanding, and the revelation of the Saviour as suited to the sinner’s necessities.
2. The instrument of calling sinners is the Word, the Law with its warnings and threatenings, the gospel with its invitations and promises.
3. The effectual agent is the Spirit. We preach like Ezekiel to dry bones until the heavenly breath breathes upon them.
III. THE PROMISE. “Him that cometh,” etc. The preacher’s commission is as unlimited as this promise. “Go ye into all the world,” go.
1. Our encouragement to go forth under this commission is drawn from our knowledge of God’s purpose. This assures us that our labour shall not be in vain.
2. No degree or kind of guilt will be a bar to the sinner’s reception if he will but come.
3. Surely then the expostulation is timely, “Why will ye die?”
(1) Why go on in ways you know to be ruinous?
(2) Why keep away from Jesus when you are sure of a welcome?
4. Whose fault will it be if you perish? Yours, not God’s. (W. Hancock, M. A.)
I. GROUNDS ON WHICH THEY FEAR REJECTION.
1. Supposed omission from the number of the given, in which case they deem it hopeless to come.
2. Greatness of guilt--they are too bad to be received.
3. Absence of merit--they are not good enough to be accepted.
4. Lateness of repenting--they are too old to be welcomed.
5. Defects in believing--their faith is too feeble or not of the right sort.
II. REASONS WHY THEY ARE SURE OF A WELCOME. Christ will not cast them out.
1. For their sakes. He knows
(1) The value of the soul.
(2) The greatness of the peril.
(3) The blessedness of salvation.
2. For His Father’s sake. To do so would be to place dishonour upon Him whose will He had been sent to perform.
3. For His own sake. Since every sinner saved is
(1) An increase to His glory.
(2) A triumph of His grace.
(3) A trophy of His power.
(4) A subject added to His empire.
4. For the world’s sake. How could the gospel prevail if it got noised abroad that one was rejected. Lessons
1. Despair for none.
2. Hope for all. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
High doctrine and broad doctrine
I. THE ETERNAL PURPOSE.
1. If all that the Father giveth to Christ shall come to Him, then some shall come, and why should you not be among them? One says, “Suppose I am not one of the elect”; but suppose you are--or, better still, leave off supposing altogether and go to Christ and see.
2. Those who come to Christ come because of the Father and the Son. They come to Christ not because of any good in them, but because of the Father’s gift. There never was a soul who wanted to come but Jesus wanted him to come a hundred times as much.
3. They are all saved because they come to Christ, and not otherwise. There is no way of salvation for peculiar people. The King’s highway is for all.
4. If I come to Christ, it is most clear that the Father gave me to Christ.
II. THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL.
1. “Him that cometh,” go., is one of the most generous of gospel texts. Generous
(1) As to the character to whom the promise is made. “Him,” the atrocious sinner, the backslider, you.
(2) The text gives no limit to the coming, save that they must come to Christ. Some come running, some limping, etc.
(3) There is no limit as to time. Young and old.
2. The blessed certainty of salvation--lit. “I will not, not,” or “never, never cast out.”
3. The personality of the text--“Him,” that is, thee. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Coming to Christ
Every stage of the Redeemer’s life confirmed the delightful fact, that “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world,” etc.
I. THE OBJECT OF APPROACH. Prophets spake of Him, that around Him should throng the sons and daughters of woe. Jacob said, when dying, “Unto Him shall the gathering together of the people be.” Isaiah said, “Unto Him shall men come”; and He Himself said, “All that the Father hath given Me,” etc. “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.” He possesses qualifications to relieve our wants, in opposition to all assumed characters.
1. He is infinitely wise.
2. He is of illimitable power.
3. He is of boundless compassion: and by possession of these, He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.
II. THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH WE ARE TO COME.
1. For instruction. We are ignorant of ourselves--of God--of Christ--of the way of salvation. He is the light of the world--the great prophet. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord,” etc.
2. For pardon. We are guilty, and need pardon. “Him hath God exalted with His right hand,” etc. “In whom we have redemption through His blood--the forgiveness of sins,” etc. Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.
3. For strength. We have duties to perform, difficulties to encounter, trials to endure. Without Him we can do nothing: but He has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and always remember as a check to indolence and supineness, that though without Him we can do nothing, “we can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth us.”
4. For peace. He is the Prince of Peace. “My peace I leave with you,” etc.; and we, as ministers of Christ, preach peace through the blood of His cross.
5. For eternal life. “I give unto My sheep eternal life.” He is the record, “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”
III. HOW WE ARE TO COME. A bodily act is not intended; many do this, and not come at all. Jesus said, when they thronged around Him, “Ye will riot come unto Me that ye might have life”; but a spiritual act is meant; and does it not remind us that we are naturally at a distance, not locally, but spiritually; and hence arises the necessity of the agency of the Holy Spirit--“No man can come unto Me,” etc.
1. We come by prayer: “Hence,” says Paul, “let us come boldly to the throne of grace.”
2. By faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” etc.
(1) It regards His Divinity.
(2) His humanity.
(3) That He is the appointed medium of approach--“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
3. With humility on account of our sin.
4. Contrition. Not sorrow merely for its consequences, but from a view of its nature, and the Being against whom it is committed. “That godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation,” etc.
IV. THE CERTAINTY OF ACCEPTANCE. “I will in no wise cast out.”
1. From the promises and invitations of Scripture. “And the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.” “ Ho, every one that thirsteth.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.” “Wherefore, He also is able to save to the uttermost.” “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure.” “Not willing that any should perish,” etc.
2. From the examples of the Scripture. There stands a Manasseh, a Magdalen, St. Luke, a Thief on the Cross, and a Saul of Tarsus. Go to heaven, and ask if Jesus was willing to receive them? The question shall give a fresh impulse to the song, while they swell the strains, and cry, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Go to the regions of darkness, and ask of them, Is one there that applied to Him? and, while anguish swells their bosoms, they will answer, No; we despised and rejected Him, and would not have Him to reign over us. Go to the north, east, west, and south, and ask believers whether Jesus did not receive them graciously. They will all give their testimony--While a great way off, He ran and met me, and fell upon my neck and kissed me. Conclusion: address to those already come--those coming--and those at a distance. (The Pulpit.)
Coming to Christ
I have read of an artist who wanted to paint a picture of the prodigal son. He searched through the mad-houses, and the poorhouses, and the prisons, to find a man wretched enough to represent the prodigal, but he could not find one. One day he was walking down the streets and met a man whom He thought would do. He told the poor beggar he would pay him well if he came to his room and sat for his portrait. The man agreed, and the day was appointed for him to come. The day came, and a man put in his appearance at the artist’s room. “You made an appointment with me,” he said, when he was shown into the studio. The artist looked at him, and said, “I never saw you before.” “Yes,” he said, “I agreed to meet you to-day at ten o’clock.” “You must be mistaken; it must have been some other artist; I was to see a beggar here at this hour.” “Well,” said the man, “I am he.” “You? Yes.” “Why, what have you been doing? Well, I thought I would dress myself up a bit before I got painted.” “Then,” said the artist,” I do not want you; I wanted you as you were; now you are no use to me.” That is the way Christ wants every poor sinner, just as he is. (D. L. Moody.)
Coming to Christ
“My next step,” said an anxious inquirer, “is to get deeper conviction.” “No,” said a Christian friend, “your next step is to go to Christ just as you are. He does not say, come to conviction, come to a deeper sense of sin, which you have been labouring to get, but ‘Come unto Me.’“ “Ah,” she exclaimed, “I see it now. Oh, how self-righteous I have been, really refusing Christ, while all the time I thought I was preparing to come to Him.” “Will you go to Jesus now?” Humbly, yet decisively, she responded, “Yes, I will.” And the Lord in the richness of His grace and mercy enabled bet to do so. (Clerical Library.)
Christ the Saviour of all who come to Him
I. OUR DUTY TO CHRIST. To come to Him.
(1) By repentance (Matthew 11:28; Mark 1:15).
(2) By faith.
(a) Assenting to Him (Hebrews 11:6) that He is an only (Acts 4:12) and all-sufficient Saviour (Hebrews 7:12).
(b) Receiving Him (John 1:12) for our Priest, to atone (Hebrews 9:12) and to make intercession (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1); for our Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22), to make known God’s will and to enable us to know it (John 16:13); for our King (IsaJohn 18:36; Matthew 28:18), to subdue our enemies Hebrews 2:14), to rule over us (Psalms 110:1-3).
2. What for.
(1) Pardon (Acts 5:31).
(2) Acceptance (Romans 5:1).
(3) Purity (Titus 2:14; Acts 3:26).
(4) Eternal life (John 5:40; Matthew 11:28).
II. CHRIST’S PROMISE, that if we come to Him He will in no wise cast us out.
1. What are we to understand by this? That He will receive us (Titus 2:14) into
(1) The number of His people (1 Peter 2:9);
(2) His love and favour (John 13:1);
(3) His care and protection (John 17:12);
(4) An interest in his death and passion;
(5) A participation of His grace and spirit (John 16:7);
(6) His intercession (John 17:9);
(7) His presence and glory (John 17:24).
2. How does this appear.
(1) We have His promise.
(2) This was the end of His coming (John 3:16; John 6:39-40).
III. MOTIVES TO COME TO CHRIST.
1. Are we in debt? He will be our Surety (Hebrews 7:22).
2. Are we in prison? He will be our Redeemer.
3. Are we sick? He will be our Physician (Matthew 9:12).
4. Are we arraigned? He will be our Advocate, (1 John 2:1).
5. Are we condemned? He will be our Saviour (Romans 8:34).
6. Are we estranged from God? He will be our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
7. Are we in misery? He will be our Comforter (Psalms 94:19).
8. Are we weary? He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28). Wherefore come to Him.
(4) Resolutely. (Bp. Beveridge.)
The all-important advent
I. THE EVENT. There are various advents.
1. The incarnation.
2. Through the Spirit.
3. At the judgment.
4. That of our text--a man’s coming to Christ. This is dependent on the first, is made effectual through the second, and secures that the third shall be blessed and glorious.
II. THE CONSEQUENCE. Those who come will not be cast out.
1. Because it is not in Christ’s nature to do so.
2. Because He has shed His blood for this very purpose.
3. Because He has said it, which is enough.
III. THE MANNER.
1. Direct--not through any mediator.
2. As you are.
3. As you can.
4. Now. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Coming unto Jesus
Take every other verse out of the Scriptures, and leave but this, and you have a foundation on which a world of souls may build their hopes and never be put to shame. Hear it, impenitent sinners, alarmed souls, desponding believers, rejoicing saints.
I. THE PERSON POINTED OUT. What is meant by coming to Him.
(1) Not to the Scriptures, they only testify of Him (John 5:39-40).
(2) Not the Church, that is only a means, not the fountain of grace.
(3) Not prayer, that is a well of salvation but not salvation.
(4) John 6:22-24; John 6:22-24, show how possible it is to come, and yet not to come to Christ Himself.
2. Positively. Christ addresses the spiritual part of man’s nature, and the invitation implies
(1) A forsaking of sin. To come to is to come from (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
(2) A renouncing of self.
(3) Faith which worketh by love (John 6:35; John 6:68-69).
I. THE ASSURANCE GIVEN CONCERNING THE PERSON INDICATED.
1. The assurance itself.
(1) It is unrestricted.
(3) Based upon the good “will” of Christ.
(4) Emphatic, “in no wise.”
2. The grounds of the assurance.
(1) The purposes of the Father.
(2) The death of Christ.
(3) The resurrection of Christ.
(4) The work of the Spirit.
(5) All God’s attributes make it sure.
1. What say you to this?
2. Transpose the text, “Him that cometh not to Me I will cast out.” (S. Miller.)
The gospel welcome
I. THE STATES OF MIND WITH WHICH WE SHOULD COME. The previous part of the text need prove no stumbling-block. All it affirms is that those whom the Father gives do come to Christ. Put the two together and they affirm the absolute freeness of the Divine grace, and exhibit that grace as acting in concurrence with our voluntary powers. Salvation is neither arbitrary, mechanical, nor compulsory. We must corneal. With childlike and dependent trust.
(1) The primary element of all true faith, which is the movement of mind and heart towards God, is simple reliance on the gospel testimony that Christ is all-sufficient for the purposes of salvation.
(2) The great strength and stay of this faith is that it enables the soul to rely exclusively upon a personal Redeemer.
(3) This absolute casting of ourselves on Christ is not offered as a permission, but as a positive command.
2. With chastened humility and godly sorrow, repentance and faith stand together in the gospel commission, and are always united in the experience of the faithful. “Going and weeping.” The prodigal.
3. In the spirit of total self-renunciation. Leave self, righteousness, sin, etc., and come to ME.
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT AND CONFIDENCE we have in coming to Christ.
1. “Him that cometh” or is coming, in the very act of coming now. It is a constantly repeated act; alike necessary in regeneration and sanctification. This includes all of whatsoever country, church, condition, rank.
(1) Hear it, ye young. There is a sense in which your coming to
Christ may be too late, but there is none in which it can be too early.
(2) Ye middle aged whom harassing cares disquiet. He will allow for everything but a refusal to come.
(3) Ye aged. Perhaps the harvest is passed and ye are not saved.
2. “In no wise.”
(1) But I have stayed away too long.
(2) I am a backslider. No matter.
3. Has Jesus ever cast any one out? No.
(1) All the glorious perfections of His nature bend Him to welcome you.
(2) The mighty price paid for your redemption.
(3) The purpose and promises of God.
Conclusion: Not to come is to be rejected; not to be saved is to be lost; there is no middle state. (D. Moore, M. A.)
Invitations of the gospel--the sinner’s warrant
In the courts of law if a man be called as a witness, no sooner is his name mentioned, though he may be at the end of the court, than he begins to force his way up to the witness-box. Nobody says, “Why is this man pushing here?” or, if they should say, “Who are you?” it would be a sufficient answer to say, “My name was called.” “But you are not rich, you have no gold ring upon your finger!” “No, but that is not my right of way, but I was called.” “Sir, you are not a man of repute, or rank, or character!” “It matters not, I was called. Make way.” So make way, ye doubts and fears, make way, ye devils of the infernal lake, Christ calls the sinner. Sinner, come, for though thou hast nought to recommend thee, yet it is written, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The essential in religion
I. WHAT TRUE RELIGION IS.
(1) It cannot consist in any feeling of moral fitness. What need of coming to Christ if our own nature is morally sufficient?
(2) Nor in the observance of external ritual. The source of the corruptions of Christianity is the tendency to put form for faith.
(3) Nor in simple orthodoxy.
2. Positively. A living relation with a living Christ.
II. THE METHOD OF GAINING TRUE RELIGION.
1. Not thronging about Christ.
2. But coming to Christ by faith.
III. THE PROOF OF THE POSSESSION OF TRUE RELIGION.
1. Not in an old experience preserved in the memory.
2. Nor in a present release from the fear of death.
3. Nor in the fervent glow of feeling (these may accompany it), but in the present proneness of the soul on these words of Christ.
Conclusion: Why will you not come to Christ?
1. Is it because you are afraid of ridicule and what others may say? “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.”
2. Is it because of the inconsistencies of Christians? “Every man Shall give account of himself to God.”
3. Is it because you are not willing to give up all to Christ? “What shall it profit a man,” etc.
4. Is it because you are thinking you will do as well as you can, and that God ought to be satisfied with that? “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
5. Is it because you are postponing the matter without any definite reason? “Boast not thyself of to-morrow,” etc.
6. Is it because you fear you will not be accepted? “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” (W. Hoyt.)
To thread a needle in the dark is a thing which no one can do. The difficulty and impossibility, however, does not lie in the thing itself, but in the circumstances under which it is attempted. Only let there be light, and the thing is not only possible, but perfectly easy. This will serve to illustrate our inability to reconcile, understand, and explain certain mysteries in Divine things; for instance, to reconcile God’s fixed decrees and infallible foreknowledge with man’s free will and responsibility. Our Lord plainly declares, that “no man can come to Him except the Father draw him”; but, at the same time, He gives the widest and most unlimited invitation--“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” And He charges it as entirely their own fault, if any refuse to come, and so perish: “Ye are not willing to come to Me, that ye might have life.” (W. Hancock.)
I was cruising one day in the western Highlands. It had been a splendid day, and the glorious scenery had made our journey like an excursion to Fairy Land; but it came to an end, for darkness and night asserted their primeval sovereignty. Right ahead was a vast headland of the isle of Arran. How it frowned against the evening sky! The mighty rock seemed to overhang the sea. Just at its base was a little bay, and into this we steamed, and there we lay at anchorage all night, safe from every wind that might happen to be seeking out its prey. In that calm loch we seemed to lie in the mountain’s lap while its broad shoulders screened us from the wind. Now, the first part of my text, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me,” rises like a huge headland high into the heavens. Who shall scale its height? Upon some it seems to frown darkly. But here at the bottom lies the placid, glassy lake of infinite love and mercy: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” Steam into it, and be safe under the shadow of the great rock. You will be the better for the mountain-truth as your barque snugly reposes within the glittering waters at its foot; while you may thank God that the text is not all mountain to repel you, you will be grateful that there is enough of it to secure you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Character not needed for salvation
In the mission at George Yard, Whitechapel, a converted street-singer, who had experienced much difficulty in getting work for want of a “character,” but who afterwards became a licensed hawker and distributed tracts as he walked along, said: “Bless God, I have found out that Jesus will, take a man without a character.” (J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
The essence of the gospel
Pluck a green leaf from a bough and look at it. That leaf, science tells us, is the typical tree. The tree is built upon the pattern of that leaf. The tree is only the leaf expanded, and with its various parts altered to suit new requirements; but the idea manifest in the leaf is the idea according to which the tree is made and shaped. For instance, science tells us that the seed--the starting-point of life to the tree--is only a leaf rolled tight and changed in tissue and in contents, and so fitted for its special uses. The tree-trunk is only the leaf-stem made to take columnar form, and greatly lengthened and strengthened and enlarged. All the mingling mass of branch and bough and twig, lifting their manifold tracery against the sky, is but the reproduction and increasing of the delicate tangle of veins striking through the green substance of the leaf. In short, the tree is only the leaf cut in larger pattern. Everything in the huge tree is adjusted to the method of the little leaf. In the leaf you have the tree in germ and type. So it is, it has seemed to me, with this short text I have read to you, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” It is the typical gospel. In this text we have the whole great gospel in germ and type. The entire system of the revelation of salvation is shaped after the pattern of this text. (W. Hoyt.)
The accessibleness of Christ
Have you never read the story of the good ship that had been a long time at sea, and the captain had lost his reckoning; he drifted up the mouth of the great river Amazon, and, after he had been sailing for a long time up the river without knowing that he was in a river at all, they ran short of water. When another vessel was seen, they signalled her, and when they got near enough for speaking they cried, “Water! We are dying for water!” They were greatly surprised when the answer came back, “Dip it up! Dip it up! You are in a river. It is all around you.” They had nothing to do but to fling the bucket overboard, and have as much water as ever they liked. And here are poor souls crying out, “Lord, what must I do to be saved?” when the great work is done, and all that remains to them is to receive the free gift of eternal life. What must you do? You have done enough for one life-time, for you have undone yourself by your doing. That is not the question. It is, “Lord, what hast thou done?” And the answer is, “It is finished. I have done it all. Only come and trust Me.” Sinner, you are in a river of grace and mercy. Over with the bucket, man, and drink to the full. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
If a compassionate prince wrote over his palace gate--“Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,” would poor beggars reading it need to have these words explained before they could understand them? And if the good man kept his word, and received all who asked his help, would his porch be ever empty night or day? Yet has Jesus, the Prince of Life, emblazoned these words in large, shining letters above His gates of grace, and ever kept His promise to help all the destitute and miserable who come to Him, and thousands of sinners are found to this hour who will not understand them, and millions of sinners who care nothing about them. (H. G. Guiness.)
You say, “Do not get the invitation too large, for there is nothing more awkward than to have more guests than accommodation.” I know it. The Seamen’s Friend Society are inviting all the sailors. The Tract Society is inviting all the destitute. The Sabbath schools are inviting all the children. The American and Foreign Christian Union is inviting all the Roman Catholics. The Missionary Society is inviting all the heathen. The printing-presses of Bible Societies are going night and day, doing nothing but printing invitations to this great gospel banquet. And are you not afraid that there will be more guests than accommodation? No! All who have been invited will not half fill up the table of God’s supply. There are chairs for more. There are cups for more. God could with one feather of His wing cover up all those who have come; and when He spreads out both wings, they cover all the earth and all the heavens. (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
None cast out by Christ
In some of the hotels on the road to the lead and gold mines of California, there is constantly to be found in the register the names of persons with “D.B.” opposite to them. This means “dead broke,” and it is the custom never to refuse a meal to these poor fellows who have risked and lost their all in these precarious ventures. (H. O.Mackey.)
Whosoever comes is saved
A messenger came to a Hasten as quick as you can, there is a Sunday-school superintendent and said: “A boy in a garret that wants to see you: he is dying.” The Sunday-school superintendent hastened to the place, and in the garret, in the straw, lay a boy who had been crushed by a cart. He was dying; and as the superintendent entered, the boy said: “Oh! I am so glad you have come. Didn’t I hear you say the other Sunday that ‘ whomsoever comes to God he would be saved?’“ “Yes,” replied the superintendent, “I said about that.” “Well,” said the boy,” then I am saved. I have been a bad boy, but I have been thinking of that, and I have been saying that over to myself, and I am saved.” After he had seen his superintendent, his strength seemed to fail, and in a few moments he expired, and the last words on his lips were: “Whomsoever cometh to God, He will in no wise be cast out.” He did not get the words exactly right, but he got the spirit.
Mercy for all
Men are going to ruin; but not like the boat that was seen shooting the rapid, and had reached a point above the cataract where no power could stem the raging current. To the horror of those who watched it shooting on to destruction, a man was seen on board, and asleep. The spectators ran along the banks. They cried; they shouted; and the sleeper awoke at length to take in all his danger at one fearful glance. To spring to his feet, to throw himself on the bench, to seize the oars, to strain every nerve in superhuman efforts to turn the boat’s head to the shore, was the work of an instant. But in vain. Away went the bark to its doom, like an arrow from the bow. It hangs a moment on the edge of the gulf; and then, is gone for ever. Suppose a man to be as near hell!--if I could awaken him, I would. The dying thief was saved in the act of going over into perdition. Christ caught and saved him there. And He who is mighty to save, saving at the uttermost can save, though all our life were wasted to its last breath, if that last breath is spent in gasping out St. Peter’s cry, “Save, Lord, or I perish!” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
A Saviour for the lost
“I am lost,” said Mr.Whitefield’s brother to the Countess of Huntingdon. “I am delighted to hear it,” said the Countess.
“Oh,” cried he, “what a dreadful thing to say!” “Nay,” said she, “‘for the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’; therefore I know He is come to save you.” O sinner, it would be unreasonable to despair. The more broken thou art, the more ruined thou art, the more vile thou art in thine own esteem, so much the more room is there for the display of infinite mercy and power.
The gospel for dying hours
You may know the name of Mr. Durham, the author of a famous book on Solomon’s Song, one of the most earnest of Scotland’s ancient preachers. Some days before he died he seemed to be in some perplexity about his future well-being, and said to his friend Mr. Carstairs, “Dear brother, for all that I have written or preached, there is but one Scripture which I can now remember or dare grip unto now that I am hastening to the grave. It is this--‘Whosoever cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Pray tell me if I dare lay the weight of my salvation upon it.” Mr. Carstairs justly replied, “Brother, you may depend upon it, though you had a thousand salvations at hazard.” You see it was a plain, sinner’s text that He rested on. Just as Dr. Guthrie wanted them to sing a bairn’s hymn, so do dying saints need the plain elementary doctrines of the gospel to rest upon. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Jesus a great Saviour
Remember He never did cast any one out. Never yet! Never one! I have declared this everywhere, and I have said, “If Jesus Christ casts any one of you out when you come to Him, pray let me know; for I do not want to go up and down the country telling lies.” Again I give the challenge. If my Lord does east out one poor soul that comes to Him, let me know it, and I will give up preaching. I should not have the face to come forward and preach Christ after that; for He Himself has said it, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”; and He would be a false Christ if He acted contrary to His word. He cannot cast you out; why should He? “Oh, but then I am so bad.” So much the less likely is He to refuse you, for there is the more room for His grace. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ never fails
When a man brings out a patent medicine, he publishes verifications of the efficacy of his physic. He gets a number of cases, and he advertises them. I suppose they are genuine. I should not like to be hanged if they were not. I suppose, therefore, they are all accurate and authentic. But there is one thing which you never knew a medicine advertiser do: he never advertises the failures of the medicine. The number of persons that have been induced to buy the remedy, and have derived no good from it: if these were all advertised, it might occupy more room in the newspaper than those who write of a cure. My Lord Jesus Christ is a Physician who never had a failure yet--never once. Never did a soul wash in Christ’s blood without being made whiter than snow. Never did a man, besotted with the worst of vice, trust in Jesus without receiving power to conquer his evil habits. Not even in the lowest pit of hell is there one that dares to say, “I trusted Christ, and I am lost. I sought His face with all my heart, and He cast me away.” There is not a man living that could say that, unless he dared to lie; for not one has with heart and soul sought the Saviour, and trusted in Him, and then had a negative from Him. He must save you if you trust Him. As surely as He lives He must save you, for He has put it, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” I will repeat it, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” You have never come if He has not received you; for He must save those who trust in Him. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The forgiving mercy of God
It is reported of Julius Caesar, that he never entertained hatred against any so deeply but he was willing to lay down the same upon the tender of submission. As when C. Memnius put in for the consulship, he befriended him before others of the competition, notwithstanding that Memnius had made bitter invectives against him. Thus the great God of Heaven, to whom all the Caesars and kings of the earth are tributaries and homagers, doth never hate so irreconcilably but that true humiliation will work a reconciliation--let but the sinner appear before Him in a submissive posture, and His anger will be soon appeased. (J. Spencer.)
How to come to Christ
At a gathering in the West End of London the Rev. Caesar Malan found himself seated by a young lady. In the course of conversation he asked her if she were a Christian. She turned upon him, and somewhat sharply replied, “That’s a subject I don’t care to have discussed here this evening.” “Well,” answered Mr. Malan, with inimitable sweetness of manner, “I will not persist in speaking of it, but I shall pray that you may give your heart to Christ, and become a useful worker for Him.” A fortnight afterwards they met again, and this time the young lady approached the minister with marked courtesy, and said, “The question you asked me the other evening has abided with me ever since, and caused me very great trouble. I have been trying in vain in all directions to find the Saviour, and I come now to ask you to help me to find Him. I am sorry for the way in which I previously spoke to you, and now come for help.” Mr. Malan answered her, “Come to Him just as you are.” “But will He receive me just as I am, and now? Oh, yes,” said Mr. Malan, “gladly will He do so.” They then knelt together and prayed, and she soon experienced the holy joy of a full forgiveness through the blood of Christ. The young lady’s name was Charlotte Elliot, and to her the whole Church is indebted for the pathetic hymn commencing, “Just as I am, without one plea. (Ira D. Sankey.)
None cast out
I went the other day to St. Cross Hospital near Winchester. There they give away a piece of bread to everybody who knocks at the door. I knocked as bold as brass. Why should I not? I did not humble myself particularly and make anything special of it. It was for all, and I came and received as one of the people who were willing to knock. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The comfort of the gospel in a dying hour
When the great Bishop Butler was lying on his death-bed, he was observed to be unusually pensive and dejected, and on being asked the cause, ha replied, “Though I have endeavoured to avoid sin and please God to the utmost of my power, yet from the consciousness of perpetual infirmities, I am still afraid to die.” A friend who stood by read him this text. “Ah,” said the dying man, I have read that a thousand times, but I never felt its full force till this moment, and now I die happy. (Dean Stanley.)
For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me
The love of the Father
The amazing love of the Father appears
IN HIS SPARING THIS GUILTY WORLD, though He spared not the angels that sinned. His mercy is seen in man’s long day of grace, and in thy day of grace, sinner. Accept it ere the dawn of the day of judgment.
II. IN CHOOSING AND DRAWING GUILTY MEN TO BE SAVED. To give men liberty to be saved is love indeed; to provide a ransom is love higher still; but its loftiest height is seen in the drawing operations of Father, Son, and Spirit. But for this men would not come at all.
III. IN HIS GIVING CHRIST TO BE THE WAY OF SALVATION (chap. 3:16; Romans 8:32). Had He shot down a beam of heavenly light, or caused us to hear a heavenly note, this would have left us inexcusable; but He gave the best of His treasures. He resolved that all salvation should be found in the Son, and avoided leaving any details to us.
IV. IN HIS REVEALING HIMSELF TO US THROUGH CHRIST (chap. 14:9, 10). Not through an interpreter, but through One who shared His nature and was the perfect embodiment of His will.
V. IN APPOINTING THE ETERNAL REWARD FOR REDEEMED SINNERS THROUGH CHRIST (John 6:39-40). (A. A. Bonar)
The purpose of Christ’s coming
I. CHRIST CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN.
1. How does it appear that He was originally in heaven? (John 6:33; John 6:51; John 6:62).
(1) He had a real existence before He was born (chap. 1:15; 8:58).
(2) He was before the world (Hebrews 1:8); for He made the world Hebrews 1:10; Hebrews 1:10; Colossians 1:14-16; John 1:1-2).
(3) The existence He had before was purely Divine (Philippians 2:6-7; Acts 20:28).
(4) The Divine nature was communicated to Him from the Father (chap. 5:26, 7:29, 16:15; Hebrews 1:3).
(5) Hence He is said to be in heaven by reason of His Divine essence, which He always had from and with the Father (John 6:62).
2. What are we to understand by His coming down from heaven? His assuming our human nature, and in it conversing upon earth (Jn 1 Timothy 3:16).
II. As Christ came from heaven, so HE CAME NOT TO DO HIS OWN WILL, BUT HIS THAT SENT HIM.
1. Christ’s will as He is God is no way different from the Father’s.
2. As man His will was distinct from the Father’s, but still subordinate to it Luke 22:42); and therefore though He had a will of His own as man, yet He came not to fulfil that.
3. But our Saviour speaks not here of Himself, either as God or man, but as God-man, Mediator, one sent from the Father to do His will.
From hence it follows
1. That God’s will only is the fountain of man’s happiness and salvation. For
(1) God made man upright and happy (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
(2) Man made himself sinful and miserable (Hosea 13:9).
(3) But he cannot make himself happy again (Jeremiah 10:23).
(4) And as man cannot, so none but God can. None else could find out a way, and none else effect it when found.
(5) God hath no other motive but His own will and pleasure to save Ephesians 1:5).
(a) Man himself could be no motive (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).
(b) Neither could the hope of glory be so, God receiving nothing thereby (Job 22:2-3; Psalms 16:2).
2. That Christ came to accomplish the will of God.
(1) By acquainting us with what is necessary to be known or done in order to be saved (John 14:2).
(2) By giving us, in His own person, a perfect example. (Matthew 11:30).
(3) By enabling us sincerely to perform whatsoever is enjoined us (chap. 15:5; Philippians 4:13).
(4) By dying for us (Matthew 20:28; 1Ti 2:16).
(5) By continuing to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25; John 1:1-2).
1. Give God the glory of your salvation.
2. Bless Him for all the means of it.
(1) For sending His Son to die for us.
(2) For sending His Spirit to live within us.
(3) For vouchsafing to us the means of grace.
3. Trust Him only for the accomplishment of your salvation.
(1) By the pardon of your sins.
(2) The strengthening of your graces (Philippians 2:13).
(3) Power to persevere (Matthew 10:22).
4. Hence learn also of your Saviour
(1) To submit your wills to God’s (1 Samuel 3:18).
(2) To do the will of Him who sent you hither.
And it is His will
(1) That you repent (Acts 17:30).
(2) That you turn from your sins (Ezekiel 18:30; Ezekiel 33:11).
(3) That you love the Lord with all your hearts (Matthew 22:37).
(4) That you earnestly endeavour to work out your salvationPhilippians 2:12; Philippians 2:12). (Bp. Beveridge.)
In a daring inroad beyond the Tigris, Abu Taher advanced to the gates of the capital with no more than five hundred horse. By the special order of Moctador the bridges had been broken down, and the person or head of the rebel was expected every hour by the Commander of the Faithful. His lieutenant, from a motive of fear or pity, apprised Abu Taher of his danger, and recommended a speedy escape. “Your master,” said the intrepid Carmathian to the messenger, “is at the head of thirty thousand soldiers; three such men as these are wanting in his host.” At the same instant, turning to three of his companions, he commanded the first to plunge a dagger into his own breast, the second to leap into the Tigris, and the third to cast himself headlong down a precipice. They obeyed without a murmur. “Relate what you have seen,” continued the Imam. “Before the evening your general shall be chained among my dogs.” Before evening the camp was surprised and the menace executed. (Gibbon.)
To do the wilt of God is the true end of life
The end of life is not to do good, although many of us think so. It is not to win souls, although I once thought so. The end of life is to do the will of God whatever it may be. (Professor Drummond.)
This is the Father’s will … that of all which He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
The Father’s will
I. THE DIVINE SIDE OF THE WORK OF SALVATION.
1. How sovereign its character. The Father’s will is independent, omnipotent, unchangeable, perfect, full of love.
2. The obedient servant of that will (John 6:38). Christ came not to do His own will, His own private purposes, but “the commandment of the Father” (Psalms 40:1-17.). To this end He took on Him the form of a servant (Isaiah 42:1-25.).
(1) This was needful as an example for us;
(2) and that we may know that Christ is no amateur Saviour. He has come willingly enough, but the reason was the Father’s will. So that when Christ forgives or receives it is the Father’s will.
3. God’s will was that His Son should have disciples, a flock, members, a bride, brethren.
4. These persons Jesus undertook to keep, and to raise them up at the last day.
II. THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE WORK OF SALVATION (John 6:40).
1. This is still based on the Divine will.
2. The same obedient servant is engaged in it.
3. The terms are “seeing and believing on the Son.” We cannot see Christ with our natural organs, but we can read and hear about Him. The eyes of our understanding discern Him; the sense of faith recognizes Him.
4. These terms are open to all. “Every one,” the man of great or of little faith, rich or poor, etc. None are excluded but those who exclude themselves.
5. Those who believe in Jesus are in a present state of safety. They have everlasting life.
1. Never fear that there is anything in the secret purposes of God which can contradict His open promises. Never dream if you are a believer that any dark decree can shut you out from the benefits of grace.
2. Fear not that your believing will end in failure. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Doing God’s will in our daily work
(text, and Mark 6:3):--Scripture speaks of Christ as the Servant of the Lord. But not till most of His brief history had passed did He begin to preach the gospel. For thirty years He was engaged in the everyday duties of life.
I. OUR DAILY WORK MAY BE TRUE SERVICE FOR GOD. Housework, the innumerable details of a mother’s lot, manual labour, a sufferer’s duties, commercial life, brain-toil--for these we may be as truly sent of God as an apostle or a prophet.
1. God’s providential appointment shows where He wants our work. That we have our particular gifts, that our training fits us for a special post, that circumstances uncontrolled by us have brought us to a certain position, that our position involves definite duties--what are these but God pointing to what He requires us to do.
2. It were unlikely that most of our life should be necessarily spent on what has no vital bearing on eternity. No small feature of the blessedness of heaven is that there they serve Him. Consecration to Christ involves that He be glorified by our entire being. He claims us wholly. It is said that there is a point in the upper air where the discordant sounds of earth blend in harmony, the noise of the streets cannot be distinguished from the murmur of the sea, nor the shout of the battle from the chime of bells, nor the mirthful song from the sufferer’s moan--there they are one; so the varied parts of our life may blend in a harmonious voice of praise ceaselessly rising to our exalted Lord, as by Himself the will of God was done as truly at the carpenter’s bench aa in the most solemn agony of the garden and the cross.
II. SOME OF THE DIRECTIONS IN WHICH THIS DIVINE SERVICE MAY BE RENDERED.
1. Our daily toil tends to the well-being of others. The domestic servant contributes to the comfort of the home, the mechanic serves many a real human need, the teacher by voice or pen spreads knowledge, the physician and the nurse heal the body, the artist trains some of the higher faculties of the mind, the merchant produces or makes earth’s productions available; there is no right calling which does not in some way benefit mankind.
2. And daily toil presents the best opportunity for manifesting the religion of Christ.
3. Daily toil is one of the great schools for training spiritual life.
III. THE POSSIBILITY OF THIS SERVICE SHOWS THE SACREDNESS OF OUR WORKDAY LIFE.
1. That all work may be Divine may well reconcile us to tasks that seem lowly.
2. This suggests a searching test of our belonging to Christ. For what is it to be Christ’s, but to share His life. If we are only Christians on Sundays we are not Christ’s.
3. This shows God’s way to larger service presently. Was it not because He did the will of Him that sent Him in that humble village home, that He learnt to say in trial more awful than man can know, “Father, not as I will, but as Thou wilt”? (C. New.)
The believer’s safety
I. CHRIST WILL LOSE NONE THAT ARE GIVEN TO HIM.
1. How doth God give us to Christ?
(1) By making us sensible of our sin and misery (Jeremiah 8:6;John 16:7-8).
(2) By making us humble (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 5:3; Matthew 11:28).
(3) By inclining us to piety by His preventing grace (James 4:6).
(4) By convincing us that Christ was sent to be our Saviour.
2. How shall those not be lost? They shall have
(1) Their sins pardoned (1 John 2:1-2).
(2) Their hearts renewed (Ezekiel 36:25; Titus 3:5).
(3) God reconciled (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18).
(4) Their graces confirmed (Luke 22:32).
(5) And so their souls eternally saved.
(6) This Christ is able (Hebrews 7:25) and willing (Luke 13:34) to do.
II. CHRIST’S CARE OVER HIS PEOPLE REACHES TO THE DAY OF THEIR RESURRECTION.
1. God’s justice will raise the wicked
(1) To judge (Ecclesiastes 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
(2) To condemn.
(3) To punish (Matthew 25:46).
2. Christ will raise the saints to bless them
(1) With freedom from all evil (Revelation 21:4).
(2) With the confluence of all good (1 Corinthians 2:9).
1. Carefully attend those means which God gives to bring your souls to Christ.
2. Commit your souls only to Christ’s care (1 Peter 4:19).
3. Live as becomes Christians. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Christ our keeper
The next thing we learn here is that all these persons Jesus Christ undertook to keep. He should “lose nothing.” This is a very remarkable expression. The Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, has taken all those who were given of the Father to Him into His custody. He is the surety; He is responsible for them, and He keeps them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The last day.
I. EACH MAN HAS HIS LAST DAY. To each a sun rises of which he never sees the setting, or a sun sets of which he never sees the rising.
II. FAMILIES HAVE THEIR LAST DAY. Households part never to meet again. Ancient lines dating back beyond the Conquest, at last come to an end. The ancestral mansion is vacant, the title is extinct, the estates revert to the state. In almost every community “there is one alone, he hath neither child nor brother,” and his last day will be the last day of his name and race.
III. STATES ALSO HAVE THEIR LAST DAY. Where are the thrones of Carthage and Tyre, of Assyria and Egypt, of Macedon and Rome? One sun arose on them still breathing, the next found them only matters of history. In the interval they had passed from something to nothing. And other states occupied their places; not a few of whom, in their turn, have expired and been laid away in the cemeteries of history.
IV. THE WORLD WILL HAVE ITS LAST DAY. We have the best authority for saying that the time will come when the human race will disappear in a body from the earth, and the planet itself and all things therein be burned up. Exactly when this greatest of last days will come we are not informed. The month, the year, the century, the millennium even, in which it will occur, is not foretold. So little hint is given of its exact locality in history, that its actual advent will take the world by surprise. Up rolls the last sun from the east as brightly and steadily as usual. Men get them to their business, their pleasures, without a thought of change. (E. F. Burr.)
The resurrection of believers
When a farmer holds in his hand the first ripe sheaf of corn he has in possession an unassailable proof that he will have a harvest. More decisive and satisfactory evidence to that effect could not be desired by any reasonable man. Long before this time the precious seed had been east into the dark bosom of the earth, when no tokens were visible that nature possessed any power of life. But in due season the sun began to warm the sleeping world, the gentle rain from heaven fell upon the place beneath, and the winds of the south whispered of a coming revival. Soon there was first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the car, soon the first ripe sheaf telling of a harvest at hand. Christ is the first-fruits of them that slept, the infallible proof that we shall have a resurrection from the gloomy winter of death. (Archibald Craig.)
The resurrection of believers a certainty
Trees, in the winter time, appear to the view of all men as if they were withered and quite dead, yet when the springtime comes, they become alive again, and, as before, do bring forth their buds, blossoms, leaves, and fruit, The reason is because the body, grain, and arms of the tree are all joined and fastened to the root where the sap lies all the winter time, and from thence, by reason of so near conjunction, it is derived in the springtime to all parts of the tree. Even so the bodies of men have their winter also, and that is in death, in which time they are turned into dust, and so remain for a time. Yet in the springtime, that is, in the last day, at the resurrection of all flesh, by means of the mystical union with Christ, His Divine and quickening virtue shall stream from thence to all the bodies of His members, and cause them to Live again, and that to life eternal. (Strode.)
The Jews then murmured at Him because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven
THAT CHRIST’S LOWLY CONDITION IS A STUMBLING-BLOCK TO THE NATURAL MAN.
1. Had He come as a conqueror with royal favours for His followers they would have received Him willingly; but their pride refused to believe that the lowly prophet was from God.
2. There is nothing surprising in this. It is human nature showing itself in its true colours (1 Corinthians 1:23). Thousands reject the gospel because of its humbling doctrines. Christ’s teaching and example they admire, but His blood they cannot away with.
II. MAN’S NATURAL INABILITY TO REPENT AND BELIEVE, until the Father draws him. We are spiritually dead and without the power to give ourselves life. The will of man is the part of him that is in fault. It’ would not be true to say that a man has wish to come, but no power; it is that a man has no power because he has no desire.
III. THE SALVATION OF A BELIEVER IS A PRESENT THING. It is not said that he shall have life at the judgment day, but that he has it now. (Bishop Ryle.)
Four enigmas solved
I. The enigma of CHRIST’S HEAVENLY ORIGIN (John 6:41-43).
1. The mystery propounded. The difficulty was not that the Messiah’s origin should be mysterious. The popular opinion, based on Daniel 7:13, was that when Christ came no one should know whence He was (vii. 27). But the Jews supposed that they knew exactly whence Jesus was, and that He should have come down from heaven seemed absurd.
2. The mystery resolved. What to the learned Scripturists of His day was a puzzle He left a puzzle. To have refuted their objections by a declaration of what took place at Bethlehem would only have increased their incredulity. The true method of faith is not to believe that Christ is Divine because the Incarnation story is authentic: but that Christ having been powerfully declared to be the Son of God with power by His resurrection (Romans 1:4), the account given of His conception must be correct.
II. The enigma of MAN’S RESPONSIBLITY (verses 43-45).
1. The difficulty set forth. Christ blamed His hearers for their unbelief (verse 36), and yet affirmed (verse 44). This is what the intellect of centuries has wrestled with.
2. The difficulty set aside.
(1) Not by denying the fact of man’s responsibility (John 5:40; John 6:36). This the Scripture often declares (Romans 6:23; Romans 6:23; Eph 1 Peter 3:12) and conscience confirms.
(2) Not by explaining away the alleged necessity of Divine grace (verses 37, 44, 45). But
(3) By showing that the Father’s drawing interferes pot with human freedom. In naming it “drawing” and a “teaching” Christ makes it a moral suasion.
III. Enigma of SAVING FAITH (verses 46, 47).
1. The perplexity stated. If no one could come to Him without first hearing and learning of the Father, then no one could come (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16). This, though not expressed, was clearly the hearer’s thoughts.
2. The perplexity recognized. He admitted that no one had ever seen the Father.
3. The perplexity removed. He, the Son, had seen the Father (verses 19; 1:18; 16:28). Hence to hear and learn of the Father was to hear and learn of Him whom He had sent. To learn of the Father one must be a disciple of Christ.
IV. The enigma of ETERNAL LIFE (verses 47-51).
1. The riddle proposed. The manna had only supported physical life for a few years, and those who had partaken of it were dead. The Jews were at a loss to know how Christ could do more for them than Moses.
2. The riddle read.
(1) The bread of life was a living, spiritual Person (verse 48).
(2) It was in itself living and life-giving.
(3) When eaten by the soul it communicates to the soul the life itself contained.
(4) The soul thus vivified could not die. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Reason and faith
There is nothing so truly reasonable as to exclude reason from the province of faith; and nothing so truly irrational as to lose sight of reason in things which are not necessarily of faith. The two excesses are equally dangerous--to shut out reason, or to make it all in all. Faith tells us what the senses cannot tell; but it never contradicts them; it is above, and not against them. (Pascal.)
Murmuring a great sin
Consider that murmuring is a mercy-embittering sin, a mercy-souring sin. As the sweetest things put into a sour vessel sours them, or put into a bitter vessel embitters them, so murmuring puts gall and wormwood into every cup of mercy that God gives into our hands. The murmurer writes “Marah,” that is, bitterness, upon all his mercies, and he reads and tastes bitterness in them all. As “to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet,” so to the murmuring soul every sweet thing is bitter. (T. Brook.)
Murmuring a hydra-headed sin
As the River Nile bringeth forth many crocodiles, and the scorpion many serpents, at one birth, so murmuring is a sin that breeds and brings forth many sins at once. It is like the monster hydra--cut off one head and many will rise up in its room. It is the mother of harlots, the mother of all abominations, a sin that breeds many other sins, viz., disobedience, contempt, ingratitude, impatience, distrust, rebellion, cursing, carnality; yea, it charges God with folly, yea, with blasphemy. The language of a murmuring soul is this, “Surely God might have done this sooner, and that wiser, and the other thing better.” (T. Brooks.)
No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him
Coming to Christ
I. THE RELIGIOUS ACTION OF WHICH CHRIST SPEAKS. Coming to Him--a frequent Scriptural phrase expressive of the first step in religion.
1. Its nature. An act of the soul. There was no impediment to a literal approach. He was always accessible. Coming is used for faith in Christ as prophet, priest, and king, and living on His fulness for all spiritual purposes.
2. Its importance.
(1) Implied in the invitation of Scripture, “Come unto Me.”
(2) In the promises (John 6:37).
(3) In the directions, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
(4) In the decisions, “If ye believe not ye shall die.”
II. THE INABILITY OF MAN TO PERFORM IT OF HIMSELF. Whence does this arise?
1. Not from any Divine decree, for it would be neither just nor reasonable to command men to believe and to decree that they should not. But
2. From the depravity of the heart.
3. And in some cases carnal policy operates to fetter the mind to its moral powers. Success in life is the one thing needful.
4. From religious mistakes. Some imagine that they have come in sacramental actions, or by the repetition of certain words, or by good works.
III. THE DIVINE AGENCY BY WHICH IT IS ACCOMPLISHED.
1. The Father. He draws by moral and persuasive means. He draws man as guilty that He may be pardoned; as ignorant, that he may be instructed, etc.
2. The process is generally conviction of sin, desire for salvation, direction to the cross, discovery of a Saviour, trust, safety, rest.
IV. THE DELIVERANCE PROMISED.
1. The solemn event which the language implies. We must die.
2. The resurrection promised. The event is general, but the benefit is particular.
3. The agency by which it is effected. “I,” which shows the dignity and power of Christ.
4. The period of its performance--“the last day.” The day for which all others were made, and to which they are introductory.
1. In coming to Christ nothing can prevent your salvation (John 10:27-29).
2. In turning from Him-nothing can save you from perdition. (J. E. Good.)
The Christian now drawn to Christ, and hereafter to be raised by Him
I. OUR COMING TO CHRIST.
1. This is not to be understood corporeally. It was not so taken by Himself. “Ye will not come,” and yet many literally come from captiousness, curiosity, for loaves and fishes, and under temporary emotion, and after awhile “went back.”
2. But the expression is taken from the body, and there is hardly a part of it that has not been used to hold forth the operations of faith. Sometimes the reference is
(1) To the eye; then believing is seeing Christ.
(2) To the ear; then believing is hearing Him.
(3) To the taste; then believing is eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
(4) To the head; then believing is knowing Him.
(5) To the feet; then believing is coming to Him.
3. This coming to Christ implies
(1) Absence. Else why come?
(2) Accessibleness. How can we come unless we can approach
Him? “Lo, I am with you alway.”
(3) Application. We come to Him
(a) As the way that we may walk with Him;
(b) As to a refuge that we may enter Him;
(c) As to a fountain that we may be cleansed;
(d) As a foundation on which we may build;
(e) As to a physician for cure;
(f) As our prophet, priest, and king, to be taught, saved, and ruled over by Him.
4. Faith is trust, confidence.
II. MAN’S INABILITY WITHOUT DIVINE AGENCY.
1. This is a very unwelcome doctrine, even to those who admit human depravity; but it is wrapped up in that depravity.
2. This is a Scriptural doctrine--“In our flesh dwelleth no good thing.”
3. This is a doctrine based upon the nature of things. As we cannot perform natural actions without the concurrence of nature, how can we perform spiritual actions without the concurrence of the Spirit?
4. This is a doctrine of importance.
(1) It serves to show those who are the subjects of this work what is their duty to bless and praise God for His sovereign grace.
(2) It serves to show sinners their duty to pray to Him who wills all men to be saved.
III. THE INFLUENCE BY WHICH THE SOUL IS BROUGHT TO THE SAVIOUR. In a general way the Father draws thus.
1. There is a confliction of sin
2. This produces distress and fear:
3. Hence renunciation and despair.
4. Yet along with this is hope.
5. Concurrently new desires after Jesus.
6. Reception of Jesus as a Saviour, and reliance on His salvation.
IV. THE FINAL BLESSEDNESS RESULTING FROM THIS.
1. The speciality of this reference. He will raise all, but the privilege is limited to some.
2. The memory of this blessedness. It is the completion of the blessedness of a persevering Christian life. Without the body the Christian man would be incomplete. Man will be raised infinitely improved.
3. The Author of it. Christ is not only the model of this resurrection, but its accomplisher.
4. Its certainty. If it were not so, He would have told them. “Because I live ye shall live also.” (W. Jay.)
I. MAN’S INABILITY. Wherein does this consist?
1. Not in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ moving the body should be any assistance, or includes the utterance of a prayer, man can come.
2. Nor in any mental lack. Man can believe in the Bible and in Christ as in anything else. But
3. In his nature, which is so debased by the Fall that it is impossible for him to come without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. To enter into the subject of this inability note
(1) It lies in the obstinacy of the human will, which is set on mischief and disinclined to that which is good.
(2) The understanding is darkened so that it cannot perceive the things of God until opened by the Holy Spirit.
(3) The affections are depraved and must be renewed. We love that we ought to hate, and hate that we ought to love.
(4) Conscience has been impaired by the Fall, and must be repaired.
4. So that while largely this is a question of the will, it is not exclusively so, for sometimes even in the regenerate there is will without power, much more in those who are dead in trespasses and sins.
5. Were it otherwise, how are we to account for the uniform testimony of the Scriptures that our salvation is wholly due to God?
6. This doctrine is condemned for its hurtful tendency. But what doctrine is there that will not hurt a man if he chooses to make hurt of it? So with this otherwise it only hurts Satan’s kingdom.
7. You are not warranted in saying, “If I cannot save myself and cannot come to Christ, I must sit still and do nothing.” There are many things you can do.
(1) To be found continually in the house of God is in your power.
(2) To study the Word of God.
(3) To renounce outward sin.
(4) To make your life honest, sober, righteous.
8. But your want of power is no excuse, seeing you have no desire to come, and are living in wilful rebellion. Suppose a liar has been a liar so long that he says he has no power to speak the truth, is that an excuse? Ii a drunkard has become so foully a drunkard that he cannot pass a public-house, do you therefore excuse him? No; because his inability to reform lies in his nature, which he has no desire to conquer.
II. THE FATHER’S DRAWINGS.
1. God draws men by the preaching of the gospel, but not by this alone, for the men of Capernaum had the gospel in its fulness, and attested by miracles. There is such a thing as being drawn by a minister without being drawn by God.
2. Clearly it is a Divine drawing, a sending out of the Third Person in the Holy Trinity.
3. In this there is no compulsion. Christ saves no one against his will.
4. How then does the Holy Spirit draw him? By making him willing. He goes to the secret fountain of the heart and he knows how, by some mysterious operation, to turn the will in an opposite direction. But he is saved with full consent, for he is made willing in the day of God’s power. “Draw me and I will run after Thee.”
5. How this is done is a mystery, but the apparent way is:
(1) He finds a man with a good opinion of himself--an effectual barrier to coming to Christ--and lays bare,the man’s heart, full of sin, so that he stands aghast.
(2) The man says I will try and reform--another barrier--but the Holy Spirit shows him he cannot do this.
(3) The heart sinks, and the man is ready to despair--then the Spirit shows him the Cross and enables him to believe.
1. One says, “If all this be true, what is to become of my religion? I must give it up and begin again.” That will be better than building on the sand of your ability, and as soon as you say, “I cannot come to Christ; Lord draw me,” grace is begun in your heart, and God will not leave you till the work is finished.
2. Careless sinner, thy salvation hangs in God’s hand, and He is the Gad thou art grieving every day. Does not this make them tremble. If so the Spirit has begun to draw.
3. Some of you are conscious that you are coming to Christ. It is the Father’s doing--“With lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
4. Rejoice in this love those of you who have come. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Things to be remembered
I. We must never suppose that the doctrine of this verse TAKES AWAY MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY to God for his soul. On the contrary, the Bible always distinctly declares that if any man is lost, it is his own fault Mark 8:36). If we cannot reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility now, we need not doubt that it will be all plain at the last day.
II. Nor does Christ’s teaching here LIMIT THE OFFERS OF SALVATION TO SINNERS. On the contrary, we must hold firmly that pardon and peace are to be offered freely through Christ to all without exception. We never know who they are that God will draw, and have nothing to do with it. Our duty is to invite all, and leave it to God to choose the vessels of mercy.
III. We must not suppose THAT WE, OR ANYBODY ELSE, ARE DRAWN, UNLESS WE COME TO CHRIST BY FAITH. This is the grand mark and evidence of any one being the subject of the Father’s drawing work. If “drawn” he comes to Christ, believes, and lives. Where there is no faith and love, there may be talk, self-conceit, and high profession. But there is no “drawing” of the Father.
IV. We must always remember THAT GOD ORDINARILY WORKS BY MEANS, and specially by such means as He Himself has appointed. No doubt He acts as a sovereign. But we must carefully maintain the great principle that God ordinarily draws through the instrumentality of His Word. The man that neglects the public preaching and private reading of God’s Word, has no right to expect that God will draw him. The thing is possible, but highly improbable.
V. WE MUST NEVER ALLOW OURSELVES OR OTHERS TO WASTE TIME IN TRYING TO FIND out, as a first question, WHETHER WE ARE DRAWN OF GOD the Father, elect, chosen, and the like. The first and main question is, whether we have come to Christ by faith. If we have, let us take comfort and be thankful. (Bp. Ryle.)
The drawing of the Father
Man is like a waggon sunk in the mire under a heavy load, and Divine love is the strong team which draws it up and draws it forward. (R. Besser, D. D.)
Just as the magnet does not attract everything, but only iron, so there must be in man a disposedness of heart, before God’s drawing can take hold of him. (Theophylact.)
A man cannot come to Christ unassisted by the Holy Spirit
I have seen a captive eagle, caged far from its distant home, as he sat mournful-like on his perch, turn his eye sometimes heavenwards; there he would sit in silence, like one wrapt in thought, gazing through the bars of his cage up into the blue sky; and after a while, as if noble but sleeping instincts had suddenly awoke, he would start and spread out his broad sails, and leap upward, revealing an iron chain that, usually covered by his plumage, drew him back again to his place. But though this bird of heaven knew the way to soar aloft, and sometimes, under the influence of old instincts, decayed, but not altogether dead, felt the thirst of freedom, freedom was not for him, till a power greater than his own proclaimed liberty to the captive, and shattered the shackles that bound him to his perch. Nor is there freedom for us till the Holy Spirit sets us free, and by the lightning force of truth, breaks the chains that bind us to sin. (Dr. Guthrie.)
Why men cannot come to Christ
You see a mother with her babe in her arm. You put a knife into her hand and tell her to stab that babe to the heart. She replies, very truthfully, “I cannot.” Now, so far as her bodily power is concerned she can if she pleases, there is the knife, and there is the child. But she is quite correct when she says she cannot do it. Her nature as a mother forbids her doing that from which her soul revolts. It is even so with a sinner. Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although so far as physical and mental forces are concerned men could come if they would, it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
And they shall be all taught of God
The teachings of God opened
I. WHAT IS IMPORTED BY OUR BEING TAUGHT OF GOD.
1. Negatively. The text is not to be understood
(1) of any extraordinary, visional appearances, or miraculous and immediate voice of God (Numbers 12:8; Hebrews 1:1-2),
(2) nor as opposite to or exclusive of the teachings of men. Saul was taught of God (Galatians 1:12). Yet the ministry of Ananias was honoured (Acts 9:4; Acts 9:17).
2. Positively: the teachings of God (2 Corinthians 4:6 : John 14:26) are
(1) The sanctifying impressions of the Holy Spirit by virtue of which the soul receives marvellous light and insight into spiritual things, and this not only at conversion but continuously (1 John 2:27; John 7:17; Jeremiah 31:33). Sanctification gives the soul experience of the truths of Scripture.
(2) The gracious assistances of the Spirit as our need requires Matthew 10:19; John 14:26).
II. WHAT THOSE SPECIAL TRUTHS ARE WHICH BELIEVERS LEARN.
1. That there is abundantly more evil in their natures than they ever discerned before (John 16:8-9). There is threefold knowledge of sin.
(1) Traditional in the rude multitude;
(2) discursive in the more rational;
(3) intuitive in the divinely enlightened.
2. The wrath and misery which hang over the world in consequence of sin. Scripture threatenings were before slighted (Isaiah 28:15; Psalms 50:21); now they see that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:1-23.).
3. That deliverance from sin is the greatest business man has to do in this Acts 16:30).
4. That though it be obligatory to strive after salvation, yet one’s own strength is insufficient to attain it.
5. That though the case be sad it is not remediless. There is a door of hope and way of escape.
6. That there is a fulness of saving power in Christ whereby any soul that duly receives Him may be delivered from all its guilt and misery Hebrews 7:25; Colossians 1:19; Matthew 28:18).
7. That we can never reap any benefit from the blood of Christ without union with Christ (1 John 5:12; Ephesians 4:16).
8. That whatever is necessary in order to this union is to be obtained in the way of prayer (Ezekiel 36:37).
9. To abandon their former ways and companions (Isa 55:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Psalms 119:115), and to see the beauty and excellency of the ways and people of God (Psalms 16:3; Zechariah 8:23).
10. That whatever difficulties there maybe in religion they must not be discouraged or return to sin (Luke 9:62; 1 Corinthians 9:24).
III. WHAT ARE THE PROPERTIES OF DIVINE TEACHING. God teaches
1. Powerfully (2 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 14:25).
2. Sweetly (Song of Solomon 1:3; Song of Solomon 5:16),
3. Clearly (2 Corinthians 3:16; Luke 24:45).
4. Infallibly (John 14:13).
5. Abidingly (Psalms 119:98; Jeremiah 31:33).
6. Savingly (2 Timothy 3:15; John 17:3).
7. Penetratively (Matthew 11:25; Isaiah 32:4).
8. Transformingly (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 6:17).
IV. WHAT INFLUENCE DIVINE TEACHINGS HAVE UPON SOULS IN BRINGING THEM TO CHRIST.
1. They have an influence upon the means (2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Corinthians 3:7).
2. Upon the mind to remove what hindered it from Christ.
3. They powerfully allure the sinner to Christ (Hosea 2:14).
V. WHY IS IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY MAN TO COME TO CHRIST WITHOUT THE FATHER’S TEACHINGS. Because
1. Of the power of sin
(1) Sin is co-natural with the soul (Psalms 51:4; Isaiah 48:8).
(2) The power of sin hath been strengthened by long continued custom which gives it the force of a second nature (Jer 15:23).
(3) Sin is the delight of the sinner (Proverbs 10:23).
2. Of the indisposition of man (1 Corinthians 2:14). Before he can come to Christ
(1) His blind understanding must be enlightened, which is the work of God (2 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 3:17; Ephesians 5:8).
(2) His hard heart must be broken and melted (Acts 5:31; Ezekiel 36:26).
(3) His stiff and obstinate will must be conquered (Philippians 2:13).
3. Of the nature of faith, everything in which is supernatural.
(1) The habit (Ephesians 2:8).
(2) The light (Hebrews 11:1; Hebrews 11:27).
(3) The adventures (Romans 4:18).
(4) The self-denial (Matthew 5:29).
(5) The victories (Hebrews 11:33-34; Acts 15:9; 1 John 5:4). (John Flavel.)
The Christian taught of God
I. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE TEACHING. The people of God; all of them, from the least to the greatest; and that not only instrumentally but directly.
II. ITS SUBJECTS. Spiritual things generally, called
1. “Things of God,” pertaining to Him and our relationship to Him. His nature and ours; His moral character and ours; His sovereignty and our dependence and duty; His salvation and our need of it.
2. “Things of Christ,” relating to His person, offices and work.
3. “Things of the Spirit,” our need of Him; the reality of His influence; His indwelling.
III. ITS NECESSITY.
1. They must be taught. Why so?
(1) Because an all-wise God has ordained it.
(2) Because our ignorance and spiritual darkness require it.
(3) Because this knowledge is the germ of everything of a saving and holy character in a sinner’s heart.
2. None but God can effectually teach them.
(1) He does not supersede the teaching of His servants, but energizes it.
(2) When the ordinary means fail He does His own teaching.
IV. ITS MEANS.
1. His written Word.
(1) To this all others are subsidiary, and are only helpful so far as they are related to it. Preaching; creeds.
(2) This excludes tradition, modern, so called, inspiration.
(3) But the written Word is not sufficient without the aid of the
Holy Spirit to act upon the heart and to apply its truths.
2. His providence. The man of commerce forgets, e.g., that “they that will be rich fall into a temptation and a snare,” and the God of providence by a calamity brings it to his mind.
3. The Christian’s inward experience. This harmonizes wonderfully with Scripture, throwing light upon it, and confirming it.
V. ITS EFFECT. God teaches that He may
4. Make useful.
5. Make meet for heaven. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
Divine light necessary to our salvation
The gospel is a picture of God’s free grace to sinners. Were we in a room hung with the finest paintings, and adorned with the most exquisite statues, we could not see one of them if all light were excluded. Now the blessed Spirit’s illumination is the same to the mind that outward light is to the bodily eyes. A compass is of no use to the mariner unless he have light to see it by. (Toplady.)
Conviction by the Holy Spirit necessary to conversion
Take the cold iron, and attempt to weld it, if you can, into a certain shape. How fruitless the effort! Lay it on the anvil, seize the blacksmith’s hammer with all your might, let blow after blow fall upon it, and you will have done nothing; but put it in the fire, let it be softened and made malleable, then lay it on the anvil, and each stroke shall have a mighty effect, so that you may fashion it into any form you may desire; so take your heart, not cold as it is, not stony as it is by nature, but put it into the furnace; there let it be molten, and after that it can be turned like wax to the seal, and fashioned into the image of Jesus Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Divine teaching necessary
No human teacher can do it. Conscience cannot do it. Law in none of its forms, human or Divine, can do it. Nay, the gospel itself cannot do it. Although the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, yet, unless the Spirit of God draws forth that sword, it lies powerless in its sheath. Only when the Spirit of God wields it, is it quick and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, a discerner of the thoughts and purposes of the heart. Therefore, as the work of convincing the world of sin is one which nothing less than the Spirit of God can effect--and which yet must be effected thoroughly, if sin is to be driven out from the world--our Saviour was mercifully pleased to send the Comforter to produce this conviction in mankind. (Archdeacon Hare.)
Taught of God
I. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE PROMISE IS MADE.
1. They must be living ones or they cannot be taught anything. They become so by being quickened together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
2. They are described in Isaiah 54:13.
3. All that the Father hath given Christ (verses 37, 39). Given
(1) in the covenant of grace to preserve and to teach;
(2) in effectual calling (John 17:6).
4. In short, they are those who are loved by the Father, redeemed by the Son and quickened by the Spirit.
II. WHAT SHALL THEY BE TAUGHT?
1. To know themselves
(1) as sinful (Luke 15:18; Romans 7:18).
(2) Their own helplessness (Isaiah 38:14; Matthew 14:30; John 15:5).
(3) Their own ignorance (Psalms 25:5; Job 36:22).
2. To know Christ as their way of life and salvation.
(1) The suitableness of His righteousness (Isaiah 45:24).
(2) The completeness of His atonement (Heb 1:26).
(3) The riches and efficacy of His grace (John 1:16; Titus 2:12).
(4) In short to embrace Him as their wisdom, etc. (1Co 1:36), and their Saviour from the charge, punishment, guilt, love, and dominion of sin.
3. To use the means of grace
(2) Reading and hearing God’s Word.
(3) The Lord’s Supper. (S. Barnard.)
The character of faith
The text shows us
I. WHAT FAITH IS. COMING TO CHRIST.
II. THE REASONABLENESS OF FAITH. It is not the offspring of a diseased imagination, but the result of Divine teaching.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST. All God’s teaching is designed to make us feel our need of Christ. (Preacher’s Analyst.)
He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life
THE BLESSING, “everlasting life.” Everlasting life was never proposed in the schools of philosophy to the faith of man, or urged as a principle or motive to holiness. Those who taught were not sure of it themselves. What does it mean? We may take three views of it.
1. It is opposed to eternal death. Eternal death does not mean annihilation or destruction of being, bat of well-being, of happiness and of hope. So eternal life is not mere existence, but complete well-being.
2. It is distinguished from natural life: is a state of freedom from all possible evil, and the possession of all possible good.
3. Its complete spirituality. The people of God are now quickened and made alive. They have spiritual appetites, senses, powers, passions. They can perform spiritual exercises. But it doth not yet appear what we shall be.
II. THE OWNER OF THIS BLESSING. “He that believeth on Me.”
1. The object of this faith--the Lord Jesus. How surprised would you be did Paul, or Peter, or James express themselves in this way I But they well knew that salvation was not in them. Thus they preached not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.
2. Its nature. Belief is the giving assent to a declaration as true. But credence in itself is much like knowledge. We may know a thing, and not possess it, or pursue it. Faith always operates towards Christ as its object in a Way of trust and dependence, and in a way of application too.
III. THE SEASON OF POSSESSION--now. Not he shall have, but he “hath.” The believer has everlasting life
1. As his aim. The mariner has the port in his eye from the day he sails till he enters the desired haven. So is it with the Christian.
2. In promise. “In my Father’s house,” etc.; “When He who is our life,” etc.
3. In trust. And who is the trustee? The Lord Jesus, our Forerunner. He is gone to take possession.
4. In participation. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” But Christians have this Spirit, and by this Spirit is the Christian sealed to the day of redemption.
5. When are Christians peculiarly indulged with these anticipations?
(1) When they are alone. “When I remember Thee on my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches.”
(2) In the sanctuary services. “A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.”
(3) In trouble. God acts upon the principle of the truest friendship, He is most near in the time of trouble.
(4) In death.
IV. THE GROUND OF THEIR CONFIDENCE. The fulness of their assurance: “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” etc. Here it is truth itself that speaks; and yet Christ employs a double asseveration, so that we may learn
1. The duty of belief, “ O fools, and slow of heart to believe:”
2. The importance of our having the full assurance of understanding, and the full assurance of faith, to establish our hearts with grace. (W. Jay.)
Believing must be on Christ only
As the eye seeks for no other light than that of the sun, and joins no candles with it to dishonour the sufficiency of its beams, so no created thing must be joined with Christ as an object of faith. Who would join the weakness of a bulrush with the strength of a rock for his protection! Who would fetch water from a muddy pond to make a pure fountain in his garden more pleasant! Address yourselves only to Him to find a medicine for your miseries and comfort in your troubles, (S. Charnock.)
Certain salvation by believing
One walking with me observed, with some emphasis, “I do not believe as you do. I am an Agnostic.” “Oh,” I said to him. “Yes. That is a Greek word, is it not? The Latin word, I think, is ignoramus.” He did not like it at all. Yet I only translated his language from Greek to Latin. These are queer waters to get into, when all your philosophy brings you is the confession that you know nothing, and the stolidity which enables you to glory in your ignorance. As for those of us who rest in Jesus, we know and have believed something; for we have been taught eternal verities by Him who cannot lie. Our Master was not wont to say, “It may be,” or “It may not be”; but He had an authoritative style, and testified, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of what He hath taught us shall cease to be the creed of our souls. We feel safe in this assurance; but should we quit it, we should expect soon to find ourselves in troubled waters. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith in Christ must be personal
In Gideon’s camp every soldier had his own pitcher; among Solomon’s men of valour every man wore his own sword; the five wise virgins had every one oil in her own lamp. Whosoever will go to God must have a faith of his own; it must be “Thy faith hath saved thee.” (J. Spencer.)
Faith, though weak, saves the soul
Faith is the eye by which we look to Jesus. A dim-sighted eye is still an eye; a weeping eye is still an eye. Faith is the hand with which we lay hold of Jesus. A trembling hand is still a hand. And he is a believer, whoso heart within him trembles when he touches the hem of the Saviour’s garment that he may be healed. Faith is the tongue by which we taste how good the Lord is. A feverish tongue. And even then we may believe, when we are without the smallest portion of comfort; for our faith is founded, not upon feelings, but upon the promises of God. Faith is the foot by which we go to Jesus. A lame foot is still a foot. He who comes slowly, nevertheless comes. (H. Muller.)
I. IN CHRIST’S PURCHASE.
II. IN GOD’S PROMISE.
III. IN THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT. Conclusions:
1. The exclusiveness of the gospel. Without faith in Christ there is no salvation for any sinner.
2. The charity of the gospel. With faith there is salvation for all. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
I am that Bread of Life.
The Bread of Life
I. THE STAFF OF LIFE.
1. Christ is the life.
2. Where Christ is unknown there can be no life.
(1) Heathenism is death.
3. This life is worth everything and is to be obtained for nothing.
4. This life supports, not by talking about it, believing in statements concerning it, but by having and enjoying it.
II. The staff of life is USED ONLY BY FAITH. Faith
6. Grows thereby.
III. PARTICIPATION IN IT IS THE PRIVILEGE OF THE LORD’S FAMILY. It is household bread.
1. The ungodly are self-excluded.
2. The qualification is the robe of righteousness, worn only by the Lord’s children.
3. The children participate through
(1) The Word;
(2) the sacrament. (J. Irons.)
The bread of life
I. A REPRESENTATION OF OUR SAVIOUR.
1. Life is more valuable than all beside.
2. The Scripture represents religion as life.
3. How many people look like life, having the form of godliness without the power.
4. The relation of Christ to this life. Bread which
(2)is corn bruised: so Christ was bruised for our iniquities;
(3) must be eaten, or is nothing to us: so Christ is nothing till applied.
II. THE MEANS OF DERIVING THIS BENEFIT: coming to Christ and believing on Him. This reminds us
1. That Christ is accessible.
2. That faith is not mere sentiment, but a principle of life.
3. Faith is not an isolated but a continuous act.
III. THE HAPPINESS HIS FOLLOWERS SHALL ENJOY.
1. They shall never thirst for the world. Worldly men desire nothing else.
2. They shall not hunger or thirst in vain. The new creature has wants and appetites, but ample provision is made for their complete satisfaction.
3. They will not hunger or thirst always. “I shall be satisfied,” etc. Application: The subject is a standard by which we may estimate
2. Our faith.
3. The Christian. (Preacher’s Analyst.)
Christ the bread of life
The analogy between Christ and corporal meat stands in these three particulars:
1. Sustentation. Corporal meat is for the preservation of the natural life. The natural life is maintained by meat, through the concurrence of God’s blessing. It is pabulum vitae. Hence bread, under which all other provision is comprehended, is called the staff of life (Isaiah 3:1). Keep the strongest man from meat but a few days, and the life will extinguish and go 1 Samuel 30:12). Jesus Christ is the maintainer and preserver of the spiritual life. As He give it at first, so He upholds it. It is by continual influences from Him that the life is kept from expiring. If He withdraw His influx never so little, the soul is at the giving up of the ghost, even half-dead.
2. Vegetation. Corporal meat is good for growth. It is by meat that the body is brought from infancy to childhood, from childhood to youth, from youth to a perfect man. Jesus Christ is He that carries on a Christian from infancy to perfection. All the soul’s growth and increase is from Christ. So the apostle, “From Him the whole body having nourishment ministered,” Colossians 2:19), The branches live and increase by virtue of the sap which is derived from the root. Christians grow by virtue of the sap which is to them derived from Jesus Christ. Every part grows by Christ.
3. Reparation. Meat is a repairer of nature’s decays. When by some violent sickness the spirits are consumed, the body wasted, the strength lost, meat, fitly and seasonably taken, helps, through the Divine blessing, to recall all again: “his spirit came to him again “ (1 Samuel 30:12). Jesus Christ is the repairer of the soul’s decays. Sometimes a believer, through the neglect of his duty, through surfeiting upon sin, brings spiritual languishings upon himself; his strength is decayed, his vigour is abated, his pulse beats very weakly, he can scarcely creep in the ways of God. In such a case Jesus Christ recovers him, repairs his breaches, and renews his strength, as in former times, The Psalmist speaks of this: “He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3). The saints have every day experience of this restoring virtue of Christ. (Ralph Robinson.)
Christ alone is the bread of life
Some have tried to stay their hunger by the narcotics of scepticism, and others have endeavoured to get eat through the drugs of fatalism. Many stave off hunger by indifference, like the bears in winter, who are not hungry, because they are asleep. But depend upon it the only way to meet hunger is to get bread, and the only way to meet your soul’s want is to get Christ, in whom there is enough and to spare, but nowhere else. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Your fathers did eat manna
The bread of life and manna
The Palestine Exploration Society, when they came to Tel Hum (Capernaum), found what they believed to be the synagogue in which Jesus delivered His discourse. In turning over the stones, it was with peculiarly sacred feelings that they found a large block with a pot of manna engraved on its face. Every synagogue had its symbol--one a lamb, another a candlestick, and this, the pot of manna. We can see Jesus in His synagogue pointing with His finger to this device over the main entrance, and saying, “ Our fathers did eat manna,” etc. (W. Baxendale.)
If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever
Christ the chosen food of earnest Christians
When alone with Christ, it was heaven below; and in the prayer-meetings, when God’s people were warm at heart, how you delighted to unite with them! The preaching was marrow and fatness to you. You did not mind walking a long way on a wet night to hear about your Lord and Master then. It may be there was no cushion to the seat, or you had to stand in the aisle. You did not mind that. You are getting wonderfully dainty now; you cannot hear the poor preacher whose voice was once like music to you. You cannot enjoy the things of God as once you did. Whose fault is that? The kitchen is the same, and the food the same: the appetite has gone, I fear. How ravenous I was after God’s Word! how I would wake early in the morning to read those books that are full of the deep things of God! I wanted none of your nonsensical novels, nor your weekly tales, for which some of you pine, like children for sugarsticks. Then one fed on manna that came from heaven, on Christ Himself. Those were good times in which everything was delightful. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The food of the soul
Few passages have been so wrested as this. Men have turned meat into poison.
I. WHAT THESE VERSES DO NOT MEAN.
1. Literal eating and drinking, or partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We may eat that, and yet not partake of Him. For
(1) A literal eating and drinking would have been revolting to the Jews and contradictory to their law.
(2) To take this literal view would be to interpose a bodily act between the soul and salvation, for which there is no precedent in Scripture.
(3) It would involve most blasphemous and profane consequences. It would shut out from heaven the penitent thief, and admit to heaven thousands of godless communicants.
2. This view arises from man’s morbid habit of paltry and carnal sense on Scriptural expressions. Men dislike that which makes the state of the heart the principal thing.
II. WHAT THEY DO MEAN.
1. “Flesh and blood “ means Christ’s sacrifice.
2. “Eating and drinking” means reception of Christ’s sacrifice.
III. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS THEY SUGGEST.
1. That faith in Christ’s atonement is necessary to salvation.
2. That faith in the atonement unites us to the Saviour and entitles us to the highest privileges.
3. That faith In the atonement is
(1) A personal act;
(2) a daily act;
(3) a conscious act. (Bp. Ryle.)
The food of the soul
I. In Christ alone can we have any CERTAIN RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE.
1. Soul hungers for the knowledge which pertains to its nature and its relation to its Creator and destiny.
2. Christ is the Truth, and satisfies this hunger.
II. Christ is the food of the soul, because He alone SATISFIES OUR MORAL NATURES.
1. Them is a sense in which every man hungers after righteousness. We seek to relieve our troubled consciences
(1) By extenuating our faults;
(2) by forgetting them;
(3) by seeking pardon through priests.
2. But there is no satisfaction but in Christ. He sustains
(1) By justifying grace;
(2) by positive holiness.
III. Christ is the bread of life in that from Him we have the HOPE OF THE LIFE EVERLASTING.
1. No human speculation regarding the future, however pleasing, can kindle real hope.
2. Christ hath brought life and immortality to light, and is “in us the hope of glory.” (J. M. Ludlow, D. D.)
The food that Jesus gave to His own
1. To finish His work was bread to Himself; His work finished is bread to His people.
2. His words were startling but necessary. The rock must be laid down although superficial disciples may stumble, for it is the foundation of the true disciples’ faith and hope.
3. The Lord’s Supper is not the subject here. Both sacraments are omitted in John, but he records the fundamental doctrines on which they rest. In the conversation with Nicodemus we have the ground of the one; here the ground of the other. Wanting Christ’s sacrifice for sin the Supper would have contained nothing for us, and wanting faith in Christ crucified, we can get nothing from the sacrament.
4. Hunger centres naturally in human souls, and men have attempted to satisfy it
(1) With the good things of this life;
(2) with the inanities of self-righteousness. In the text Christ shows the satisfaction of this hunger. We have
I. ON THE PART OF CHRIST
1. His incarnation: the Son as Man. Not man, a man, a son of man. Neither a son of man nor a Son of God could be our Saviour. The one is near, but has no power; the other has power, but is not near. The Incarnation combines nearness with power to save.
2. His sacrifice. The Incarnation could not save us. Without shedding of blood is no remission. Christ converged all the testimonies from Abel’s sacrifice to His last passover on Himself, the Lamb of God.
II. ON THE PART OF CHRISTIANS. They believe and live. Although it is a spiritual and not a material food, it is a real supply of a real hunger. The soul’s hunger for righteousness and peace and God is a greater thing than bodily hunger, and must have a corresponding supply. This is found by the believer. Christ’s incarnation brings God near to Him, and His sacrifice brings peace and righteousness. The believer thus has the life of God in Christ. This life is
2. Everlasting. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
The vital relation to Christ
I. HE PRESSES THE GREAT DUTY OF CLOSING WITH HIM WHICH HE HAD ALREADY SET BEFORE THEM.
1. This He did by representing to them the danger to which they would expose themselves if they declined (John 6:53).
2. By directly announcing the blessings which are to be obtained by obedience (John 6:54-55). To partake of Christ by faith secures
(1) “Eternal life”;
(2) the resurrection of the last day.
II. HE STATES AND ILLUSTRATES THE RELATION IN WHICH, WHEN THEY CLOSE WITH HIM BY FAITH, HE STANDS TO BELIEVING MEN.
1. It is a mutual indwelling of believers in Christ and of Christ in them (John 6:56).
2. It is a relation of the same kind as subsists between Christ and the Father (John 6:57).
3. It is a relation, the certain effects of which is life for evermore (John 6:58). (J. A.Beith, D. D.)
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man
Eating Christ’s flesh
I. THE MEANING OF THE TEXT.
1. The Romanist holds that it refers to a participation of Christ’s body in the sacrament. But it cannot mean that; for
(1)The Lord’s Supper had not been instituted, and as Christ refers to a present duty and privilege, He could not refer to something that did not then exist.
(2) Judas partook of the Lord’s Supper; had he eternal life?
(3) The dying thief did not partake of the Lord’s Supper, but he had eternal life.
2. The true meaning. Christ had said many things about bread, about Himself as the true bread, and about their eating Him as this bread; and in John 6:51 He declares that this bread and His flesh are one and the same thing. Let us, then, try to understand
(1) What bread means. In John 6:35 belief, not literal participation, is the process by which we become partakers of everlasting life. But belief presupposes the existence of something to be believed. Then what is there in Christ that I am to believe? Why, that He is the bread of life. It follows that by “bread” we are to understand truth, and by eating reception of that truth. The bread of life, then, is the doctrine of life--the revelation made by Him who “hath abolished death,” etc. This is confirmed by the fact
(a) That the Old Testament speaks of doctrine as meat and drink: “Wisdom hath killed her beast and she crieth, Come and eat of my bread, and drink of the wine,” etc.; and nothing was more common among the Jews than the representation of doctrine under this form. How natural, then, that the greatest Jewish teachers should have used this familiar figure to signify “I am the doctrine of life.”
(b) In John 6:63 Christ fully meets the difficulty; and that He was correctly understood is seen by John 6:68.
(a) That if bread means doctrine, then flesh means doctrine;
(b) that I am not confounding Christ’s doctrines with Himself, but expounding them. It is one of the great doctrines of this book, and let those who deny Christ’s Divinity look to it, that He is evermore the subject of His own discourse. You might as well take the light out of the sun, and call it the sun still, as take Christ out of His teaching and call it His teaching still. Christ and His doctrine are the same: “I am the truth.”
(2) What eating and drinking mean.
(a) A sense of need--appetite.
(b) Activity towards some appropriate object for the supply of that need.
(c) Enjoyment in the use of the object.
(d) Resultant strength. This is eating and drinking literally.
Spiritually, meat and drink are before us in the form of doctrine.
(i.) There is hungering and thirsting after it.
(ii.) There is action toward Christ to get that need supplied: what He commands we obey; what He promises we expect; what He offers we accept.
(iii.) Then there is delight in Christ.
(iv.) Finally, spiritual strength: temptation is resisted, trial endured, work done for God and man; and the evidence of a man’s living on
Christ is his living for Christ.
II. Let me ENFORCE THE SENTIMENT OF THE TEXT.
1. There is a lesson of obligation. You have heard of Christ, His incarnation, death, resurrection, etc. What has come out of the hearing? Hunger and thirst? You feel uneasy often, and fear. I want that uneasiness and fear to develop into a sense of spiritual need. Let this stimulate action towards Christ; then joy in Christ; then doing what Christ enjoins and avoiding what Christ forbids.
2. A lesson of privilege.
(1) The believer dwells in Christ; hence his safety.
(2) Christ dwells in him; hence his honour.
(3) Hence the believer’s satisfaction “shall never hunger or thirst.”
(4) To crown it all, “eternal life.” Life is the fullest capacity for enjoyment; then what must eternal life be? (W. Brock, D. D.)
Truly eating the flesh of Jesus
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY EATING THE FLESH AND DRINKING THE BLOOD OF CHRIST?
1. What is necessary to it?
(1) We must believe in the reality of Christ; not that He was a myth, but that He was very God incarnate, who lived, died, and rose again, and is now in His proper personality, sitting at the right hand of God, from whence He will come to be our Judge.
(2) We must believe in the death of Christ, “blood,” not as an example, but as the expiation of sin, a propitiation through faith in His blood.
2. What is this act?
(1) Appropriation. A man not only believes that bread is proper food, he takes it. So we cannot feed on Christ until we make Him our own, and for our individual selves: for we cannot eat for anybody else.
(2) Receiving into oneself. Bread is taken not to be laid aside or exhibited. Every one must do this from the empress to the pauper: so the poorest and the richest must receive Christ by faith.
(3) Assimilation. Faith is to the soul what the gastric juices are to the body; and so Christ by faith is taken up into the understanding and heart, and becomes part of the renewed man. He becomes our life.
3. Remarks to set this forth in a clearer manner.
(1) Christ is as needful to the soul as bread is to the body.
(2) Meat and drink do really satisfy. The supply of Christ is as real as the need of Him.
(3) A hungry man is not appeased by talking about feeding, but by eating. So Christ beckons you to a banquet not to look on, but to feast.
(4) In healthy eating there is a relish.
(5) Eating times as to the body come several times a day, so take care that you partake of Christ often. Do not live on old experiences.
(6) It is well to have set times for eating. People are not likely to flourish who have no regular meals. So there should be appointed times for communion with Christ.
(7) The flesh and blood of Christ are foods suitable for all conditions, for babes in Christ as well as old men, for sick Christians and healthy.
II. WHAT ARE THE VIRTUES OF THIS EATING AND DRINKING?
1. Life is essential (John 6:53). If you have no life in you you have nothing that is good. The sinner is dead, and there is no life to be “developed” and “educated” in him. Any good that may come to him must be by impartation, and it can never come to him but by eating the flesh, etc. Convictions of sin are of no use, nor ordinances, nor profession, nor morality. This is vital (John 6:54) for soul and body.
2. Substantial. “Meat indeed,” etc. The Jewish feasting was a mere shadow: so is pleasure, etc.
3. It produces union (John 6:56).
(1) To live in Christ is the peace of justification.
(2) For Christ to live in us is the peace of sanctification. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The meat and drink of the new nature
I. WHAT CHRIST MUST BE TO US. Our meat and drink, our everything.
1. The doctrine of God incarnate must be the food of our soul.
2. We must feed on Christ’s sufferings.
3. This meat is not intended to be looked at, but to feed upon by the heart’s belief.
4. By this means the believer realizes union with Christ.
II. WHAT IS BOUND UP IN THIS EATING AND DRINKING?
1. He who has not so eaten and drank has no spiritual life at all.
2. All who have received Jesus in this manner have eternal life.
3. They have efficient nourishment and satisfaction.
4. Christ dwells in them and is their strength.
5. They live in Christ and are secure.
III. WHAT REFLECTIONS ARISE OUT OF THIS TRUTH? If I have a life that feeds on Christ!
1. What a wonderful life it must be!
2. How strong it must be!
3. How immortal it must be!
4. How it must develop!
5. What company he that is fed must keep. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Meat and drink indeed
I. HOW CAN THE LORD JESUS GIVE US HIS FLESH TO EAT?
1. In all Christ said He realized that the body is not the man. He was always seeking to win the soul’s faith which would be the man’s life. We have bodies; we are souls.
2. Since we are spirits there is fitting food for us, and Christ warns us off from fleshly ideas by saying, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth.” Christ is the soul’s food in His humanity, character, example, sacrifice, spiritual communions.
3. Nothing else can satisfy like this. Every receptive faculty of our soul can live on that incarnate life and renew strength. “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
4. Christ is the food of the soul in that He provides and adapts God for man.
(1) “In” God “we live, and move, and have our being.”
(2) But man has failed to live in God. “God is not in all his thoughts.” Our souls have lost their home food, preferring to it “the husks which the swine do eat.”
(3) But God graciously offers Himself to us in Christ Jesus.
II. HOW CAN WE BE SAID TO EAT THE FLESH OF THE LORD JESUS. We are obliged to speak of spiritual powers in language only worthy to represent the bodily powers.
1. There is a soul eye which receives the impression of the beauties of the Divine handiwork. The physical eye sees all things alike.
2. The soul ear can catch Divine harmonies to which the physical ear is deaf.
3. The hand of the soul gives all the meaning to what is done by the physical hand.
4. Christ only extended this when He represented the soul as having a mouth and a faculty of digestion. Eating and drinking is a going out of ourselves to lay hold of something outside ourselves that it may become part of ourselves. Men do not live on themselves. Only God being an all-sufficient Spirit can do that. The relation of the soul to outside food we call eating and drinking, believing, thinking, loving, communing. “Man does not live by bread alone.”
We eat the flesh of Jesus
1. By the appropriations of faith. Whatever we believe we take into ourselves.
2. By the cherishing of thoughts; by meditations on the perfections of Christ.
3. By the communings of love. We know how two lovely souls in close fellowship nourish in one another all that is lovely, pure, and good.
1. What a dignity our Lord has put on the most ordinary acts of life.
2. Lest we should lose this sacredness out of our common eating and drinking, Christ has set apart one eating time peculiar to Himself. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Meat and drink indeed
I. WHAT IS HERE UNDERSTOOD BY FLESH AND BLOOD?
1. Not as the Capernaites did, in a carnal sense, but in a spiritual.
2. As symbolizing the effects of His body broken and His blood shed, or the merits of His death and passion, as
(1) The pardon of sin by His merit (Matthew 26:28).
(2) The purification of our hearts by His Spirit.
3. The glorification of our souls in His presence (John 17:24).
II. IN WHAT SENSE ARE THEY SAID TO BE MEAT AND DRINK?
1. Is the body preserved in health by meat and drink?
2. Made strong?
3. Kept in life?
4. Refreshed? So is the soul by the merits of Christ.
III. How is it called meat INDEED, and drink INDEED?
1. Negatively. Not as if Christ’s body was really meat for the body, nor as if His body and blood were substantially turned into real meat and drink, nor as if He referred to any corporeal eating of Himself in the sacraments, as the Papists hold, basing transubstantiation on this text; not considering
(1) That He speaks not of a sacramental, but of a spiritual eating, as appears
(a) in that the sacrament was not ordained (John 6:4; John 7:2).
(b) In that he that eateth not of this bread shall die (John 6:53), whereas Every one that eateth it shall live (John 6:51; John 6:54; John 6:56).
(2) Suppose the Sacrament referred to it, it would not import any transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but rather the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ into bread and wine.
2. Positively; because it really, and not only in show, does that for the soul which food does for the body (see chap. 15:1). Nay, in some sense, Christ is more really our meat than bread can be.
(1) He nourishes our souls, this only our bodies.
(2) He so nourishes us that we shall be for ever satisfied (John 6:35), this not.
(3) Bodily food so preserves our lives that sometimes it destroys them; but never so Christ.
(4) Food preserves but our natural, Christ nourishes us to an eternal life (John 6:51; John 6:58).
1. (John 6:27).
2. Do not only labour for it, but feed upon it
(1) Believingly (John 6:35).
(2) Thankfully. (Bp. Beveridge.)
Meat and drink indeed
I. THE RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN THE FLESH AND BLOOD OF CHRIST AND MEAT AND DRINK.
1. Both are necessary, the one for the soul, the other for the body.
2. Both are sweet and desirable to the hungry and thirsty.
3. Both have to undergo an alteration before they actually nourish. Corn has to be ground, and Christ had to suffer.
4. Both have a natural union with us.
5. Both must be frequently partaken of.
II. THE TRANSCENDENT EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST’S FLESH AND BLOOD.
1. They were assumed into the nearest union with the second Person in the Holy Trinity.
2. They were offered up to God as the great sacrifice for our sins and purchase of our peace (Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 5:2).
3. They are the great medium of conveyance of all blessings and mercies to believers (Colossians 1:14-19).
1. Of information.
(1) See here the love of the Saviour.
(2) Learn hence a ground of content in the lowest condition.
(3) Learn the necessity of faith. What is a feast to him who cannot taste it?
(4) How excellent are gospel ordinances which set Christ forth.
2. Of exhortation.
(1) Come with hungry appetites.
(2) Feed heartily on Christ. (J. Flavel.)
The food that gives life
I. THE FOOD. Familiarity with these words and mental indolence have dulled our sense of their strangeness. However unintelligible to their hearers, they must have been felt in putting forth strange claims. On any other lips they would have been felt to have been absurd and blasphemous. Upon Christ’s lips they are that or something very wonderful. He presents the food of the soul in two forms.
1. He proposes Himself. “He that eateth Me.”
(1) Here you come across the great characteristic of Christianity, that it is all in the personal Christ. The great note is, “I bear witness of Myself.”
(2) He sets Himself forth here as the sufficient nourishment for my whole nature.
(a) Do I want truth of any kind except mere physical or mathematical truth? I get it here, social, ethical, spiritual, religious. He is Wisdom: He is Truth.
(b) Does my heart want nourishing with the selected elixir of love? His love is the only food for the hungry heart which does not bring bitterness or turn to ashes.
(c) Does my will want for its strength some law known to be good and deeply loved. I must go to the Master, and in His loving personality find the authority which sways, and by swaying emancipates the human will.
(3) He proposes Himself as the food for the whole world. If He is enough for me He is enough for all, and comes in living contact with all the generations right on to the end of time.
2. He offers His flesh and blood; His earthly life and violent death. It is not enough to speak in general terms of the personal Christ as being the food of the spirit. We must feed upon the dying Christ, and lay hold of His sacrifice, and realize that His shed blood transfused in mystical fashion into the veins of our spirits is there the throbbing source of life which circulates through the whole of the inmost being.
II. THE ACT OF EATING THIS FOOD. The metaphysical language is familiar in many applications. We speak of tasting sorrow, eating bitter bread, feeding on love.
1. This participation is effected by faith.
(1) “He that cometh … believeth.” By the simple act of trust in Him. You may be beside Him for a thousand years, and if there is no faith there is no union. You may be separated from Him, as we are, in time by nineteen centuries; in condition, by the difference between mortality and glory; in distance, by all the measureless space between the footstool and the throne; and if there go from your heart an electric wire, howsoever slender and fragile, you are knit to Him and derive into your heart the fulness of His cleansing power.
(2) This trust is the activity of the whole nature, for faith has in it intellect, affection, and will.
2. The original expression is employed to describe the act of eating by ruminating animals; a leisurely and pleasurable partaking; an act slow and meditative and repeated, which dwells upon Him. The reason why so many Christians are such poor weaklings is because they do not thus feed on Christ. The cheap tripper cannot take in the beauty of the landscape. You cannot know any man in a hurried interview, so in these hurrying days how few of us ruminate about Christ.
3. Our Lord here uses a grammatical form which indicates the continual persistance of this meditative faith. Yesterday’s portion will not stay to-day’s hunger.
III. THE CONSEQUENT LIFE.
1. Separate from Christ we are dead. We may live the life of animals, an intellectual life, a life of desires and hopes and fears, a moral life; but the true life of man is not in these. It is only that which comes by union with and derivation from God.
2. Bread nourishes life, ‘this bread communicates life. The indwelling Christ is the source of life to me.
3. This spiritual life in the present has, as its necessary consequence, a future completion. If Christ is in my heart the life He brings can never stop its regenerative and transforming activities until it has influenced the whole of my nature to the very circumference (John 6:54). (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
We must feed upon Christ
Why should we be hungering and thirsting, when Christ has given us His flesh to be meat indeed, and His blood to be drink indeed? Why should we be hanging down our heads like bulrushes to-day, when the Lord loves us, and would have His joy to he in us, that our joy may be full? Why are we so dispirited by our infirmities, when we know that Jehovah is our strength and our song, He also has become our salvation? I tell you, brethren, we do not possess our possessions. We are like an Israelite who should say, “Yes, those terraces of land are mine. Those vineyards and olives and figs and pomegranates are mine. Those fields of wheat and barley are mine; yet I am starving.” Why do you not drink the blood of the grapes? He answers, “I can scarcely tell you why, but so it is--I walk through the vineyards, and I admire the clusters, but I never taste them. I gather the harvest, and I thrash it on the barn-floor; but I never grind it into corn, nor comfort my heart with a morsel of bread.” Surely this is wretched work I Is it not folly carried to an extreme? I trust the children of God will not copy this madness. Let our prayer be that we may use and enjoy to the utmost all that the Lord has given us in His grace. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
“No life” without feeding upon Christ
You know the modern theory that there are germs alike in all men which only need developing. This is a philosophical notion, but it is not God’s way of putting it. He says, “No life in you.” No, not an atom of true life. The sinner is dead, and in him is no life whatever. If ever there is to be any good thing come into him it will have to come into him; it must be an importation, and it can never come into him except in connection with his eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The blood of Christ our only hope
It is recorded of Samuel Pearce, a useful and much blessed minister at Birmingham, that, at the time of his conversion, having read Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul,” he took up the idea suggested in that book, and resolved formally to dedicate himself to the Lord. He drew up a covenant accordingly, and to make it more solemn and binding he signed it with blood drawn from his own body. But afterwards, failing in his vows, he was plunged into great distress. Driven therefore into a more complete examination of his motives, he was led to see that he had been relying too much on his own strength; and, carrying the blood-signed covenant to the top of his father’s house, he tore it into pieces and scattered it to the winds, and resolved henceforth to depend upon the peace-making and peace-keeping blood of Christ.
Christ the true food and drink of believers
In respect of that typical meat which the Jews had lately spoken of (John 6:31), “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert,” etc., our Saviour tells them that is but typical bread, but His flesh is bread indeed; it is the real substance, of which that was but a mere type and shadow. Thus for explication. The observation is this.
1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is really and truly the food and meat of believers. Flesh is here put for the whole person of Christ. Jesus Christ, as lie is held out in the Scriptures, is the true, real, and very meat of believing Christians; Christ, as He is propounded in the gospel, dead, broken, crucified. Christ, in all His perfection, completeness, fulness, is meat indeed to a true believer. It is the very scope of this sermon, from verse 27-59, in which this truth is inculcated over and over again, and all objections answered which the carnal reason and unbelief of man’s heart can make against it. All other food, in respect of this, is but “cibi tantummodo umbra et vana imago,” as Cameron saith. As natural life, in respect of the spiritual, is but a shadow of life; so the meat that is appointed for the natural life, if compared with the meat of the spiritual life, is but a very image of meat. Christ’s flesh is real meat.
2. The blood of Jesus Christ is drink indeed. Blood is here put for the whole person, as flesh was. And it is rather His blood is drink than that He is drink; because the great efficacy of all Christ did lies principally in His Hebrews 9:22). And in the same respects as His flesh is said to be meat indeed, His blood is said to be drink indeed. And those three things which concur to the act of eating His flesh concur also to this act of drinking His blood, the mystical union, saving faith, the ordinances. (Ralph Robinson.)
How Christ is to be fed upon
1. In the ordinances. These are the conduits. Jesus Christ hath instituted and appointed His ordinances to be the means of carrying His nourishing virtue to the soul. The ordinances are the dishes of gold upon which this heavenly meat is brought. Prayer, reading, preaching, meditation, holy conference, the sacrament; in these Christ presents Himself to the soul. He that forsakes these can expect no feeding from Christ. “In this mountain will the Lord of hosts make a feast of fat things.” etc. (Isaiah 25:6).The feast is made in the mountain of God’s house, and the ordinances are the dishes on which this meat is set and the knives by which it is carved out to the soul.
2. Saving lively faith. This is the instrument. What the hand and mouth and stomach are in the corporal eating that is faith in this spiritual eating. Faith is the hand that takes this meat, the mouth that eats it, and the stomach that digests it. Yea, faith is as the veins and arteries that do disperse and carry this nourishment to every power of the soul. This is abundantly cleared in this very chapter (John 6:35), “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; he that believeth in Me shall never thirst.” “Cometh” is expounded by “believeth.” Eating and drinking are here put for believing. Crede et manducasti. He that believes eats, and he that eats not it is because he believes not; Hic edere est credere. (Ralph Robinson.)
We must feed upon Christ for ourselves
Dr. Bonar, in his “Memoir of M’Cheyne,” says of him: “He seems invariably to have applied for his personal benefit what he gave out to his people. We have already noticed how he used to feed on the Word, not in order to prepare himself for the people, but for personal edification. To do so was a fundamental rule with him; and all pastors will feel that, if they are to prosper in their own souls, they must so use the Word--sternly refusing to admit the idea of feeding others until satiated them- selves. And for similar ends it is needful that we let the truth we hear preached sink down into our own souls. We, as well as our people, must drink in the falling showers. Mr. M’Cheyne did so. It is common to find him speaking thus: “July 31, Sabbath afternoon--on Judas betraying Christ; much more tenderness than ever I felt before. Oh, that I might abide in the bosom of Him who washed Judas’ feet, and dipped His hand in the same dish with him, and warned him, and grieved over him--that I might catch the infection of His love, of His tenderness, so wonderful, so unfathomable!’“ (Sword and Trowel.)
These things said He in the synagogues
The OCCASION of this wonderful revelation to the Church. The desire of the Jews to have the miracle of the manna repeated. Those of larger views may have had the supply of an army in thought.
II. The DESIGN was to quench for ever any such ambition. If you desire a warrior leader I am not of that kind.
III. The SUBSTANCE showed that man’s true peace lay not in things of sense. Christ’s errand was to bestow spiritual blessings on all mankind. To this end He must die as a vicarious sacrifice. To participate in the blessings of this sacrifice there must be faith. The discourse is a complete resume of the gospel plan of salvation. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
was a busy bright little town; a station on the great road; a garrison for Roman troops; a port for collecting dues by land and lake; a place of tanners, dyers, soap-boilers; a market for oilmen, shepherds, cheesemongers, fruit grocers; a halting ground for the buyers and sellers of every kind, the corn-chandlers, the fishermen, the woolstaplers, the vinters, and the gardeners. Being the first town on the Lake of Tiberias as you ride in from Damascus, as Arena is the first town on Lago Maggiore as you come from Turin, it was the port at which any one coming that way would embark for cities lying south and east on the shore. Standing on a hill of limestone, rough and rich with the flow of the basaltic rocks from higher volcanic hills; having the rich plain and cool lake of Gennesareth at its feet, with the palm, the orange, and the pomegranate blooming everywhere about, Capernaum became, like Come or Palanza nearer home, a retreat for the rich as well as a field of labour for the poor. Most of the Jewish inhabitants, net-makers, fishermen, farmers, were believers in a physical Messiah; followers of Herod, of Judas, of Simon, of John; Jews of an earnest and yet of a most worldly type. The strangers who dwelt among those Jews, like every one trained in the Hellenic schools, were liberal and tolerant in affairs of faith. Had not the Roman governor built a synagogue for the Jews at his own expense? “Capernaum, properly spelt Capharna Hum, was one of the towns most favoured by the Lord. It was the first place to which He came after His baptism by John. There He dwelt for a little while with His early disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John. Here lived the good nobleman whose son He cured. There too He healed the demoniac in the synagogue, relieved the mother-in-law of Peter, healed the man sick of the palsy, and restored the withered hand. There He made whole the centurion’s servant, and raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. From the blue waters of the lake He obtained the tribute money, and on its slimy shores, among the brambles and vines, He spoke the parables of the Tares, of the Sower, of the Treasure, of the Merchant, of the Net. In the White Synagogue, built by the Roman soldier, He pronounced His discourses on Faith, on Fasting, on Humility of Spirit, on Brotherly Love. Near to Capernaum He fed the five thousand, walked on the sea, and preached His Sermon on the Mount. He loved the busy, Basaltic town, and after His expulsion from Nazareth He made it the scene of His ministry. In the words of St. Matthew, a native of the place, it became His own city. Where, then, was this favoured spot? Strange to say, the great Churches of East and West, while bent on fixing the sites of events in the sacred story … kept no clear record of the scene of so many miracles and sermons as Capernaum.” (Hepworth Dixon.)
Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?
The defection of the disciples
I. OCCASIONED BY A HARD SAYING (John 6:60). It was unquestionably hard (John 6:51; John 6:53; John 6:57).
1. Difficult to understand even for Christians (John 14:17; John 14:26; 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27), but especially for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. Difficult to receive, demanding humility, self-abnegation (Matthew 16:24), whole-hearted surrender (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8), none of which is easy for the unrenewed.
3. Difficult to practice.
II. ARRESTED BY A HIGH SAYING (John 6:62).
1. Retrospective (John 3:13; John 6:38; John 6:51; John 7:29; John 8:38); referring to His preexistent condition.
2. Predictive; foretelling His ascension.
3. Anticipative; cherishing the hope that His exaltation would resolve difficulties (Matthew 28:17).
III. INSTRUCTED BY A DEEP SAVING (John 6:63).
1. The announcement of a truth. Only spirit can impart life.
2. The removal of an error that literal eating was meant.
3. The illustration of a principle. Wrong understanding a stumbling block; right understanding of the same words life.
IV. WARNED BY A SHARP SAYING (John 6:64).
1. Discriminating. Christ, then as now, distinguished between those who believed and those who believed not.
2. Informing. Christ, then as now, showed that He was perfectly acquainted with characters, works, and ways (Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 2:13; Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:15) of His professed followers.
3. Reproving of their guilt. Christ never regarded unbelief as an accident, misfortune, disease, but always as a sin.
4. Sorrowing (Mark 3:5; Mark 6:6).
V. EXPLAINED BY A DARK SAYING (John 6:65).
1. A rebuke to their self-sufficiency. They deemed themselves competent to pronounce judgment on Christ, to gauge His utterances, to estimate the value of His teaching, and to determine His position in God’s kingdom. Christ assures them they could do none of these things without Divine assistance.
2. A declaration of their irreligion. They were yet in their uurenewed condition, and therefore incapable of receiving the truth.
1. The sin of stumbling at Christ’s words.
2. To wait for further light on religious difficulties.
3. The danger of literalism.
4. The propriety of self-examination as to whether one truly believes.
5. The possibility of repeating the sin of Judas.
6. The need of daily prayer for Divine grace. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. For the SELF-RIGHTEOUS to feel he deserves eternal punishment.
II. For the LAODICEAN increased in goods to feel that he is a beggar.
III. For the WISE AND PRUDENT to believe he is a fool.
IV. For the MAN OF PLEASURE to believe that he is selling his soul for ashes.
V. For THE CARNAL MIND to know that he must owe his salvation to the blood of a crucified Galilean. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
Doth this offend you?--
A certain test
I. OF WHAT IS GOOD? That which the unrenewed hate to do.
II. OF WHAT IS TRUE? That which the unrenewed hate to hear.
III. OF WHAT IS HEAVENLY? That which the unrenewed hate to become. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life
Christianity a vital force
Christianity is a latent spiritual power, designed and adapted to translate men from a lower and physical life into a higher and spiritual life. If this be so
I. WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN LIFE?
1. It is the life of the human soul, derived not from natural laws, or the incitements of society, nor from any human causes, but distinctively a life derived from God; not an occasional excitement, but the indwelling of a Divine influence.
2. Under such influence is developed a personal experience differing from any that could otherwise be developed, which awakens in us a likeness to Christ’s nature and habits in
II. SOME GOOD REASONS WHY ONE SHOULD ENTER IN THIS LIFE. Most have some conception of a character. With one it is wealth, with another learning, with others art, eloquence, home life. But these are not you. There is a living, controlling being behind all achievements: character is the fashioning of that. I urge you, therefore, to accept the Christian ideal--the man in Christ Jesus--because
1. The Divine power, as a living influence on your souls, is the only reconstructive force adequate to your needs. Those ideals which men form, exterior to themselves, have no transforming power upon their dispositions. What man needs is a perfect control of his animal nature, his selfishness, pride, sensuality.
2. This developing power reveals the only harmonizing elements around which all of a man’s nature can reorganize itself. Love is the only point of crystallization.
(1) Crown pride and there are many faculties which say, “I will not bow down to pride.”
(2) Crown vanity, and many parts of the soul will say, “I am higher than thou.”
(3) Crown reason, and many feelings will rebel.
(4) Crown beauty, and there is not one faculty that under stress of trial will cry, “O Beauty, save me!”
(5) Crown conscience, and many faculties indeed will follow; but conscience is a despot.
(6) But crown love, and all will acknowledge his supremacy.
3. It is only in a character fashioned on the model of Christ that we can find relief from things seemingly or really antagonistic.
(1) Aspiration and content.
(2) Conscience and peace.
(3) Hope and fear.
4. The Divine power in the soul harmonizes man with his fellow-men.
5. This Divine power gives to the whole economy of life and flow of events a reconciliation which nothing else can. Christ is not working for results that appear in this life alone, but for those that shall appear in the life hereafter. You do not care what befalls you, so long as you have the certainty that the end of it shall be right. This redeems death from being a catastrophe, and exalts it into a victory.
Conclusion: If this view be correct
1. There is a very great difference between reasoning upon Christianity and testing Christianity. No man is competent to determine questions in regard to it until he has put his whole soul into the attitude of Christ. There are multitudes asking for arguments; Christ says, “The words that I speak unto you,” etc.
2. Is there not reason to fear that many persons who believe themselves to be safe come far short of true Christian life? No man is a Christian, whatever his morality, etc., until Christ’s Spirit dwells in him.
3. No man can come into this position by his own power. But open your heart and the Spirit will come in with His vivific power. (H. W. Beecher.)
The influence of the Spirit
I. EXPLAIN THE PASSAGE. When it is said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth”
1. It is not to be understood of the Holy Spirit exclusively, for the same work is ascribed to the Father and the Son.
2. The spirit does not quicken universally. “The wind bloweth where it listeth;” we read of those who were “full of the Holy Ghost,” and of others which were “sensual, not having the Spirit.”
3. Yet the Holy Spirit quickens all who are quickened (Ezekiel 37:7; Romans 8:12).
4. He quickens men in their several stations: ministers to preach with clearness and fervour; private Christians to hear, receive, and do.
5. Though the Spirit can do this immediately, yet He generally does it by the use of means, and principally by the Word.
II. THE SUBJECTS OF HIS INFLUENCE He quickens
1. Our attention, as in the case of Lydia.
2. Our judgment (Isaiah 4:4). He leads us to distinguish between good and evil, to discern the reality of grace.
3. The will, to choose, embrace and cleave to that which is good.
4. The conscience, stirring it up to the faithful and vigorous discharge of duty.
5. The memory, to receive and retain Divine truths, to recollect God’s dealings with us and our conduct towards Him.
6. The gifts of ministers and private Christians, that they may be ready in prayer, preaching, and conference, and also those graces which He has implanted--fear, love, faith, zeal, etc.
7. The dead bodies of the saints (Romans 8:11).
III. THE ENDS FOR WHICH HE QUICKENS.
1. To consideration, without which we should be utterly thoughtless about our spiritual concerns (Jeremiah 23:20).
2. To useful inquiries.
3. To fervent and importunate prayer.
4. To holiness of heart and newness of life.
5. To all acts of evangelical obedience.
1. Learn the proper Deity of the Spirit. He that doeth the works of Deity must have the perfections of Deity.
2. See why God’s words and ordinances have no greater efficacy. The most persuasive address is not sufficient without the influence of the Spirit.
3. Let us earnestly pray for His quickenings.
4. Let us join in the use of means.
5. Grieve not the Spirit. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
The necessity of the Holy Spirit
However learned, godly, and eloquent a minister may be, he is nothing without the Holy Spirit. The bell in the steeple may be well hung, fairly fashioned, and of soundest metal, but it is dumb until the ringer makes it speak; and in like manner the preacher has no voice of quickening for the dead in sin, of comfort for living saints until the Divine Spirit gives him a gracious pull, and bids him speak with power. Hence the need of prayer from both preacher and hearers. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
The Spirit a Quickener
I. IN THE PHYSICAL CREATION. He brooded over dark chaos and quickened it into life, order, beauty, and fruitfulness. This vitalizing power has never left His realm.
II. IN THE MORAL WORLD. “The inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.” He implants instincts and affinities that respond to the touch of God.
III. IN THE CHOSEN PEOPLE. He inspired poets to sing, prophets to teach, judges to rule, and warriors to fight.
IV. IN THE REVELATION OF SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Eye and ear are inadequate vehicles.
1. He was the efficient Agent in the Incarnation, and from that hour until now if Christ is born in a soul, the hope of glory, it is by the same Spirit.
2. Like a dove He descended on Jesus at His baptism, fitting Him for all His future work.
3. In bringing Him from the dead (Romans 8:11), and in the impartation of Pentecostal power the same fact is corroborated.
4. The personal and local Christ departed, for it was expedient for Him to give way for the Spirit. The dull eyes of the disciples were opened, and they were transformed into heroes of faith.
5. Your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, therefore your dust will be re-animated by Deity. Conclusion: The highest need of the Church is the overjoying power of the Holy Ghost. (J. S. Kennard, D. D.)
The Spirit and Life
I. THE LIFE OF THE SOUL IS DERIVED FROM A SPIRITUAL SOURCE.
1. The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is the Communicator of life
(1) Physical (Genesis 1:2; Psalms 33:6).
(2) Intellectual (Proverbs 8:14; Proverbs 8:14; Job 32:8).
(3) Spiritual (Acts 2:36-38).
2. The spirit of the new man inspires him to attend to the things that are appropriate to his life, and so he grows in grace (Romans 8:5).
3. A careful consideration of the ordinances of Christianity, anal their underlying truths, are conducive to spiritual results.
(1) Baptism, the symbol of death to sin, separation from the world, and the commencement of a new life.
(2) The Lord’s Supper, the memorial of the sublimest self-sacrifice.
(3) The Scriptures, which contain the will of God and eternal life.
II. LIFE FROM THE FLESH IS IMPOSSIBLE (Galatians 5:17).
1. However imperceptible the path of a soul under the control of the unregenerate senses is a downward one (Romans 8:8).
2. The fleshly spirit divided Jewish society into hypocritical formalists and icy sceptics; and the same spirit has continued to work in priestly corruptions and theoretical and practical infidelity within and without the Church.
III. THE POWER OF CHRIST’S WORDS IS SPIRITUAL.
1. They are spiritual in their nature.
2. They are life-giving. Flesh and Spirit.
(1) Flesh here means the outward and sensuous, which appeals to the eye, ear, etc. There was much of this in the old Jewish faith; but whenever they rested in it, it profited them nothing.
(2) Spirit does not mean the Holy Spirit, but the inward part of religion which the soul understands and lives upon.
I. THE UNPROFITABLE FLESH. The external observances of religion in themselves.
1. The “real Presence.” If Christ were really eaten carnally, then He could only profit carnally like other food. Does grace operate through the stomach? On the contrary, the real reception consists in belief in the Incarnation, trust in the death, realization of the spiritual indwelling of Christ.
2. Baptism. The putting away of the filth of the flesh is nought, the answer of a good conscience towards God is the vitality of baptism.
3. Apostolical succession. The mere fleshly connection between bishop and bishop, established by successive laying on of hands, supposing it could be proved, is valueless: the apostles’ successors are those who preach apostolic doctrine, display apostolic piety, and do apostolic work.
4. The value of ornate worship must be determined by what in it is sensuous and what spiritual.
5. The same applies to architecture and symbolism: do they gratify a carnal taste or minister to spiritual life?
6. Eloquence often excites the same emotions as the theatre is as sounding brass, and only profits as the vehicle of a truth that moves the inmost soul.
7. Revivalistic movements frequently engender a mere carnal enthusiasm, and, unless their excitements stir the spirits of a man towards God and holiness, they are based upon a lie.
8. Prayer and ordinances of any kind as mere matters of form and habit profit nothing. Their power lies wholly in their spirituality.
II. THE QUICKENING SPIRIT.
1. It is the spiritual nature which quickens a man. He who has not received this from the Holy Ghost is dead in trespasses and sins.
2. This quickens all ordinances and makes them vitalizing means of grace.
3. So with spiritual acts and moral duties.
4. This spiritual nature has for its Author the Divine Father and is the actual operation of the Holy Spirit.
5. The mark by which it is discovered is faith. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Spirit and life
I. THE WORDS OF CHRIST PERTAIN TO AND REVEAL THE SPIRITUAL AND ETERNAL.
1. Spirit and life are closely related to each other. The Spirit originates, the life perpetuates.
2. Words strictly speaking cannot be Spirit; they represent or manifest; as Christ said, “I am the Door.” The words of man express his thoughts and reveal his inmost being, How easy to detect the style of Johnson, Macaulay, or Carlyle. The words of Christ reveal His Spirit of wisdom and love.
3. Valuable as are the works of literature, etc., Christ’s words do not pertain to them. They are of a prior and higher realm. They do not teach science, but they give light and life to men that he may pursue the most profound investigations. Hence under the shadow of the Cross alone flourish literary and scientific institutions of the highest character.
II. THE WORDS OF CHRIST ARE ACCOMPANIED BY AN UNSEEN SPIRITUAL POWER, which is indissolubly joined to them, and thus they become spirit and life. How the spiritual can be joined to the material we can’t explain. Where are the cords which bind this earth to yonder sun? What is it that gives the minute seed the power to develop? Life. But what is life? The chemist says a grain of wheat is so much carbon, etc. I ask him to make one, and he takes the various substances in their due proportions, and the result looks like a grain of wheat. It has the same colour, weight, form. But plant it--it will not grow. But the grain that God made, though kept in Egypt’s catacombs for three thousand years, will, because it has life. So with the words of Christ. They are like other words, but God has joined with them a spirit and life which affect the heart of man.
III. THE POWER OF THIS WORD IS SEEN IN THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE.
1. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” The great worlds are God’s conceptions materialized that finite minds may catch a glimpse of His almightiness and wisdom. Think of all this as the product of a word and who can estimate its power?
2. More than this, “He upholdeth all things by the word of His power.”
3. Great as is the creation and preservation of worlds there is something higher in life. The one is passive the other active. In Christ was life and He breathed into man a living soul. His Word perpetuates natural life, and how numberless are its forms and varieties! What endless gradations in the character of that life from the worm to the man, from life for a moment to life everlasting.
IV. The text, however, refers to SPIRITUAL LIFE AND DECLARES THAT THE WORDS OF CHRIST ORIGINATE AND PERPETUATE THAT LIFE.
1. Were there no such declaration we might infer it. Unless needed to awaken man’s sensibilities, why did God stoop to Mount Sinai and Christ to the manger and the cross?
2. Everywhere religion is spoken of as life. Ezekiel’s mystic river and valley of dry bones.
3. The words of great men have frequently given to nations increasing influences: Homer, Aristotle, etc., for Greece; Bacon, Shakespeare, etc., for England. But if God speaks, how powerful must His words effect the hearts and lives of men! Even fancied Divine words, as of the oracle to Alexander or of the imaginings of Joan of Arc inspired almost irresistible power.
4. During His earthly abode, Jesus showed how truly His words were spirit and life. He healed the sick and raised the dead with a word. And how simple were His words, apparently without any effort. How quietly he calmed the winds and multiplied the bread. And His words reached spirit as well as matter. “Whether is it easier to say thy sins be forgiven thee,” etc.
5. The same power accompanies His words as spoken by His servants. They have revolutionized the world, Idolatry disappeared before the Bible. The Cross was exalted above the eagle. Great reforms have always been preceded and accompanied by the study of God’s Word. (Bp. M. Simpson.)
Christ’s great ideas
Christ came into the world to introduce three great ideas, into which all His teachings could be classified.
I. The first was simple in form and sublime in sentiment; He came into the world to teach THAT GOD IS OUR FATHER, and urged that idea continually. Over all things was a sustaining power, and this over the most precious of all truths in regard to the being of God. The only prayer Christ ever taught began, “Our Father which art in heaven.”
II. THE IDEAL OF A TRUE MAN. No one else ever did that or had ever attempted it--even in outline. He could tell us what a true man was because He was Himself a True Man. Eighteen centuries have criticised that life only to render it more radiant and excellent.
III. THE PERFECTIBILITY OF SINFUL MAN. No one had so clearly shown that man was a sinful being, or been more outspoken in regard to the awful consequences of wrong doing, and yet He affirms that fallen humanity can be lifted up and made holy. Sin was an obstacle to eternal life, but Jesus Christ had pledged Himself to remove it. He promises ,that if we will come to Him our sins shall be forgiven; that they shall be flung far from remembrance into the backward depths of space. His words will live and never change. (H. M. Scudder, D. D.)
The honesty of Jesus
1. Christ’s teaching was honesty itself compared with that of the scribes; and now no book has a ring so decidedly clear and genuine as the New Testament.
2. Yet honesty is not the whole of the significant quality of Christ’s life and words. A man may be quite honest but greatly mistaken. It is a great thing to have a candid mind not obscured by prejudice or broken by passion.
3. But this is not enough. The position of a mirror in the light, and its angle towards the object to be seen in it is as important as its clearness. We cannot hope to gain true representations if we persist in holding ourselves at a wrong personal angle towards truths. But Jesus always kept Himself in a relation so true to men that in His thoughts and judgments, all objects are represented in their simple reality. His words are not only clear and honest, they correspond to the truth of things.
I. Let me DESCRIBE THIS CHARACTERISTIC.
1. In the conversations of Jesus. He quietly brushes aside Jewish notions and personal deceptions and touches with saving power the real lives of the people. They might for years have concealed their real self, but when Jesus came they became real. It was so with Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, the publican, the Pharisee, the disciples.
2. In the teachings of Jesus.
(1) They went to the moral core of their being, and insisted on their becoming true men at heart.
(2) His doctrine of God has the same practical relation to human life. The doctrine of Jesus means real righteousness, justice, love, in God as in man. He did not come to teach a comprehensive system of philosophy, a subtle science of nature, or some perfect scheme of divinity. He represented God on earth, and realized in His life and death the whole eternal disposition of God towards man.
II. Some pertinent APPLICATIONS OF THIS TRUTH. Two facts are forcing themselves on our notice.
1. Ecclesiastical Christianity and dogmatic Christianity have less influence to-day than ever they had.
2. Never has a real Christianity of real life been more honoured or loved.
3. It requires therefore no prophet to predict that the church of the future will not be altogether the church of the past. It will not be a church of vested ecclesiastical pretension or formal and one sided orthodoxism, but a gospel of the Son of God in the hearts of men, preached through the conduct of life.
4. If we have any doubt as to what this real gospel is we may find it in the New Testament, if we read it with a willing mind; but to practice it means something much harder than coming to church, singing hymns or discussing doctrines. It is Christ loved, chosen, and obeyed as Saviour and Lord. (Newman Smyth, D. D.)
From that time many of His disciples went back.
Those who are mentioned in regard to
I. THE CHARACTER THEY ASSUMED. Disciples. This term was first used to designate the Apostles; then it was applied to or assumed by many whom our Lord had to distinguish from His “disciples indeed.” How many there are who are Christians only in name!
II. THE COURSE THEY PURSUED. They went away from Him.
1. They relinquished all attendance on His ministry.
2. Disowned all attachment to His person. 3, Repudiated all sympathy with His design. ,
4. Threw off His authority.
III. THE REASONS WHICH OPERATED LEADING THE MEN TO GO ASTRAY. Because He insisted
1. That all secular concerns were subservient to the salvation of the soul, which offended their avarice.
2. That all things pertaining to salvation belonged to God alone, which wounded their self-righteousness.
3. That they could not come to God except by Himself, which went counter to all their theological prepossessions.
4. That unless there was constant progressive fellowship with Himself experimentally they could not obtain ever-lasting life.
IV. THE DANGER THEY INCURRED. Where should they go? To go away from Christ a footstep was to go to perdition. (W. Brock, D. D.)
The touching appeal.
I. THE FACT RECORDED.
1. The designation given them. Disciples.
2. Their number was considerable.
3. The period of their desertion--“From that time;” the delivery of the discourse.
II. THE APPEAL MADE was
2. Seasonable. When others turn their backs it is well to warn those who remain.
3. Important. Backsliding is a sin of peculiar aggravation.
III. THE ANSWER GIVEN.
1. To whom shall we go?
(1) To the scribes and Pharisees? They are blind guides.
(2) To heathen philosophers? Their foolish hearts are darkened.
(3) To the law? It thunders above our guilty heads its anathema.
(4) To the world? It has proved itself deceitful.
(5) To the ways of sin? The end of them is death.
2. “Thou hast the words of Eternal life--we will stay with Thee, the Son of the living God for
(5) consolation. (Anon.)
A home question and a right answer
I. THE REASON FOR THE QUESTION. It was asked because
1. It was a season of defection. In all churches and ages there have been times of flocking in and flying out; ebbs and floods; and it is well at such seasons that decisive questions should be put.
2. It was a season of defection among the disciples; not merely camp followers who went after Him for the loaves and fishes. And this sets forth the grievous guilt of those who wear their Prince’s regimentals and then turn aside to false doctrine or sin.
3. It was a defection on account of doctrine because of the preceding discourse.
4. This defection was a “going back.” They did not go off the straight road, they simply reversed their steps and went back to their old lives.
5. It was open defection. They once walked with Jesus in the public streets, but now they will have no more to do with Him. This was at least honest and better than many a modern hypocrite.
II. THE QUESTION ITSELF. He might well press it for
1. One of them would certainly do so. He only chose twelve, yet one was a devil.
2. All of them might do so, and apart from His grace would. “Let him that thinketh he standeth.”
3. If they turned aside it would be specially sad. The chaff had been blown away and only the wheat was left, and that mixed with a little tares. These were picked men. How sad when an office bearer falls!
4. Apostasy is very contagious. Like sheep who, if one goes wrong, the next will follow.
5. He wishes His following to be perfectly voluntary. None can walk truly with Jesus who walk unwillingly.
III. THE ANSWER WHICH QUICK-VOICED PETER GAVE. It was threefold.
1. “To whom shall we go?” The thought was intolerable. Would you like to follow your old sinful life again?
2. “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” We cannot go away when we think of eternity. Those who turn back from Christ, what will they do in eternity?
3. We believe, and are sure, etc. Do you believe that? How then can you go away? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A mournful defection
I. WHY DO MEN GO AWAY?
1. Because they cannot bear Christ’s doctrine. “This is a hard saying.” There are many points in the gospel offensive to human pride.
2. For the sake of gain.
3. Because terrified by persecution. Although the fires of Smithfield are extinguished there is much persecution still. Godless husbands tyrannize over their wives; employers over their servants; workmen over each other.
4. Out of sheer levity. In a list of wrecks you will find some which have gone down through collisions, or by striking on a rock; but sometimes you meet with one “foundered at sea”; how, no one knows, on a calm day. So there are many who make shipwreck of faith in easy circumstances. At the space of a moment they profess Christianity, and then suddenly, to everybody’s surprise and without troubling themselves about it, renounce it.
5. Through wicked companions and unequal marriages. It is hard to keep religion when one pulls one way and one another.
6. For the sake of sensual enjoyments.
7. Through change of circumstances.
(1) Some because they have become poor and cannot look and do as they did.
(2) Some because they have become rich and religion is unfashionable with the set to which they now belong.
8. Unsound doctrine occasions many to apostatize.
9. Laziness causes others to turn aside. They do nothing, and as a consequence soon have nothing to do.
II. WHAT BECOMES OF THEM?
1. Some are very unhappy, and return.
2. Others are hardened in their obduracy and go from bad to worse.
III. WHY SHOULD NOT WE GO AS OTHERS HAVE GONE? Only because of the grace of God.
IV. IF YOU WOULD BE PRESERVED FROM FALLING you must
1. Keep humble and rely on the Holy Spirit of God.
2. Be jealous of your obedience, be circumspect.
3. Watch and pray.
4. Shun profane company. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. OUR LORD’S QUESTION was
1. The language of affection. Spoken in view of the loss of friends and immortal souls He came to save.
2. An implied warning. The propriety of such a question now rests on two grounds.
(1) The possibility, so far as they know, that professed disciples are not real disciples.
(2) The possibility that if real disciples they may apostatize. How our Lord’s declaration (John 6:70) must have constrained each to ask “Lord is it I?”
3. Anxious concern in view of abundant reasons for it.
(1) Many disciples had already forsaken Him.
(2) They were all the subjects of much weakness and prejudice.
(3) They were to be exposed to many temptations and dangers.
4. They were ignorant to a great extent of the nature of Christ’s salvation, and similar reasons exist in the present day for anxious concern and it may be useful to consider some of the sources of danger.
(1) The deep depravity of the human heart. How easily does this depravity
(a) lead men to deny or disregard the great practical truths of the gospel;
(b) to lose all just impression of the distinction between Christians and the world;
(c) to disregard the comparative worth of temporal and eternal things;
(d) to become insensible to the danger of small departures from duty;
(e) to banish the thought of eternity;
(f) to become more solicitous to preserve appearances before men than reality before God;
(g) to neglect the means of grace.
(2) The power of temptations without us, arising from wealth or poverty, business, society, etc.
II. THE DISCIPLE’S ANSWER, which bespeaks a just sense of his wants as a sinner and of his dependence on Christ as a Saviour.
1. As sinners we need the forgiveness of God, and can obtain the blessing only through Christ.
2. As sinners we need sanctification, guidance, support, consolation which no one but Christ can give.
3. We need eternal life: Christ only has the words of eternal life. (N. W. Taylor, D. D.)
The uses to be made of the falls of Christians
It behoves us
I. TO THINK WITH GRATITUDE OF THOSE WHO YET STAND, Many went away, but some, and they of the most value, remained. To despond would
1. Unduly magnify the importance of the apostles.
2. Give too much pleasure to the enemies of God.
II. TO FEEL AND ACKNOWLEDGE OUR OWN DANGER.
1. Because others have gone their own way and there is no likelihood of our following them, that is not to say that we are not in danger of pursuing a way of our own from Christ. You are in no danger of drunkenness, are you in danger of pride?
2. This sentiment will provoke charitable sentiments respecting falls of others.
III. TO COME WITH ALL FAITH AND SUPPLICATION TO THE SAVIOUR FOR PROTECTION AND MERCY. Neglect of this is the fruitful cause of backsliding. (S. Green, D. D.)
Going and staying
I. THE SADNESS OF APOSTASY.
1. Many take up a profession of Christianity who afterwards go away.
(1) The matter of fact. They ran well, and to all appearances judged by outward standards, were excellent Christians.
(2) To what this is owing.
(a) Largely from the want of the root of grace within;
(b) From insufficiently counting the cost.
(c) The want of a sensible joy in Christ as soon as was expected.
2. The sadness of their case.
(1) In general it is worse than if they had never made a profession of Christ (2 Peter 2:20-21).
(a) As the Holy Spirit is grieved, and it may be, retired, their recovery is more doubtful.
(b) As they have put themselves out of the way of the Spirit’s influence it cannot be expected that it should follow them.
(c) As Satan has got faster hold of them.
(2) As their case is now worse than it was at the beginning, so by forsaking Christ they judge them- selves unworthy of eternal life and out of the way of heaven. In the day of judgment they will be convicted of base ingratitude, the greatest treachery and unfaithfulness and of the most unaccountable folly.
II. CHRIST’S TENDER CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY OF HIS REAL DISCIPLES.
1. How this appears.
(1) In His incarnation and death;
(2) In His intercession;
(3) In His approachableness.
2. Whence it proceeds from.
(1) Their being ransomed by Him (1 Peter 1:18);
(2) Their being entrusted to Him by the Father (John 6:38-39);
(3) Their being not only His servants and friends, but the members of His body;
(4) Their being specially loved by Him;
(5) Their danger through apostasy and their blessedness through abiding with Him.
III. THE BELIEVER’S REASON FOR CLEAVING TO CHRIST.
1. They are sensible that they have no one but Christ to whom to go.
2. They dread the thought of going away, considering its sin, folly, misery and ingratitude.
3. How many soever revolt from Christ, sincere believers will and ought to cleave to Him still.
(1) To repair the dishonour cast upon Him by apostates and to witness that He never gave any just occasion to leave Him.
(2) To show that their choice of Him is not built on what others say, but upon what they know and experience of Him. (D. Wilcox.)
Experience and hope conservative of faith
1. In the discourse of this chapter we have many “dark sayings,” which gave great offence to many, and were the occasion of the apostasy of some of our Lord’s disciples.
2. The men who replied to our Lord felt the mysteriousness of His teaching as deeply as others, and at different times confessed as much. But in spite of all difficulties they did understand that their Master had what no other teacher had--“the words of eternal life,” and for that reason they would cling to Him. So with many of His disciples in the present day.
I. THE MEANING OF ETERNAL LIFE.
1. It has been said that “Eternal” is expressive of the character and quality of a thing not of its continuance, and stands for what is divine and spiritual in present enjoyment, e.g
(1) If any being possessed of animal or intellectual life were to have its being perpetuated for ever, though this would be life everlasting it would not be life eternal.
(2) If an angelic or human being possessed of this divine life were to be annihilated for a period it would still be proper to say that they had been made partakers of eternal life.
2. This is only half a truth and needs completing before we can grasp what was in the disciples’ minds. Let all this be granted, yet the subject of our Saviour’s teaching must have included perpetuity. He called them to a subjective life now, and declared that that in its ultimate issues, was to be their everlasting possession.
II. LET US SEE HOW THIS MEANING MAY BE ILLUSTRATED IN THE ANSWER OF THE DISCIPLES. This answer could not have embodied all that we know. It was given previously to our Lord’s redemptive work which throws such light on our Lord’s teaching, aud previously to the dispensation of the Spirit. Moreover, they were slow to learn and misunderstood the meaning of much which our Lord did teach. Nevertheless, they knew something about eternal life from
1. Our Lord’s teaching.
(1) He demanded of them a present divine life in its origin, continuance, and outward graces.
(2) He authenticated the popular belief in a life after death.
2. Our Lord’s example embodied the first and was connected by Him with the prospect of entering upon an endless life which they were to share. There was no uncertainty about this, and when asked if they would abandon Him of whom they had learnt it, they felt it to be impossible.
III. TO WHOM COULD THEY GO?
1. To the Sadducees--the rationalists of the age? They rejected immortality, and this being gone, what room was there for the culture of a divine life, or even of secular virtue, seeing that “we might eat and drink for to-morrow we die.”
2. To the Pharisees--the ritualists of their day? They believed in a future life, but held such views of what constituted the present religious life of man as to rob it of everything, spiritual and divine,
3. To the Essenes--the ancient monks and ascetics? These went further than the Pharisees. They tried to reach the Divine by ceasing to the human, and by practices which, if universal, would have brought society to an end, showed that they could not have the words of eternal life. (T. Binney.)
A critical hour
What the first battle is to an army whose general wishes to test its courage, so was this trial to the disciples. In this crisis there were two causes of trouble and temptation for their faith.
I. THE FORSAKING OF JESUS BY THE MULTITUDE.
1. The inclination of most men is to yield to the authority of numbers. This is seen in the camp of the freest philosophy as well as in that of religion. Nothing is more rare and difficult than adhesion to truth in the face of dominant opinions, as is shown by the history of great inventors, teachers, martyrs. In the eyes of the multitude truth, like victory, lies on the side of great battalions.
2. All is not absolutely false in this assumption. True religion should be the lot of all; and the gospel is universal. Yet it has never made any appeal or sacrifice to popularity and has triumphed in the teeth of antipathy and resistance.
3. On the other hand, as in the text, there are defections from it, and these defections severely try those who abide.
II. THE STRANGE CHARACTER OF THEIR MASTER’S TEACHING. At present the subject of the discourse seemed fantastic and impossible. But by and by in the Cross they understood it, which teaches us that the gospel contains mysterious points which raise difficulties and objections which are only to be overcome gradually. Most accept it on a side which responds most to their inmost aspirations, and accept the rest on trust; and, after years of Christian experience, they come to a comprehension of the harmony of revelation. Suppose, then, one of you in a situation like the apostles, what must you do?
1. The partisans of absolute authority say, “Submit yourselves, and the more difficult the submission, the more valuable the faith.” But it is never safe for a man to go against his conscience, and it is no honour to God to bring him the heart of a slave and the blind obedience of a fanatic.
2. Reject every doctrine that wounds the conscience or the reason. This is what these disciples did, and forgot many admirable discourses and works of mercy. And how many to day yield without a struggle, never trying to get to the bottom of their doubt, nor asking if there is not a deeper meaning!
3. The faithful apostles by their example seem to say, “Wait.” Why?
(1) Because religious truth must be full of mystery. A Divine revelation which should not surpass our comprehension would be no revelation.
(2) Because the fault may be less in the doctrine than in our minds.
(3) Because an experience a thousand times repeated proves that that which hurts us is precisely that which ought to heal us. Were the Pharisees right in being offended at the universality of the gospel?
(4) Because the greater part of the gospel enlightens, consoles and sustains. Will you reject this for the fraction which you misunderstood?
(5) Because experience may, and will, show you the futility of your objection, “If any man will do,” etc. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
The dividing point
In the state of Ohio there is a courthouse that stands in such a way that the raindrops that fall on the north side go into Lake Ontario at the Gulf of St. Laurence, while those that fall on the south side go into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Just a little puff of wind determines the destiny of a rain drop for two thousand miles. And how small apparently the influence which decides whether the current of our lives shall flow towards Christ or away from Him.
Speculation and faith
1. The chief cause of declension in the Church is the pre-occupation of the mind with an imaginary Christ. This narrative teaches us that a miracle is no match for a pre-determined judgment. These men believed on Christ because they saw His miracles, and they framed in their minds a conception of what that Messiahship should mean; but when they found that Christ’s conception differed from theirs, in spite of the miracles, they rejected Him. They could not understand a Messianic empire over the hearts of men.
2. But they ought to have understood something; that the position of Christ would invest Him with mystery, and that His teaching would be original, and that His disciples should have no pre-occupations and be able to distinguish between statement and parable, and that Jesus required childlike honesty and docility in his hearers.
3. The chief disputants on this occasion were leading Jews striving to turn the current of popular favour from Jesus. The declaration at which they affected to stumble was that of John 6:51. “How can this man,” etc. (John 6:52), was the carnal reasoning of the adversaries. The Master’s reply afforded no help, but rather otherwise (John 6:53). The disciples were silent, but these strange words shocked the men who had imagined that fellowship with Jesus would be a steppingstone to power (John 6:60). His explanation (denied to incorrigible adversaries)to them preserved a medium between the indulgence of curiosity and the repression of an honest desire to learn the truth (John 6:62-65).
4. These “went away” because no proof could touch them which threatened their anterior conception of Christ. Not miracle, nor the unique personal influence of Jews.
5. This picture of the force of a pre-judgment inspired by passion will guide the Christian Student in interpreting modern unbelief. Science is supposed to have no prejudgments; but then it affirms that a miracle is inconceivable, and therefore no testimony can make the record of a miracle credible. What is this but a prejudgment I And since Christianity is based upon the resurrection of Christ, then, according to this, it is logically a fraud. Let us now consider
I. THE APPEAL OF CHRIST.
1. It should be regarded as an appeal when the Church is surrounded by an unstable mood of thought concerning Christ.
2. This mood is highly dangerous and brings death with noiseless footsteps, and its ravages are seen, when, in connection with some sentiment of passion or selfishness, it puts back the faith or destroys it; and it is answerable for the loss to Christ of thousands of our youth, and the wide failure of initial steps of Christian profession.
3. It may be traced in modern secular literature when the writer simply refers to a Christian doctrine or fact, indicating no bias whatever, so different to those firm strokes which fifty years ago showed us if the public mind was pervaded by an impression of the Divine authority of the Scriptures.
4. Not that this necessarily threatens an unusual reverse to the Christian faith, but everything depends upon the way in which this unstable mood is dealt with during the next fifty years.
5. The appeal of Jesus is intended to bring into conspicuous contrast the immovable form of the Rock of Ages.
II. THE ANSWERING CONFESSION OF THE CHURCH. Are we prepared to drift? or to prosecute a new search? If Christ has failed to give us the words of eternal life, where shall we go to fro’ them?
1. To some ancient religion? Thanks to modern research, the new science of comparative theology is now accessible to every one. The question is not whether the religious systems of India or China are not possessed of fine sentiment, but whether they can compete with Christianity.
(1) What are they all but at best obscure impressions of mysteries which in Christianity are definitely proclaimed!
(2) What have they done for the people I Instead of elevating the general mind, they have narrowed, impoverished and depraved it. Modern research therefore pronounces that the religion of the future must be the Christian or none.
2. To modern philosophy?
(1) Where is its moral power to come from?
(2) How is this moral power to be disseminated? With all its boasts, it is built upon an hypothesis which, as yet, has constructed no thing: whereas we have a faith which has been attested by the history of centuries, whose Divinity is verified this day by the only civilization which is living. (E. E.Jenkins.)
I. THAT JESUS CHRIST AND HIS DOCTRINES ARE NECESSARILY OFFENSIVE TO UNREGENERATED HUMANITY. But let us inquire what were the hard sayings, the unpalatable truths, that offended the crowd.
1. That Christ was greater than Moses. This was a mortal offence to the Jews. While Moses was yet alive the treatment he received was anything but respectful, but after his death their veneration for the great lawgiver knew no bounds. Again, they spoke of the manna in the wilderness very highly indeed, but their fathers had a very different opinion of it.
2. That God is the God of the Gentile as well as the Jew (John 6:37). Another hard saying
3. That the atonement (the bread from heaven) is the life of the world. Millions wilfully reject this heavenly food, to pine away and die on the unwholesome, adulterated fare dearly supplied by pleasure, ambition, and philosophy, falsely so called. Such were the hard sayings that made many of the disciples turn back and walk no more with Jesus. But what offended the Jews is no longer offensive to us. Yet many forsake Him in our days.
(1). Because they do not know Him. One may be acquainted with all the facts of His life, from the manger to the cross, and yet be totally ignorant of the principles that animated that life.
(2) Because they cannot have Christ and their sins at the same time. The people of Rome demanded of Brutus why he had stabbed Caesar, by his own admission “the foremost man of all the world”; and he answered to this effect, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” The surgeon of intemperate habits kills himself by degrees, and knows it; does he hate life? No, he loves drink more, and is content to fall into a premature grave. Men are loth to admit this, and many try hard to deceive themselves and others that they are kept away by doubt, as though intellectual pride was pardonable and praiseworthy. Samson perished under the ruins of his prison--why? Was it for the want of evidences? I trow not. His burning lust for Delilah brought him to that vulgar, shameful end. Demas turned His back upon the Redeemer, and forsook Paul and the churches when they greatly needed his sympathy and help. Was it “doubts” that caused his apostasy? No; he “loved the present world.” “Your iniquities have separated between you and God.”
II. JESUS CHRIST HAS NO DESIRE TO SEE PEOPLE FOLLOWING HIM AGAINST THEIR INCLINATION. “Will ye also go away?” The question suggests two things
1. That the gospel is a moral influence, and not a coercive agency. In making a personal appeal to the undecided, once and again have I been told, by way of self-justification, that they expect some irresistible power, some messenger from the dead, to compel them to believe the gospel. Oh, false and foolish expectation! In a speech of the Earl of Chatham the following passage occurs, which, with a little modification, will help to illustrate this point:--George the Third endeavoured to give undue influence to the prerogative of the Crown; but the great orator strenuously opposed him, and stood up for the constitution, saying, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail--its roof may shake, the wind may blow through it, the storm may enter--but the King of England cannot enter. All his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” You are at perfect liberty to stay with Him or go away with the multitude that do evil--choose ye.
2. That religion without love is no religion at all. In this commercial age people are apt to introduce a mercenary spirit even into spiritual things, and ask with the apostate Jews, “What profit shall we have if we pray to Him?” Many of us, in our visits to rural districts, where the inhabitants cling tenaciously to primitive customs, have been made sad and solemn by meeting a funeral procession bearing a dead one to his burial; and although strangers to us, no one need tell us who the relatives of the departed one are--they are easily distinguished from all others both by their nearness to the coffin and their willingness to endure any inconvenience in order to follow him they loved to his long, long home. Others may, and will, turn back half-way, if the distance be far and the weather foul, but such is their grief after the departed that, however rough the way and stormy the weather, they will walk to the brink of the grave, and shed the tears of affection on his coffin-lid as they look down and bid their last farewell. The relatives of the Saviour likewise are easily recognized by their nearness to Him in thought and duty, and also by their fidelity to their beloved Redeemer, through honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, even unto death.
III. THERE ARE A FAITHFUL FEW IN EVERY AGE AMONGST THE FAITHLESS MANY. “To whom shall we go?” Go to the service of mammon with boats and fishing-tackles, and leave others to become fishers of men. Go to swine-land, the far country of self-indulgence and carnal pleasures, and spend your substance with the prodigal in riotous living. Go to Vanity Fair and the City of Destruction: follow the crowd! No; we have already been to all those places, and failed to find a resting-place for a weary, heavy-laden soul. You had better stay, then. Peter’s reasons for staying were
1. Because no one else could give such a clear account of the future. “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
2. Because He was the Divine Redeemer. “And we believe, and are sure, that Thou art Christ, the son of the living God.” (W. A. Griffiths.)
Departing from Jesus
In Mammoth Cave the old negro guide told us how people had been lost there from time to time. When found, they overwhelmed him with embraces and other demonstrations of gratitude. Some became insane through fright; some fled in terror from the guides. Once a woman was lost for about twenty-four hours. In that terrible darkness, in the silence in which hearts beat loud, she had waited in dreadful suspense. Superstitious dread filled her crazed heart. At last the guide came, his footfalls echoing like whispers and groans, his lantern casting ghostly shadows upon the walls. The poor terrified creature arose, and tied away into the darkness. The guide pursued--a veritable black devil he seemed! At last he overtook her--unconscious, prostrate, ashy white. In his strong arms he raised her from the ground, and carried her out to safety and light and home! How often is it so: When the Saviour comes, we flee from Him. Misconceptions of Him, distortions of Him, shadows of Him in this dark world, fancies of Him in our sinful hearts, make Him seem other than He is. And we flee from our Saviour and our Guide--flee away into the darkness. And yet He came to find us, to save us, to bear us to the light. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not.” (R. S.Barrett.)
The physiology of backsliding
Within the body of the Hermit crab a minute organism may frequently be discovered, resembling, when magnified, a miniature kidney bean. A bunch of root-like processes hangs from one side, and the extremities of these are seen to ramify in delicate films through the living tissues of the crab. This simple organism is known to the naturalist as Sacculina: and though a full-grown animal, it consists of no more parts than those just named. Not a trace of structure is to be detected within this rude and all but inanimate frame; it possesses neither legs, nor eyes, nor mouth, nor throat, nor stomach, nor any other organs, external or internal. This Sacculina is a typical parasite. By means of its twining and theftuous roots it imbibes automatically its nourishment ready-prepared from the body of the crab. It boards, indeed, entirely at the expense of its host, who supplies it liberally with food and shelter, and everything else it wants. So far as the result to itself is concerned, this arrangement may seem at first sight satisfactory enough; but when we inquire into the life history of this small creature we unearth a career of degeneracy all but unparalleled in nature. When the young animal first makes its appearance, it bears not the remotest resemblance to the adult animal. A different name even is given to it by the biologist, who knows it at this period as a Nauplius. This minute organism has an oval body, supplied with six well-jointed feet, by means of which it paddles briskly through the water. For a time it leads an active and independent life, industriously securing its own food and escaping enemies by its own gallantry. But soon a change takes place. The hereditary taint of parasitism is in its blood, and it proceeds to adapt itself to the pauper habits of its race. The tiny body first doubles in upon itself, and from the two front limbs elongated filaments protrude. Its four hind limbs entirely disappear, and twelve short forked swimming organs temporarily take their place. Thus strangely metamorphosed the Sacculina sets out in search of a suitable host, and in an evil hour, by that fate which is always ready to accommodate the transgressor, is thrown into the company of the Hermit crab. With its two filamentary processes--which afterwards develop into the root-like organs--it penetrates the body; the sac-like form is gradually assumed; the whole of the swimming feet drop off--they will never be needed again--and the animal settles down for the rest of its life as a parasite … There could be no more impressive illustration than this of what with entire appropriateness one might call “the physiology of backsliding.” We fail to appreciate the meaning of spiritual degeneration or detect the terrible nature of the consequences only because they evade the eye of sense. But could we investigate the spirit as a living organism, or study the soul of the backslider on principles of comparative anatomy, we should have a revelation of the organic effects of sin, even of the mere sin of carelessness as to growth and work, which must revolutionize our ideas of practical religion. There is no room for the doubt even, that what goes on in the body does not with equal certainty take place in the spirit under the corresponding circumstances or conditions. The penalty of backsliding is not something unreal and vague, some unknown quantity which may be measured out to us disproportionately, or which, perchance, since God is good, we may altogether evade. The consequences are already marked within the structure of the soul. So to speak, they are physiological. The thing affected by our indifference or by our indulgence is not the book of final judgment, but the present fabric of the soul. The punishment of degeneration is simply de-generation--the loss of functions, the decay of organs, the atrophy of the spiritual nature. It is well known that the recovery of the backslider is one of the hardest problems in spiritual work. To reinvigorate an old organ seems more difficult and hopeless than to develop a new one; and the backslider’s terrible lot is to have to retrace with enfeebled feet each step of the way along which he strayed; to make up inch by inch the leeway he has lost, carrying with him a dead weight el acquired reluctance, and scarce knowing whether to be stimulated or discouraged by the memory of the previous fall. (Prof. Drummond.)
The effects of backsliding on the steadfast
When, at the close of the First Empire, our soldiers fought against united Europe, there frequently arose from the midst of the battle a cry that troubled all hearts. The reason was that a corps of the army, deserting the flag of Napoleon, had turned to the enemy. It was so at Leipsic: when the Saxons abandoned the French eagles the blast of ruin passed over the whole army, for treason was seen everywhere. And we also, in the desperate struggle in which the Christian army is engaged, we have often seen discouragement agitate the, most steadfast, when in the front ranks of the enemy, to have to encounter those who but the day before helped our faith and stood close around our flag. Only yesterday our allies, to-day our implacable enemies, directing their sharp, haughty, and contemptuous criticism against a cause whose weak points were well known to them. The crisis has been a terrible one, and more than one heart has succumbed under the anguish. But in this heartrending apostasy we seem to hear the voice of our Head say to us, as formerly to His disciples, “Will you also go away?” In reply to this appeal we have acknowledged our Master; shame has laid hold on us for having a moment submitted to the contagion of example; we have felt that never should His cause be more dear to us than when it was abandoned by the multitude; that the number and assent of masses are nothing and ought to be nothing; and with a more profound faith we have said to the Christ, “Lord, to whom can we go?” (E. Bersier, D. D.)
A backslider’s end
Albert, Bishop of Mayence, had a physician attached to his person, who, being a Protestant, did not enjoy the prelate’s favour. The man, seeing this, and being an avaricious, ambitious, worldseeker, denied his God, and turned back to Popery, saying to his associates, “I’ll put Jesus Christ by for a while till I’ve made my fortune, and then bring Him out again.” This horrible blasphemy met with its just reward; for next day the miserable hypocrite was found dead in his bed, his tongue hanging from his mouth, his face as black as a coal, and his neck twisted half round. I was myself an ocular witness of this merited chastisement of impiety. (Luther.)
A brave martyr
Anne Askew, when asked to avoid the flames, answered, “I came not here to deny my Lord and Master.”
Where backsliding begins
In the Life of Philip Henry it is said, “He and his wife constantly prayed together, morning and evening.” He made conscience of closet worship, and abounded in it. It was the caution and advice which he frequently gave to his children and friends, “Be sure you look to your secret duty; keep that up, whatever you do; the soul cannot prosper in the neglect of it. Apostasy generally begins at the closet door.” Besides these, he was uniform, steady, and constant in family worship from the time he was first called to the charge of a family to his dying day. He would say, “If the worship of God be not in the house, write, ‘Lord, have mercy upon us,’ on the door; for there is a plague, a curse in it.’”
A backslider’s misery
After poor Sabat, an Arabian, who had professed faith in Christ by means of the labours of the Rev. Henry Martyn, had apostatized from Christianity, and written a book in favour of Mohammedanism, he was met at Malacca by the late Rev. Dr. Milne, who proposed to him some very pointed questions, in reply to which he said, “I am unhappy! I have a mountain of burning sand on my head! When I go about I know not what I am doing.” It is indeed “an evil thing and bitter to sin against the Lord our God.”
Reasons for backsliding
Those who forsake God to return to the world, do it because they find more gratification in earthly pleasures than in those arising from communion with God; and because this overpowering charm, carrying them away, causes them to relinquish their first choice, and renders them, as Tertullian says, the penitents of the devil. (Blaise Pascal.)
Will ye also go away?
… To whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life
Human destiny and its attainment through Christ
I. GOD HAS SET BEFORE US A DESTINY. “Eternal life.”
1. The idea of a future world in the abstract is probably present to every man.
2. It is impossible for any one to entertain this idea without being haunted by the tremendous possibilities of its truth. A man may lose sight of it, or rush to escape it, but let it once have a lodgment within, and he cannot refuse it acknowledgment.
3. It does not require any argument to prove a future world--you know that there is one.
4. It is equally impressed upon the human consciousness that this future life
(1) is one of conscious immortal existence;
(2) has a retributive connection with the doings of the present life.
II. HE HAS REVEALED TO US THE METHOD BY WHICH THIS DESTINY MAY BE ACHIEVED AND REALIZED.
1. The revelation of God’s mercy in the gospel proceeds on the assumption of this conscious immortal existence, and has furnished appliances by which the happiest conditions of that existence may be brought within the reach of all. It is not merely a manual of precept for this world; it is a treasury of hope and comfort for the world to come. Point- ing to the Saviour, whose suretyship it announces, and from whose death it receives its validity and power, it says, “This is the true God and eternal life,” and it proclaims to the troubled spirit that in Christ’s possession are the words of eternal life.
2. Those words were never spoken in their fulness till Christ came. There were broken utterances about it, but He brought life and immortality to light.
III. HE HAS LIMITED AN EXCLUSIVE SAVIOUR. “Neither is there salvation in any other.”
1. To have allowed a plurality of Saviours would have indicated a faltering confidence or an unsatisfied claim.
2. There needs no other Saviour, so there is no other.
3. This conviction will force itself on all some day.
4. The experience of the past proves that none other has the words of eternal life. All ancient religion and philosophy are empty of information on eternal life.
5. The researches of the present can find no other Saviour. (W. M.Punshon, LL. D.)
Two stages of spiritual life
(Text in conjunction with Luke 5:8).
I. THE FIRST STAGE MARKED BY FEAR AT THE REVELATION OF DIVINE GLORY. It was not merely the wonder that produced the cry. This was not the first time that Peter had seen the power of Christ, and others had seen it who had not been affected. He saw in Christ the Holy one, and then came a sense of the chasm between Himself and Jesus.
1. Such a revelation does awaken the feelings of fear and awe. Before Christ came men had heard of holiness, but its awful presence was never fully felt until He crossed the path of the world. By Him the “thoughts of many hearts were revealed.” Before the light of His holiness all lying hypocrisies quailed. And for eighteen centuries the world has been convinced of sin by the presence of the Holy One. When a man realizes a sense of the presence of this holiness his cry is that of Peter’s.
2. Every one must have this feeling before He can cast himself utterly on Christ.
II. THE SECOND STAGE--CONFESSION OF DEVOTION TO CHRIST OUR LIFE. This was a testing time for the disciples--a time when they were driven to feel that Christ was their life. And in Christian experience there are similar periods, and then we feel that everything but the perfect reception of Him fails to satisfy the heart. Our spiritual nature craves three things.
1. A knowledge of God the Eternal Truth. Christ has revealed the Father.
2. Reconciliation with God the Eternal Righteousness. Christ is life for the conscience. 3.A knowledge of God the Eternal Love. Christ brought God close to man’s heart. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)
Reasons for continuance with Jesus
I. NO OTHER CHRIST WILL COME.
II. NO ONE WILL BRING A BETTER WORD.
III. THERE REMAINS NO OTHER FAITH.
IV. THERE IS NO BRIGHTER KNOWLEDGE. (W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
If not to Christ then to whom?
1. “To whom shall we go?” is his first question when a man awakens to moral consciousness, and feels within him those inarticulate longings which reveal that he is not what he ought to be. Plato accounted these yearnings the reminiscences of a former state in which the soul had seen the perfect ideas of things now lost--a near approach to the Bible doctrine of the Fall. The soul feels that it is not what it once was, and that it cannot make itself so; but it recognizes its forgotten greatness when it sees it again. It is not to be deceived. It says when one specimen is offered, “This is not what I seek;” but when it finds Christ it identifies its long lost manhood in Him.
2. Besides these longings there is within us a sense of guilt, and the spirit groans, “Who will help me? “ As when the sick cry for a physician. Man must go somewhere. The Jews were confronted with four rival systems. Sadduceeism, Pharisaism, Essenism, Christianity, and these virtually confront the seeker to-day.
I. Shall we go to SCEPTICISM?
1. That seeks to cure the soul’s malady by denying it. That gives the same satisfaction as persuading a starving man that there is no reality in his hunger. How much more rational to accept the bread God has provided. Reject revelation and the same difficulties emerge in philosophy--so you only get rid of their only possible solution--just as sick men refused the doctor only throw away the chances of getting well.
2. The service of infidelity to man is well seen in the French Revolution.
II. Shall we go to RITUALISM? To improve our spiritual nature by ceremonial means is to begin at the wrong end, for it is the character of the soul that gives quality to the rite. The root of the evil is in the soul, which no ceremony can touch. Witness the Pharisees who would not go into Pilate’s Hall for fear of defilement, and yet could plot for murder. Witness the Italian brigand who gives thanks for a successful robbery. Witness the multitudes of formal worshippers on Sunday who take advantage of their neighbours on Monday. Formalism only substitutes hypocrisy for religion.
III. Shall we go to ASCETICISM?
1. It is useless in practice, because the heart cannot escape from itself, and no walls can exclude temptation.
2. The whole system is cowardly.
3. It is a negative thing.
IV. Shall we go to JESUS? What are His qualifications?
1. He has the words of eternal life. By words man was lured to his destruction, and now by words he is to be saved.
2. What are His words. Their substance is, “God so loved the world,” etc. Faith in these words gives certainty where before was doubt, and peace where formerly was despair.
3. See what they have done in the case of the apostles, heathens, drunkards, sinners of every age and degree. All that is noble and elevating in our modern civilization have come from Christ.
Conclusion: When our modern prophets ask us to leave Him, we reply
1. Find us a better answer to the questioning of our spirits than He has furnished.
2. Show us a better ideal of manhood than He has given.
3. Bring us brighter light in the life beyond than He has thrown.
4. In a word, give us something better than Christ. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Man’s need of a Saviour
1. There is here one great assumption which, being removed, the whole drops to pieces. It is that man must have some one to go to. He cannot live without a master, a guide, a comforter. The soul cannot live alone or grope its own way. St. Peter’s question evidently implies, “We cannot leave Thee till we have found another who shall outbid Thee in Thy offers, and outshine Thee in Thy revelations.”
2. This is what we may call the argument from want. Man wants someone, and therefore God has someone for him. To whom is the only question, not whether we shall go. Was Peter right, or was he rash and wrong?
(1) There are some suppositions which would be fatal to this argument. Supposing there be no God, or, at most, a God unconcerned about His creatures, then to say that man’s spiritual thirst is any proof that God has provided spiritual water is a fallacy; it only proves that to want and to have not is man’s pitiless destiny. But if there be a God such a conception is revolting to our best instincts, and dishonouring to God Himself. Far worthier is that of One touched with a feeling of our infirmities, and if this be true, then provision is sure.
(2) This argument is not weakened by sin’s entrance. The fact that man was spared after he had sinned, and that he now needs God’s care and love more than ever, strengthens the argument. What Peter wanted, and what we want is
I. SOME ONE WHO CAN RAISE US ABOVE CIRCUMSTANCES. How many of our race suffer from poverty, anxiety, sickness, disappointment, the sense of inferiority, and the dullness of life’s routine, etc. God designs that such should have independence, earth’s giving or refusing: and there is only one person who goes to the root of the trouble, for He can say to us, “I came to you from heaven, and there we know of no such distinctions; there the only honour is humility, the only office self-sacrifice, the only distinction, the being nearest to and likest God. Cultivate these things over which tyranny has no power, and I will guide you by my counsel and afterward receive you to glory.”
II. SOME PERSONAL HELP TO LIFT US ABOVE SIN. Sin is an established fact, explain it, disguise it, extenuate it how we may. Christ’s mission was to teach us the nature and guilt of sin. When this is brought home to the soul then indeed it cries, “To whom shall I go? Surely God must have some one for me? “ He is in that sinless one who came into the world to save sinners. If we accept not Christ the voice of centuries tells us that there is no other.
III. SOME ONE WHO SHALL RAISE US ABOVE DEATH ITSELF. This we find in Him who confronted death and conquered, and who is “The resurrection and the life.” Has any one else, not the words, but even the hope and promise of eternal life? (Dean Vaughan.)
Christ the only source of religious rife
1. There is a time when our religious thoughts and feelings undergo a strain. It may be in youth, when the world first lays hold of us: or in passing into manhood, when the intellect recoils from in- herited thought; or under some terrible temptation. Then it seems doubtful whether we shall stay in the old house or “go away.”
2. When this time comes, we must have an answer in our hearts why we should stay with Christ, or else we shall certainly go.
3. The idea of all religion is that of the higher “eternal” life of our text. “Let us eat and drink,” etc., is common enough in practice, but no school advocates it. All schools maintain that there is a life of unselfishness which has as its vital principle the happiness of others.
4. The question, then, is not as to the need, but the sources of this higher life. The religion of Christ is said to be no longer effectual. Science, the religion of humanity, art, and culture, make their claims more or less to the exclusion of Christ.
5. How, then, can it be shown that in Christ alone is the true source of the higher life for man. By
I. THE POWER OF CHRIST’S PERSONALITY. It was not a question of opinion as to whether the doctrines of Christ could be abandoned, an alternative between those of Christ and the Pharisees. The issue here, as ever, was a purely personal matter.
1. This assertion of authoritative personality is characteristic of Christ as a religious teacher. “I am the Way,” etc. The words would have been profane boasting on any other lips. But when we see in Him what Peter saw in Him, we at once own the power and blessing of His words.
2. The consciousness of a Divine character in Christ is the most powerful root of the Divine life. We are moved by character as by nothing else. Truth on its intellectual side is hard to find, and may easily be eluded. It is this which makes the essential weakness of many modern schemes of religion. They are schemes of intellectualism, and, to the majority, are useless. They are incapable of being moved by science and art, because the motive power of life does not work in the main through the intellect or the taste. The higher life may be helped by them, but they do not give or quicken it.
3. But let the personal life in us be brought in contact with a higher personal life, and the springs of our higher life are at once touched. Place a noble human being amongst others, and how powerfully does his influence work! It is intelligible to all minds, and steals into all hearts. It was such a power as this, in a super-eminent degree, that Christ was felt to be. Behind all His kindness, there lay a depth of Divine personality.
4. All this Christ is still, and the higher life is realized by us when our character is moulded by His, and His mind is formed in us.
II. THE DIRECT REVELATION OF THE HIGHER LIFE THROUGH HIS WORDS. The idea of Divine personality carries with it the idea of revelation. If the power behind the world is a personal power, it cannot but make itself known; and eternal life can only be known to us through its expressions in such a one as Christ. If we cannot find it here, we can find it nowhere. All Christ said or did was a revelation of it. Here is strength to resist evil and to make habitual in us the instincts of a higher life, and nowhere else. And if we have failed, our hearts tell us it is because we have gone back from Christ. (Principal Tulloch.)
The difficulties of disbelief
1. Suppose we give up the Christian faith, what shall we have instead? Wise men are bound to look at consequences. If you were asked to leave your house, would you not inquire where yon were to go? And are we to concern ourselves more about shelter for the body than a home for the soul?
2. It is easier to pull down than to build up, to spoil a picture than to paint one, to tempt a man than to save one, to ruin life than to train it for heaven. Infidels are doing this easy work, and to them we must put the practical question, Give up religion, and what then?
I. GIVE UP THE IDEA OF GOD, AND WHAT THEN? You would refuse to throw away the poorest covering till you knew what you were to have in return. Will you, then, recklessly give up the idea of the living, loving, personal God at the bidding of any man? Remember that you can put away the mystery of God, and you get in return the greater mystery of godlessness. The wax flower on your table was made, but the roses in your garden grew by chance, forsooth.
II. GIVE UP THE IDEA OF THE FUTURE, AND WHAT THEN? If a man asked you to throw away a telescope, would you not inquire what you were to have in return? Will you, then, throw away the faith-glass through which you read the solemn and wondrous future. Christian revelation tells us that death is abolished, and heaven the goal of human spirits. Renounce this, and what can the sceptic give?
III. SHUT YOUR BIBLE, AND WHAT THEN? The Bible says, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” etc.; the tempter says, “Be you that shepherd.” It says, “He, every one that thirsteth,” etc.; he says, “You have no thirst that you cannot slake at the muddy pool at your feet.” It says, “God is a present help in time of trouble”; he says, “Dry your tears, and snap your fingers in the face of the universe.” It proclaims the forgiveness of sins; he says, “You have never sinned.” It says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions”; he says “Your mansion is the grave; get into it, and rot away.” Conclusion:
1. Keep this question straight before you.
2. Inquire of the tempter his power to provide an alternative.
3. Be sure that the alternative is worth having. And you will find
4. That if you leave the Divine life and aspect of things, there is nothing but outer darkness. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The disciples’ reasons for cleaving to Jesus
I. Let us glance at THOSE SYSTEMS FOR WHICH WE ARE TEMPTED TO FORSAKE CHRIST.
5. The world.
II. Let us examine CHRIST’S SUPERIOR CLAIMS ON OUR AFFECTION AND FAITH.
1. He is a Divine Teacher.
2. An all-sufficient Saviour.
3. An Almighty Protector.
4. A Sovereign Lord.
5. The Rest of the weary soul.
1. Christ is infinitely worthy of our confidence and love.
2. Make yourselves better acquainted with Him, and your faith and lore will be confirmed. (Isaac Jennings.)
Personal affiance in Christ the soul’s safeguard
(Sermon to Young Men)
1. We can scarcely conceive of any one but Peter speaking these words. They would not have been the first answer of the critical Thomas or the more philosophical John. The truth they contain would at last have aroused the faith of Thomas, and have been the resting-place of the love of John. Their sudden, unqualified utterance could only have broken from the lips of Peter. At the bare mention of the possibility of departure from Christ, St. Peter’s soul was on fire, and the utterance of his heart outran the slower processes of the intellect, and he spoke with the voice of one who had experienced the power of the words of eternal life.
2. Young men are specially tempted to go away. The distinctive feature of your age is that it abounds in temptations. There is
I. THE TEMPTATION TO A LIFE OF IDLE SELF-INDULGENCE.
1. With health strong, spirits high, and companionship abundant, the pleasure of merely living is so very great as for the time to seem almost satisfying. The facilities for easy living increases this temptation; but to yield to it is to kill the heart of your truest life. Though there may be nothing positively sinful in the separate acts of such a life, it is as a whole most sinful. You are guilty of the sin of omission, and rendering yourself unfit for the work of the future when it comes. For in such a life the seeds of all future evil are sown--softness, slothfulness, selfishness, etc.
2. This temptation is not to be overcome by the dull aphorisms of morality, nor by the festering pricks of ambition--the one all powerless against the other, as dangerous as the evil. What you need is to know Christ for yourself, so that love for Him becomes a real passion in your heart. Personal affiance brings you into His presence; and to be in His presence is to love Him, and love makes all labour easy. There is no limit to the height to which this may not exalt the most common-place life.
II. THE TEMPTATION TO IMMORAL PLEASURES.
1. To attempt to restrain young men of strong passions by stoical philosophy or prudential maxims, is like throwing a little water on a great fire, which, hissing out its own feebleness, does but quicken the burning.
2. There is but one sufficient remedy: that which has turned the martyrs’ flames into a pleasant whistling wind, and subdued the flesh in all the triumph of its strength--the love of Christ. Bring Christ by the cry of faith into thy life; set thy struggles against corruption in the light of His cross, and pardon, and purity, and power will come from the pierced hand.
III. THE TEMPTATION TO SENSUOUS RELIGIOUSNESS.
1. Our worship may easily be smothered by the weight of its external adorning till it sinks into the death of mere formality, or is sentimentalized into the languid feebleness of an unmanly emotion.
2. The charm of such a temptation can only be broken by the knowledge of Christ on the cross dying for our sin, awakening by His word the sense of guilt, bringing the message of forgiveness, and holding communion with the reconciled spirit. When this mighty revelation comes, the soul cannot rest in outer things, nor allow the most beautiful symbol to intercept one ray of His countenance, who is fairer than the children of men. You cannot starve the busy, intrusive fancy into a heavenly affection. The love of Christ must so elevate the spirit, that it shall rest in no form, but in every form seek Him supremely.
IV. THE TEMPTATION TO FREE-THINKING, AND THE LOSS OF ALL REALLY FIXED BELIEF IN CHRISTIANITY.
1. Ages have their own temper, and there is much that is noble in that of our own. It contrasts most favourably with sensual, dull, and easy-living times. Labour, conflict, victory, are its watch-words. But its victories breed in it a certain audacity, to which the authority and genius of the Christian revelation oppose themselves.
2. Safety is not to be found in sleepily disregarding what is passing around us, nor in setting ourselves against the temper of the day, or in inventing a concordat between it and revelation, nor in forbidding criticism and turning away from discoveries. The rock, whose rugged breast affronts the torrent, cannot stay, but can only chafe the troubled waters.
3. If there are hard sayings discovered in the Christian record, and many turn back because of them, this is but a sifting of the inner willingness of hearts to go away. What else do the many voices around us proclaim but that, more than ever, we need a personal knowledge of Christ to keep us safe amidst the strife of tongues?
4. The real talisman against unbelief is not in hard, narrow, exclusive views, but in personal love to Christ. This love will sweep away a thousand doubts and speculative difficulties, and supply a whole life of resistance which is quickened into action by the mere touch of what might harm the spirit. (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Whence the words of eternal life
I. THE ANSWER OF SCIENCE. By education, by learning the laws of nature and training oneself to obey them, Professor Huxley likens life to a game at chess. The board is the world; the pieces the phenomena of the universe; the rules its laws. The player on the other side is hidden. His play is always fair, but he never overlooks a mistake. To the man who plays well the highest stakes are paid. The one who plays iii is checkmated without remorse. Education is learning the rules of this game.
1. This representation ignores the spiritual nature. That there is a spiritual nature and spiritual fact is attested by the consciousness and history of our race.
2. The God of Science is unknowable, without sympathy for the weak and erring, and compassion for the suffering. If this be all the God there is, how foolish to concern ourselves about the words of eternal life!
3. This theory of the highest living leaves out of the account the most startling fact of human life--sin.
4. This answer has been tested. Give us culture, say the scientists, and we will save the race, and usher in the long-looked-for Golden Age. Ah, yes, culture I that is what Athens had, and perished. That is what Paris has, and, as Carlyle says, is crazy. That is what Germany has, and still is full of the worst ills. That is what England has, and yet England is neither satisfied nor happy. That is what we have, and still these spirits of ours crave something higher, stronger, purer, better. That is what this age of ours has, and withal is blind and weak, and restless as the storm-tossed sea. Science may educate, but still sin remains, and conscience is not quieted.
II. PETER’S ANSWER. What a mighty contrast between Christ and science..
1. Go to Jacob’s well. “Whence has thou the living water?” The scientist would reply, “Out of the great well of nature. Study the laws of the universe.” Would the woman’s heart have been touched, and would she have obeyed?
2. Suppose it had been the scientist who had been dining at Simon’s table; he would have said, “Woman, it is not scientific to weep. Be calm. Life is a game at chess; you have been checkmated because you didn’t understand the rules of the game.” Would she have gone away as she did disburdened and satisfied?
3. What would the scientist have done at the grave of Lazarus?
4. Where has science given us a parable of the prodigal son? (S. A.Ort, D. D.)
Jesus Christ the only source of rest and happiness
I. In this reply of the apostle’s is implied A CONVICTION OF THE INSUFFIENCY OF ALL HUMAN MEANS FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF SALVATION. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Shall we apply to the scribes and Pharisees? Shall we inquire of the ceremonial or moral law? Shall we submit to the decisions of reason?
1. The scribes and Pharisees, and other doctors of the law among the Jews, at that period were blind leaders of the blind. Their corruptions had darkened their minds, and thrown a veil over the sacred writings; so that the plainest prophecies were misunderstood, and the most important doctrines perverted by them.
2. The apostles were equally convinced that life and salvation could not be obtained from an observance of the ceremonial or moral law.
(1) With respect to the former--they knew that the tabernacle service was chiefly typical, shadowing forth good things to come.
(2) With respect to the latter--even if they could not recollect that they had been guilty of any gross immorality, yet they knew that they were far from that perfection which the law demands.
3. They were also persuaded of the entire insufficiency of reason to point out to them the path of life. Untaught by revelation, what knowledge can we obtain respecting the salvation of a sinner?
II. The text implies that they had A FIRM BELIEF IN CHRIST’S PERFECTIONS AND QUALIFICATIONS AS A SAVIOUR, “Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
1. This is the language of faith, and expresses the sentiments and exercises of every soul that flees to the Saviour for refuge.
2. In this confession they acknowledge, also, a belief in His ability to instruct men in the way of life.
3. It also implies faith in Him as the only atoning sacrifice.
4. To be a perfect Saviour, He must be able, also, to ensure everlasting life to those whose sins He expiated; and, therefore, He must be possessed of power to apply His purchased salvation to the souls of His people.
III. From such a view of His offices, and a complete satisfaction in His undertaking and character, arises an unconquerable desire for the blessings which He has to bestow; and hence the words of the text are to be considered as expressing A FIRM RESOLUTION TO ADHERE TO HIM AS THEIR SAVIOUR AND LORD. “To whom shall we go,” say the disciples, “but unto Thee.”
1. United to Him they see safety; separated from Him they behold inevitable death.
2. This holy resolution is formed, not merely from necessity, but from a conviction of the honour, delight, and immortal glory which await the followers of the Lamb. (W. L. Johnson.)
Words of eternal life
I. A SEARCHING QUESTION PUT AT A CRITICAL TIME.
1. It is a question put at a time when there was a great falling off from the number of Christ’s followers. Now was the time to show their colours--now or never. The chaff was driven away. The wheat remained. Times of apostasy are sifting seasons for God’s people, giving a renewed call to every soldier of the Cross to rally round the deserted banner. The example of others is no safe guide. Public opinion is often a feeble indicator of duty. There is one example, and only one, that we are safe to follow--the example of Christ. There is one standard, and only one, that never varies--the Word of God. Keep the infallible standard in your eye, and that willhelp to steady you amid the changes of men and time.
2. This question was put at a time when there was a fresh demand made on the faith of Christ’s followers. It is obvious that our Lord’s design was to lead His followers to a knowledge of the hidden mysteries of His kingdom; to set before them some of the deeper truths of revelation. Progressiveness marked all His teaching. Faith has often to surmount barriers which are impassable by the natural understanding. Duty is ever making fresh demands upon us, and as we advance we are ever finding out depths that we have not yet sounded, and heights of holiness we have not yet scaled.
There are speculative difficulties that try our faith, and perplexing things in God’s word that we cannot explain. In the face of such perplexities it will be our wisdom to hold fast what we can accept. “What we know not now, we shall know hereafter.”
3. This question was put at a time when higher devotion was required in the life of Christ’s followers. When God reveals Himself to His people, as He has been doing with increasing clearness at different stages in the world’s history, it is in order to enable them to be more devoted witnesses for Him among men. All our knowledge ought to help us to live holier and nobler lives; otherwise it profits nothing.
II. A NOBLER REPLY FOUNDED ON WEIGHTY REASON.
1. Christ the highest of all teachers. We have many professing guides, but they all save One lead astray. Shall we follow our modern Pharisees and adopt the creed of the formalist? No, that will not satisfy the soul that longs for life. Shall we follow our modern Sadducees and adopt the creed of the atheist? No, that will not satisfy the soul that longs for God. Are we perplexed in our search for truth, and know not whose teaching to trust amid conflicting opinions? Let us learn to distrust, in matters of eternal moment, all human guides, and look to that Name beside which there is none other under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Then we shall have a Teacher to instruct us wiser than man, a Light brighter than the sun to shine on our path.
2. Eternal life the best of all possessions. Christ has something to bestow which no other claimant can boast of. He offers an inheritance that will outlast the sun, and live as long as God Himself. (D. Merson, M. A.)
Words of eternal life
What are any of these life-giving words? Here are a few. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” etc. “Seek ye Me, and your soul shall live.” “Whoso eateth My flesh,” etc. “God so loved the world,” etc. What “potential energy” slumbers in those wonderful words! They carry within them to the guilty and the dying a Divine message fraught with saving and life-giving power. They are simple that a child may read them, but they hold, as it were in solution, the deepest thoughts of God. The mere words are often compared to the casket containing the gem. To find the gem you have to open the casket. Even so, to get at the meaning of Christ’s life-giving words, you need the spiritual discernment, the key that will unlock the gospel casket. The application of its contents to the heart will result in life eternal. Or take another similitude: The words are like the title-deeds of an inheritance. The possession of the title-deeds settles the ownership of the property. So the man who appropriates by faith the truths of the gospel makes good his claim to the inheritance which the gospel promises. Accept these truths, hold fast the title-deeds, and the inheritance is yours--not simply will be yours at some future time, but is yours now. The moment you receive the words of Christ you become possessor of the life of Christ. And this is what is here called “Eternal Life,” which has been defined to be not simply endless being, but a life of perfect harmony with its environment, not subject to the changes and imperfections of this finite world. To be in harmony with Christ, otherwise called reconciliation with God--this is the aim of man’s being, the noblest heritage of fallen humanity. Christ makes the offer of it to all His followers. In Him it is to be found, and those who are in Him have already entered into possession. But, so long as they are in this finite world, they are like the sons of Jacob in their possession of Canaan, surrounded by foes and exposed to changes, so that the circumstances are not favourable to undisturbed possession, the external harmony or environment not being perfect, but the time is coming when the harmony thus incomplete will be consummated in fairer worlds amid perfect and purer surroundings. (D. Merson, M. A.)
Revealed religion the only source of true happiness
Taking the gospel just as we find it, I shall show that all men’s desires are to be met in it and in nothing else. If we reject it, whither shall we go for the fruition of oar desires? Take
I. THE DESIRE OF CONTINUED EXISTENCE. That this is deeply seated in the soul is evident from the horror which annihilation awakens. Where shall we, then, find the evidence that the desire is to be gratified?
1. The senses only inform us that we shall die, and no disembodied spirit appears to contradict it.
2. Reason only speculates upon it as a probability, and those philosophers who most cleverly argued it our disbelieved their own reasonings.
3. But faith looks through tile darkness and beholds in Christ “life and immortality brought to light.”
II. THE DESIRE OF ACTION. The gospel, and that only
1. Gives a right direction to the human faculties. Those faculties have acquired a wrong direction which reason, working through the highest civilization, could not correct; but just in proportion as the gospel has prevailed the standard of morality has been elevated.
2. Opens a noble field for their exercise. When the gospel is not known the social duties are but little understood or performed; but Christianity enjoins the doing of good to our fellow-creatures, not only as beings who are to live here, but for ever.
3. Enjoins employments which are fitted to improve man’s faculties, and thus render him capable of some vigorous and successful action.
III. THE DESIRE OF KNOWLEDGE. True, man may advance with no other light but the light of nature. But in that department which respects the character of God and man’s eternal relations human reason is at best an inadequate instructor. The knowledge derived from the Bible is
1. Most practical, adapted to influence the affections, and through them the life.
2. Sublime. Its revelations are stamped with moral grandeur--God, creation, the soul, redemption, immortality, etc.
3. For ever progressive. The treasures of the Bible are inexhaustible, and he who walks by it here will walk in the brighter light of heaven hereafter.
IV. THE DESIRE OF THE APPROBATION OF OTHER BEINGS.
1. Wherever the gospel has not existed, malice, hatred, envy, revenge, etc., have held the soul in dominion in spite of all that reason could do to redeem it. But the gospel brings into exercise the spirit of forgiveness and benevolence, and makes man a brother, instead of an enemy, to his fellowman.
2. But this desire has respect to the favourable regard of God, and is met
(1) By the gospel proclamation of forgiveness;
(2) The impartation of a character which renders man the object of Divine complacency.
V. THE DESIRE FOR SOCIETY. There is an impression abroad that Christianity is unfriendly to social enjoyment. But monkery is a perversion of Christianity. Christianity is in its very nature social, for
1. A large part of its duties are social.
2. Its tendency is to refine and exalt the social affections.
3. It has established a society--the Church.
4. It meets this desire through every period of existence.
1. Does not this furnish a conclusive argument for the Divinity of the gospel?
2. How malignant the spirit of infidelity.
(1) Even on the theory that Christianity is false, it can supply nothing in its place.
(2) But on the theory that Christianity is true, it stands chargeable with opposing man’s best interests in time and eternity.
3. How blessed the employment of extending the gospel! (W. B. Sprague, D. D.)
Christ the centre of Unity
An old Greek sage had a theory, and it must be admitted that there was a great deal of truth in his speculations. He had a notion that the history of the universe was composed of alternate cycles, covering vast periods of time--the cycle of love and the cycle of hate. Under the influence of love, when this cycle was being fulfilled which he supposed all came under, the mighty force and tendency of each was towards unity. Then came the cycle of hate when the centrifugal forces produced universal disintegration; parts flew off from the whole, from their proper centre, and from their proper relations to each other; and the various objects of beauty also began to disappear. This was a curious conception, but was there not a great deal of truth in it? May we not say that there are two laws in the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ? First, the love law, having for its centre God, who pervades the universe and tends to promote harmony and beauty and every other comeliness. The second, the law of hatred or self-assertion, by which the individual, breaking away from God, sets himself up as his god; from which will of necessity result the disintegration of society, confusion, anarchy, and the ruin of the universe. These two great laws are operating in our midst. (W. Hay-Aitken, M. A.)
Christ Himself the sole protection against the assaults of unbelief
It is not by limiting the intellectual side of our religion, but by exalting its spiritual side, that we can be safe and keep others safe. It is not by striving to repress intellectual activity, nor by jealously warning it off the precincts of revealed religion; it is by lifting up before men’s eyes the Cross of Christ, and teaching them personal affiance in Him, that we shall keep uninjured the great deposit of the truth. And this is the only talisman: without it all speculations upon the mystery of life and of God are full of danger; for though such peril is preeminently present in studies and inquiries which tend to shake received belief as to things sacred, it is not with them only that it is present. It is almost as easy for controversial orthodoxy, as for adverse speculative criticism, to land the spirit in the valley of the shadow of death. Nothing can more endanger the true life of the spirit than the cold charnel-house breath of a mere reasoning, unloving, uncharitable orthodoxy. Alas, the pathway of the Church, through times of great controversy, is marked by the mouldering corpses of such combatants for truth. This, and this only, can keep us safe amongst our own perils--to have known ourselves the love bred within the soul by a true belief in Christ’s atoning blood, in Christ’s perpetual presence, in Christ’s abiding love. And of this we may be sure no speculative difficulties can endanger one soul, which has been taught by experimental knowledge to say in times of darkness, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” (Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
A reason against turning back
When Christian, in the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” thought about going back, he recollected that he had no armour for his back. Look at that fact whenever you are tempted. (C. H.Spurgeon.)
Christ alone can satisfy the soul
Timour the Tartar desired universal dominion, saying the earth was too small for more than one master. “It is too small to satisfy the ambition of a great soul.” “The ambition of a great soul,” said the Sheik of Samarcand to him one day, “is not to be satisfied by the possession of a morsel of earth added to another, but by the possession of God alone sufficiently great to fill up an infinite thought.” (Lamartine.)
I have received from Taubenheim one hundred pieces of gold, and fifty pieces of silver from Schart, so that I begin to fear lest God be giving me my portion here below. But I solemnly declare that nothing can make me happy except God. (Luther.)
The world cannot confer happiness
“One should think,” said I, “that the proprieter of all this (Keddlestone, the seat of Lord Scarsfield) must be happy.” “Nay, sir,” said Johnson; “all this excludes but one evil--poverty.” (Boswell.)
Christ only is worth serving
A great statesman, abandoned in his old age by his sovereign, lay dying one day in England; and it is recorded of him that he said,” If I had served my God as faithfully as I have served my king, He had not cast me off now.” How true! Blessed God! Thou will never abandon any who put their trust in Thee. (Dr. Guthrie.)
The hopelessness of humanity away from Christ
“To whom shall we go?” Poor humanity, distracted by many perplexities, bleeding from many wounds, weeping over many griefs, must go somewhere: she cannot eat out her own heart with grief and consume her own life with sighing. Whither shall we go? Where shall the great mystery of our existence be unveiled to us? Is Nature to be the temple of our worship, with its skies, now bright and now cloudy, arching over us in alternate loveliness and terror? Ah, there is no gospel in her sighing wind, and all her resurrections die again, and all her waves break upon a strand that is unknown and far. Can infidelity reassure us? Is there safety in the everlasting “No?” Can we vanquish the danger by denying it? Can we overcome the peril by putting it far away? Men try this sometimes, but it is a sombre region to dwell in where dead leaves crackle under foot. Ah, no! there is a shuddering and sickly air, as of some ghost-haunted wood or precincts stern and savage; and it is useless, for Death will come, although society join us in the conspiracy to cheat him, and although friends forbear kindly to inquire about our age, and although decay can go and rouge over its wrinkles, and compliment itself into youth again, Death will come; and there is something in all of us that will keep on asking, “What then? what then?” “What after death for me remains?” Oh, it is wiser surely even with the Egyptian to shape the coffin in the lifetime, or with the Jew to build the sepulchre in the garden. Speaking of Jews, would Judaism serve to shelter us? It has glorious types--a wonderful history, many lighted windows of worship. Shall we enter the door? Nay, don’t exhume it: it has been in the sarcophagus, a corpse, now for more than a thousand years. Christ would have been the soul of it once, but it rejected Him, and struck its own suicide in a mistaken chivalry which preferred death to what it deemed to be dishonour. Judaism can do nothing for us. Then shall reason light us down the vale, or morality put a staff in our hand, or superstition torture us into safety, or formalism ferry us over the swellings of Jordan? Alas! they are all miserable comforters; they lift no cloud; there it hangs, mysterious and solemn, over the passage into eternal life. Jesus of Nazareth, Divine human Saviour! we come to Thee: we pray to Thee. In Thee is all the beauty which the Greek worshipped: in Thee is all the law which the stern Roman loved. Thou art Nature’s great interpreter; and infidelity shrinks away from Thy presence; and Judaism is fulfilled in Thee; and superstition becomes reverence as Thou speakest; and formality gets an inner spirit; and faith in Thee is the highest reason; and love to Thee is the grandest morality. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)
When Garibaldi sailed from Genoa in 1860 he took with him a thousand volunteers. They landed at Marsala almost in the face of the Neapolitan fleet. When the commander of Marsala, returning to the port, saw the steamers, he gave orders to destroy them. Garibaldi having landed his men, looked with indifference, almost with pleasure on the work of destruction. “Our retreat is cut off,” he said, exultingly; “we have no hope but in going forward: it is to death or victory.” (H. O. Mackey.)
We believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God
The Christ of God
Faith without knowledge is mere fancy.
For the want of knowledge the faith of the ancient Jews gave way in the wilderness. So here the nominal disciples went away because they did not know who He was from whom they went. To the apostles this knowledge gave stability to their faith and they remained.
I. THE TESTIMONY. That Christ was the Messiah.
1. The provision that is by this Christ could not be by any other.
(1) His sacrifice is of eternal worth.
(2) It eternally satisfies the soul.
(3) It is the ground upon which all things work together for good.
(4) We should labour by faith and prayer for this meat.
2. By partaking of this provision we shall never come to want. Away then with anxieties and fears.
3. To accept this provision is the counsel of God to man.
II. THE SONSHIP. Christ is the Son of God in a way no other can be.
1. Because He was born as no other was ever born.
2. Because He was a complex person--God and man.
3. Because of His infallible purity.
4. Because He embodies blessings which no other person ever did.
5. Because He included in His sonship millions of others.
III. THE NOTE OF DISTINCTION. “Living” in contrast to idols and false religions (Isaiah 26:1-21.). Because God never dies His people can never die.
IV. THE ASSURANCE OF FAITH. (James Wells.)
The threefold Christ
I. THE CHRIST OF PROPHECY.
1. Christ was the Desire of all nations, the Saviour for which all nations yearned.
2. His coming was in accordance with the plan of God from the first. Hence then were preparations not only among the Jews but in general history for His coming.
3. But the Christ who was blindly felt after by sage and seer was the Christ of an assured prophecy in Judaea. Abraham had seen His day. Even earlier to Adam and Noah the promise had gone forth. You know the tenor of Isaiah, Daniel and the minor prophets.
II. THE CHRIST OF HISTORY corresponds in every particular to the Christ of prophecy. Eight different writers record His life, but they all agree in saying that Christ was what many more before He came said He was to be.
III. THE CHRIST OF EXPERIENCE.
1. Christ’s promise was that He would manifest Himself to and live in His people. The Apostles point out this as the central Christian privilege. It therefore becomes our duty, that as there is an indwelling Christ in every true believer, to bring out in ourselves the Christ should be our end and aim.
2. The Christ of prophecy was needed as the initiation of the Divine plan for our salvation. But the benefits of the Christ of prophecy to us are simply that they confirm our faith and raise in us a more exalted idea of His excellence.
3. The Christ of history, too, has passed away, but the Christ of experience is based upon and modelled after and by the Christ of history. (A. B. Livermore.)
A simple confession
I. AN ANTECEDENT FAITH. The disciples commenced their investigations into the theme of Christ’s personality.
1. Not by practising unlimited credulity as opposed to sober inquiry.
2. Not by superstitiously committing themselves to extravagant conceptions as to His rank.
3. By accepting honestly and trustfully the evidence placed before them in the character and works of Jews without partiality or prejudice, and then forming their conclusion.
II. A CONSEQUENT KNOWLEDGE. The result was that they arrived at a clear and intelligent judgment as to who Christ was. The glory of the Incarnate Son having shined into their souls they were enabled to realize the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
I. WHO THEN WILL SAY THAT THE MEN WITH WHOM CHRIST BEGAN HIS NEW KINGDOM WERE MORE THAN MEN; not bone of our bone, but a princely sort, quite away from the common herd? On the contrary, they fairly represented human nature in its best and worst aspects--gentleness, ardour, domesticity, enterprise, timidity, courage, and one of them was a devil--a man like the others, but in him a pre-eminent capacity for the foulest mischief.
II. A wonderfully instructive fact is this that JESUS DID NOT POINT OUT THE SUPREMELY WICKED MAN, but simply said, “One of you is a devil.” Thus a spirit of mournful self-suspicion was excited, culminating in the mournful “Is it I?” It is better not to know the worst man in the Church: to know only that judgment will begin at the House of God, and to be wondering whether that judgment will take most effect on ourselves. No man fully knows himself. The very star of the morning fell from heaven: why not you or I?
III. ISCARIOT’S WAS A HUMAN SIN RATHER THAN A MERELY PERSONAL CRIME. Individually, I did not sin in Eden, but humanly I did; personally, I did not covenant for the betrayal of my Lord, but morally I did; I denied Him, and pierced Him; and He loved me and gave Himself for me.
IV. WHY DID CHRIST CHOOSE A MAN WHOM HE KNEW TO BE A DEVIL.? A hard question, but there is one harder still. Why did Jesus choose you? (J. Parker, D. D.)
A solemn warning
I. FOR THE TWELVE. Peter had spoken in their name as well as for himself: Christ replies that nevertheless there is ground for self-examination. Their honour and the position they enjoyed as apostles, and possible future heads of the Church, was no infallible guarantee of their sincerity. There was, therefore, with a devil in their midst, room for heart-searching before God.
II. FOR JUDAS. How Christ came to elect him presents no more inseperable problem than that involved in any attempt to harmonize Divine sovereignty and human freedom. Why should God employ wicked men anywhere, particularly in His Church? All men are dealt with as free agents. If Christ elected Judas, it was probably because
1. He recognized that to be the Father’s Will.
2. He would rescue if He could a soul as black as his.
3. He would make it clear that Judas was self-destroyed. The warning was manifestly for the sake of Judas to discover to Him his awful danger. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
Did Christ know the character of this man of Kerioth (Joh_2:24-25; Joh_13:11)? A number of questions will suggest themselves; but we note only the brief account given in the Bible.
I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS DEPRAVITY. As treasurer, he develops selfishness, avarice, thievishness: a typical defaulter. The anointing at Bethany showed satan in possession. Conference with the chief priests, and the compact with them. The upper room, the betrayer revealed. The kiss, and the cowardly disappearance.
II. HIS DREADFUL DEATH. The accounts in Matthew and Acts are not contradictory: one is supplemental to the other. Conviction, remorse, suicide (Matthew 28:3-5.)
III. HIS DOLEFUL DESTINY. “Own place” (Matthew 26:24). The two Scripture hints indicate his dark doom. Remarks:
1. This betrayer a minister. Official prominence has special dangers. Hierarchies have been traitors, in destroying foundation doctrines, and individuals have pierced Christ in the house of his friends.
2. But the loyal far outnumber the betrayers. Do not forget the faithful standard-bearers.
3. A warning to all against making worldly gain out of professed godliness. Let avarice be shunned.
4. Each impenitent sinner will have his “own place.” Remorse will be his constant companion.
5. Contrast the joy in prospect of departure which a loyal faith yields (2 Timothy 4:6-8). (H. F. Smith, D. D.)
Why Judas was chosen
In reference to the apostleship of Judas, certain questions are eagerly pressed. If Jesus knew all men, was He deceived in Judas? If not deceived, why did He call him? When He discovered his true character, why did He not dismiss him? In view of such questions, it is to be noted
(1) that he attached himself to Jesus as a disciple before he was made an apostle; and for his profession of discipleship he is himself responsible;
(2) that, being a professed disciple, Jesus appointed him to be one of the twelve;
(3) that Jesus, on whom no mock faith could impose, knew what manner of man he was; and
(4) that his testimony in favour of Jesus, in its own place, and within its own limbs, is as valuable as that of any. Had there been fault in Jesus, he was the man to find it out and tell it; indeed there was the strongest possible reason why he should have told it, to quiet his own conscience and justify his conduct. Not one of the twelve has borne more distinct testimony to the truth--vital to the Christian system--that Jesus is the Sinless One. (J. Culross, D. D.)
The character of Judas
If the choice of the false disciple was not due either to ignorance or to foreknowledge, how is it to be explained? The only explanation to be given is that, apart from secret insight, Judas was to all appearance an eligible man, and could not be passed over on any grounds coming under ordinary observation. His qualities must have been such, that one not possessing the eye of omniscience, looking at him, would have been disposed to say of him what Samuel said of Eliab: “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him” (1 Samuel 16:6). In that case, his election by Jesus is perfectly intelligible. The Head of the Church simply did what the Church has to do in analogous circumstances. The Church chooses men to fill sacred offices on a conjunct view of ostensible qualifications, such as knowledge, zeal, apparent piety, and correctness of outward conduct. In so doing, she often makes unhappy appointments, and confers dignity on persons of the Judas type, who dishonour the positions they fill. The mischief resulting is great; but Christ has taught us, by His example in choosing Judas, as also by the parable of the tares, that we must submit to the evil, and leave the remedy in higher hands. Out of evil God often brings good, as He did in the case of the traitor. Supposing Judas to have been chosen to the apostleship on the ground of apparent fitness, whet manner of man would that imply? A vulgar, conscious hypocrite, seeking some mean by-end, while professedly aiming at a higher? Not necessarily; not probably. Rather such a one as Jesus indirectly described Judas to be when he made that reflection: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” The false disciple was a sentimental, plausible, self-deceived pietist, who knew and approved the good, though not conscientiously practicing it; one who, in aesthetic feeling, in fancy, and in intellect, had affinities for the noble and the holy, while in will and in conduct he was the slave of base, selfish passions; one who, in the last resource, would always put self uppermost, yet could zealously devote himself to well-doing when personal interests were not compromised. In thus describing Judas, we draw not the picture of a solitary monster. Men of such type are by no means so rare as some may imagine. History, sacred and profane, supplies numerous examples of them, playing an important part in human affairs. Baalam, who had the vision of a prophet and the soul of a miser, was such a man; Robespierre, the evil genius of the French Revolution, was another. The man who sent thousands to the guillotine had, in his younger days, resigned his office as a provincial judge, because it was against his conscience to pronounce sentence of death on a culprit found guilty of e capital offence. A third example, more remarkable then either, may be found in the famous Greek Alcibiades, who, to unbounded ambition, unscrupulousness, and licentiousness, united a warm attachment to the greatest and best of the Greeks. The man who in after years betrayed the cause of his native city, and went over to the side of her enemies, was in his youth an enthusiastic admirer and disciple of Socrates. How he felt towards the Athenian sage may be gathered from words put into his mouth by Plato in one of his dialogues, words which involuntarily suggest a parallel between the speaker and the unworthy follower of a greater than Socrates: “I experience towards this man alone (Socrates) when no one would believe me capable of: a sense of shame. For I am conscious of an inability to contradict him, and decline to do what be bids me; and when I go away, I feel myself overcome by desire of the popular esteem. Therefore I flee from him, and avoid him. But when I see him, I am ashamed of my admissions, and oftentimes I would be glad if he ceased to exist among the living; and yet I know well, that were that to happen, I should still be more grieved.” The character of Judas being such as we have described, the possibility at least of his turning a traitor becomes comprehensible. One who loves himself more than any man, however good, or any cause, however holy, is always capable of bad faith more or less heinous. He is a traitor st heart from the outset, and all that is wanted is a set of circumstances calculated to bring into play the evil elements of his nature. (A. B. Bruce, D. D.)
Treachery is not hidden from Christ
Alexander I. of Russia professed a strong friendship for Napoleon, but when nearly all Europe had turned against him, he also became his enemy. An Austrian courier was taken prisoner. There was found in his possession e letter from the commander of the Russian forces, addressed to the Archduke Ferdinand, congratulating him upon his victory, and expressing the hope that very soon the Russian Army would be permitted to co-operate with the Austrian’s against the French. Napoleon immediately sent the letter to Alexander without note or comment. (Abbott’s “Napoleon. ”)
The baseness of treachery
Of all the vices to which human nature is subject, treachery is the most infamous and detestable, being compounded of fraud, cowardice, and revenge. The greatest wrongs will not justify it, as it destroys those principles of mutual confidence and security by which only society can subsist. The Romans, a brave and generous people, disdained to practise it towards their declared enemies; Christianity teaches us to forgive injuries: but to resent them under the disguise of friendship and benevolence, argues a degeneracy at which common humanity and justice must blush. (L. M. Stretch.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "John 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter