corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.08.25
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-71

Coming to Christ

John 6:2

That word "because" opens the door to a thousand reasons. Every man who does follow Christ follows him for some reason of his own. Woe to the soul that has no Christ, but one that is outward, appointed by some skilled hand, preached by some eloquent tongue, imposed by some lofty authority. That is not Christ at all. Any Song of Solomon -called Christ will wither, will peel off the frescoed wall, will topple on the throne made for him by some cabinet-maker. Every man must lay hold of Christ with his own hand, for his own reason, and see Christ with his own eyes, and have a part or aspect of Christ which belongs to himself in an almost exclusive sense. Herein is the folly of trying to set up standards by which a million men shall be judged and tried; herein is the affront to the genius of the kingdom of heaven that would make all heaven"s soldiers, of one height: there is no standard of stature, there is no shibboleth of orthodoxy; let the heart say how it sees Christ, lays hold of Christ, for what reason it in particular clings to Christ: that is enough. You cannot shake a man out of what he is really persuaded of in his own heart: if you have put him in trust of certain writings, he may lose them; if you have in some heedless or sentimentally reverent mood persuaded the man to nod his head to certain intellectual propositions, he will straightway forget what the propositions were: but if Christ be born in a man he remains there the hope of glory—his own Christ, not some other man"s Christ. When men begin to compare the Christs, then they begin to excommunicate one another. Saith one, You do not believe in my Christ, therefore you are wrong. Nay, saith the despised and banished soul, I have seen one flash of his glory, one view of his beauty, I have heard one tone of his music, and to that, what I myself have seen and known, I cling, and thou canst not excommunicate me: I am in God"s own eternal keeping. Nicodemus said, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest. The romantic acts have always had an effect upon certain minds; not romantic in the sense of never having actually occurred, but in the sense of being infinitely above all commonplace, all natural conception of reasoning; something apart from the imagination, something that opens new doors into infinity. Nicodemus laid particular stress upon the quality of the miracles—"these miracles that thou doest": this particular kind of miracle—not the juggler"s trick, not the necromancer"s art, not the manipulation of skilled fingers, but "these miracles"—particular, distinctive, unique miracles. No man can do these miracles except God be with him; in such handling is the movement of Omnipotence. Then let Nicodemus come in, let him take his seat in the household: he has his particular conviction regarding the power of Christ. Let him alone when he would seek to explain. Jesus Christ hindered him; when practising his traditional casuistry and seeking to make himself master of an intellectual argument, the Lord referred him to the wind: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so—" That is the right answer to all intellectual jobbers and tricksters and cunning thimble-riggers in the Church; men who want to be able to explain what was never meant for explanation. But some men will say, How? Said Paul, Thou fool!

Another class of men believed in Jesus when they saw the miracle of the loaves and fishes:—"Then"—every man has a birthday; "Then"—every man has hours that are agonistic, and that result in birth and progress and illumination and consciousness of liberty; "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth the prophet that should come into the world." Nothing else would have convinced them: they had no ear for music, all voices were alike to them; but they had an eye for curiosity, for wonder, for startling incident, and when they had seen the miracle they said This is the true prophet. Let them come in; it is a vulgar beginning, but it is a beginning,—and that is the fact we ought always to rejoice in. Every man must begin where he can. There are men who need all kinds of wonders to be done before their eyes, and through the gate of amazement they will get into some position in the upper and inner kingdoms of the world. Let them come; they are the lowest kind of men, they are the poorest quality of soul, but if nothing will get hold of them, do not despise initial effort, opening and hopeful endeavour. If a toy will please an infantile mind do not withhold the toy; after the toy may come the alphabet; after the alphabet—what is after the alphabet? All knowledge, all eloquence, all poetry. Begin when you can; begin with Nicodemus in astonishment at the quality of the miracle; begin with the vulgar mob in amazement that many people should have been fed out of little food.

Others, again, are convinced by argument:—"Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. And many more believed because of his own word." They are the highest class of men; they said, "Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know, by the music of that voice, that it was born in heaven; this is no earthly wind; this is no tumult of the dust; this is the rhythm of the universe, this is the tone of God." Let them come; they are men of doctrine, men of philosophy, men who can argue well; they are thoroughly equipped in controversy, and they have that gift of mental penetration which sees realities beyond figures, tropes, and symbols. Let them come! How will they company with those who believe because of the miracle of the loaves? They will never company with them, yet they may all be in one Church—not the formal, limited, sectarian, little church, but the invisible, blood-redeemed, sanctified, eternal Ecclesia; the assembly that shall never be broken up. It is not necessary that men should company with one another in the Church. The Church can exist without such fellowship. The true fellowship is the association that is founded on sympathy, or the association that is founded upon the giving and receiving of inspired assistance. When the loftier minds hold company with the vulgarer minds—the word vulgarer in that sentence simply meaning commoner—it is by an act of gracious and unconscious condescension on the part of those who have walked the higher levels of sacred thinking and sacred service. One man has come in by the door of argument—let him come, and for a long time let him hold his tongue; one man has come in by the door of wonder because he has seen a miracle—let him come; his wide-open eyes will do us no harm; if he be modest he may one day be great.

Others believed in Christ because of known cases of spiritual conversion. They have seen what Christianity has done in the mission-field abroad, in the mission-field at home, in the city in which they dwell; they have known the lion turned into a lamb, and they have traced the transformation to belief in the Son of God, and they have said with honest logic and healthful thankfulness, If Jesus Christ be not the Son of God, faith in his name cannot result in such blessed and glorious issues. This matter of spiritual conversion has its outer aspect and counterpart in concrete instances which even the enemy cannot deny. Once the Sanhedrim was going to be very dignified. Peter and John were called in and rebuked—you cannot wholly destroy the impudence of the world; its extinction is a gradual process—and whilst the Sanhedrim was about to bring down thunder and lightning upon the heads of Peter and John , there was one thing that broke up the thunder and took the glory out of the lightning: that one consideration was the man which had been healed,—"And beholding the man which was healed standing with them," they said in their souls, Confound him! if he were out of the way we could deal with Peter and John , but there is the Prayer of Manasseh , and you cannot choke him, he will speak, he will sing presently; he has been walking and leaping and praising God, and look at his face now, eloquent with testimony, burning with gratitude. That is the way to convict and convert certain enemies of the Church. Let the Church produce the results of her working; let the Church be able to say, We found this neighbourhood a desert, and now it is a garden of the Lord; we found this district peopled as if by wild beasts, now the old men and little children play together as if they had consented to accept a new youth. Facts are arguments; the mission-field at home and abroad must be denied and extirpated before the enemy can get at the heart of Christ with any fatal thrust.

Others trust to their own consciousness of change. They look within for argument; each man says, What was I to begin with? What am I now? What were once my hopes, my fears, my pleasures, my apprehensions? See now how new I am: old things have passed away, all things have become new. Once I was as a madman living among the tombs, naked, homeless, fierce, casting terror around me wherever I went; now I am sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in my right mind, and Jesus did it all. I saw his look, I heard his voice, I was enabled to catch sight of his Cross, and to know somewhat of the meaning of that shed blood, and now I am in heaven. Blessed is the man who can turn in upon himself when he is short of arguments; grateful should he be who is able to say to the enemy, Although I may not be able to answer your words in words of equal force, I know whom I have believed, and since I received Christ into my heart by faith, I have been a new Prayer of Manasseh , a new soul, a new creature; yea, all things are new, the earth and the heavens are new, death is abolished, and the grave is a dry road through the waters into the land of summer. The priests, the Pharisees were going once to be very severe. They gathered themselves together; they said to a man who was in their presence, Give God the glory: as for this Prayer of Manasseh , we know not whence he is; this man is a sinner; give God the praise; be religious, not idolatrous. Said the Prayer of Manasseh , Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; that is metaphysical, theological; that belongs to a line of inquiry in which I have no scholarship. One thing I know: once I was blind, now I see, and you grey-bearded priests cannot persuade me to the contrary; you never gave me sight, this man did; you never offered to give me my sight again, this man found me, anointed mine eyes, sent me to the pool to wash, and I went and washed, and I came seeing: as for your metaphysical, speculative, psychological questions, I cannot enter into these, but so long as these eyes are open I will mention the Physician"s name. These facts are at hand every day. Such miracles were not worked once for all, they are being accomplished morning by morning, night by night; the one thing men are now recovering is their eyesight. We shall miss the genius of the whole thought if we limit the word eyesight to some bodily function or exercise. Sight means larger vision, keener perception, an awakening of all the faculties of the mind to a state of keen, exact, complete penetration. Lord, that I may receive my sight! Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. Saviour of the world, Eternal One, save me from looking at surfaces, outsides, transient shapes and symbols, and give me that peculiar penetrating vision that sees without staring, and that knows afar off what lights are coming up on the horizon.

The opponents of Christianity have then a large body of evidence to overthrow. They are not called upon to deal with any one class of evidence, their difficulty is not with one individual or two; all kinds of men are in the Church, and all kinds of men have come along all kinds of lines of approach; therefore, we have in the Church unity with diversity; one man hath an argument, another a miracle, another a personal consciousness, another a grand missionary fact, another a tongue, a prophecy, a Psalm , a rapture. Do not seek to bring all these ministries and operations into one dead monotony; the enemy will not have to break down one bastion only, he will have miles upon miles of fortification to violate and overthrow. A single personal experience sometimes contains or combines a whole series of proofs. All men are not of one capacity; there are men who are themselves miracles. Sometimes a man may represent a dozen men: take him in argument, and he is strong; draw his attention to miracles, and he has seen them until they have become commonplaces; point out instances of spiritual transformation, and he will add to your knowledge instances which have come under his own observation; quote your personal religious experience, and his heart will burn within him as kindred recollections are awakened and expressed. But taking men as a whole, we must not expect that each man shall represent the whole body of Christian evidence. Let every man be strong upon his own one point. There are subtle assailants who would attack a man at his weakest point, and the fear is that the Prayer of Manasseh , not knowing that he has but a certain capacity, has only a certain quantity of force at his disposal, should imagine that because he has been overthrown at that point nobody else could have resisted the attack. Let each man live on his own ground, let every one speak his mother tongue; it is possible for a man to know much about another language, and yet to be tripped up by some native of the land whose speech he speaks, on some recondite point of grammar. Every one should keep to the words his mother taught him; the words in which his first wishes were expressed, his earliest prayers, his purest desires. Never venture upon foreign tongues in the expression of your deepest spiritual experience. If you have seen God you will be able to tell about it in English. It is wonderful how many beautiful things can be said even in the English tongue. There are those who know a little—oh, a very little—French, and a little—oh, so little—German; but what poor English they speak! There are many persons who know a little about theology, but they have no spiritual acquaintance with Christ, inborn, the miracle of the Holy Ghost in the heart; and then when they come to speak about the deepest spiritual realities how they halt, hesitate, blunder, whereas they ought to have spoken with the fluency of thankfulness, with the precision of long-acquired and deeply-tested experience and familiarity. The witness of the Spirit is a great and often-neglected doctrine. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." If this is a conference of spirit, the Holy Ghost communes with the holy man; they exchange as it were confidences: now the Holy Spirit is a comforter, now a teacher, now the minister of Christ, taking the deepest things of the kingdom of the Son of God, and showing them to the wondering and glowing heart. When spirits meet in conference there can be no literal report of the interview: what passed must be known only to the heart itself; but it is so known to the heart as to constitute a fortress, a sanctuary, an impregnable argument.

Have we this witness of God the Holy Ghost? Does he speak comfortably to us? What do we mean by comfort? In the great majority of instances the word comfort in the New Testament means stirring up, not soothing down; encouraging, warming, stimulating, not allowing to slumber and making life one dreary Sabbath afternoon. Let us not debase etymology: when the apostle prayed that the saints might be comforted he prayed that they might be stirred up, roused. Truly the apostles were ardent men. Great mischief will come if we begin to set one kind of experience against another in this matter of Christian life and Christian fellowship. We ought not to antagonise but to comfort one another. The man sitting next me may know nothing about miracles, but he may have a deep spiritual experience; let us commune together so far as we may be able, and help one another. The next man may be mighty in argument; let him not say to his weaker brother, If you cannot argue you cannot be saved. As well might one artist say to another, Because you cannot do my kind of work you are incapable. One man can bring into measurable canvas a whole universe of action, life, colour, suggestion; another man can through the organ express what language can never represent, a whole apocalypse of dreamy thought. Shall the one man say to the other, Because you cannot paint, or, Because you cannot play, therefore you have no right in the sanctuary, and no right to recognition amongst men who are approved scholars and refined citizens? Yet this is precisely what is being done in the Church. If any man"s experience does not accord with mine, that man is an alien; it would seem as if some persons ran all their thought into that unholy and despicable mould. Some men are Christians who do not know it; there are men who have to be told what they are. When a man is troubled to ecclesiastically distribute himself or assign his precise right, if he could with a clumsy hand and too much ink and too broad a pen write down, "I love the Son of God," that would be better than anything he could indite. That is what we want more and more of all through and through the Church.

Do you suppose the world, the great million-headed world, labour-crushed, darkness-bound, is going to stop until we ecclesiastics and theologians have arranged all our little manoeuvres? The world is dying,—save it! Testify out of your own experience, out of your own observation, out of your own knowledge; then your testimony shall be eloquent and effective through the power of the Holy Ghost. It should be a joy to us that there are so many ways of representing Christ. One star differeth from another star in glory. It should be the delight of the pastor to know that no two men in his church can agree with one another with a view to lifting up a standard that everybody else shall accept. Listen, saith Hebrews , being a man of capacious mind, and still more capacious heart, listen to all these speeches: there is a line of unity in them though the speakers do not recognise it. Hear: one hath a miracle, one a Psalm , one a tongue, one a vision, one a dream, one a thought, one a broken heart. Listen: this is not conflict, this is not the odium theologicum, one man pelting another with hard words because he does not believe as he believes. Listen. What are the wild waves saying? They say that they are moving in harmony with the great astronomic force, pulsing, throbbing, thundering on the shore, and yet they all belong to the same great sea. Let us cultivate difference; let us accept difference as an argument and an illustration and as opening broader possibilities, and away, away with the monotony which has burdened, distressed, and hindered the Church of Christ!

Prayer

Almighty God, we come to thy house to complete our own home. The house is no home until we connect it with thy sanctuary; then the fire burns well, then is the bed the sanctuary of sleep and sweet rest; the bread then is sacramental, and the whole office of love a beauteous ministry. The tabernacle of God is with men upon the earth, sanctifying all their dwellings, and making their houses homes. Lord Jesus, abide with us; never go away: sit down with us at the table; break our bread for us, and feed our hearts with love. Be our housekeeper,—except the Lord keep the city the watchmen shall be blind. Keep our houses, our lives, all our interests. Number the hairs of our heads; watch us as if we were of importance to thee. Are we not important to thee, thou Son of God? Thou wast wounded for our transgressions, thou wast bruised for our iniquities; for us thou didst carry the Cross: we are therefore of consequence to thy love Find in us the image of God, and restore it in all its beauty and grandeur; lead us away from all that is deathly and mean and dishonourable, and lift us up to the gate of heaven, the entrance of the dwelling of God. Pity us in our littleness, vanity, and infirmity; urge not against us thy great power: for who can stand against the thunder of God? May thy gentleness make us great. Surround us with love, indulge us with mercy, feed us with grace. The Lord hear us in these things, and surprise us by great replies. Amen.

Fragments and Portions

John 6:12

You can easily recall the many discourses which you have heard upon these simple and useful words. The picture is vivid: the thousands have partaken of the bounty of Christ, and when the feast is finished Jesus says, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost": sweep up all the crumbs, pick up all the fallen pieces, leave nothing behind for beast or bird. Our fathers and our mothers have preached to us upon these beautiful words, and many admirable sentiments they have inferred from the incident which children can understand and admire. What lectures we have heard upon gathering up the fragments! Economists have said, Gather up all the odd moments of time; never have any spare moments that you do not know how to use: when there is a little break in the continuity of your labour commit to memory some portion of Scripture, or some verse of poetry, or some words of a foreign language which you are anxious to learn and to speak. Never be idle; if you add up all your spare moments you will find in the course of the year that probably they will amount to days; be very economical of time, be very miserly of periods of five minutes and half-hours: gather up the fragments that nothing be lost. And we have said, Well done, economist; what thou hast said, thou hast well said. Then the motherly economist has come in upon us and said, "Waste not, want not," and she has chosen for her trencher one that bears that motto carven on its hospitable edges. "Waste not, want not": throw nothing away; if you have cut too much bread and cannot eat what you have cut, be careful to treasure the remainder, you will want it in an hour or two, and pick up all the crumbs, and throw no one to hungry dog or waiting bird; take care of the littles, and things that are great will take care of themselves; take care of the pence, and the pounds will manage on their own account. And we have heard the sweet old mother say all this, and have felt in our hearts that (excepting the dog and the bird) she was speaking words of truth and wisdom. Then she has said to her little seamstresses, Take care of all the little pieces, pick up all the thread ends, store away all the little cuttings; you can make something of them by-and-by—pincushions and dolls" frocks; there is no telling what you may do with these little pieces: gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.

Have we a word to say against all this economy? Only this, that when it is proposed to base it upon this text it is nonsense. It is very good in itself; we all need to learn something of that economy, but we must not base it upon this particular Scripture. Hence the difficulty of using single texts; hence the mischief that is wrought by many poor teachers that would build a denomination upon a semicolon. If we turn to the Revised Version we shall find a change which has been pointed out by the Very Rev. the Dean of Llandaff, himself one of the revisers, as important, showing the meaning of the text to be infinitely larger than the trifling economy which has prided itself on its own ignorance. "Gather up the broken portions that remain, that nothing be lost." "Fragments" is displaced by the word "portions," and to the word portions is attached the word "broken." "Gather up the broken portions that remain, that nothing be lost." Look at the word "broken": we have seen in Mark that Jesus took the bread, the loaves, and brake them; we have seen in Luke that the word "brake" is also used as denoting the action of Christ: now we read, "Pick up all the broken portions that remain, that nothing be lost." See the picture: observe the breaking hands of Christ: the loaves grow under his touch; he breaks until he is surrounded by heaps and piles and hills of bread; and still he breaks, and still the multitudes continue to eat, and when the feast is over he says, Pick up the broken portions that remain, that nothing be lost. Not, Gather up your leavings, but, Gather up my treasures; not, Sweep up your crumbs, but, Take care of the unsearchable riches of your Lord. All that we have heard of the little economy was neat and thrifty and domestic, but it is not authorised by this text; this verse shows the larger truth. There is no need to waste our crumbs or our leavings, but what Christ is teaching is that he has laid up treasures for ever, and we have to carry them with us wherever we go. What a different view is this! We started with economy, we end with faith; we began by keeping thrift-boxes (the thief heard of them, and took them all away one night), we end by keeping our treasures where moth and rust doth not corrupt, where thieves do not break through nor steal. I shall have enough, not because I have swept up the crumbs, but because God has broken bread enough to keep his universe through all the ages of eternity: only the universe must take care of the broken portions; that is where thrift comes in, the great thrift, the noble economy. We have had occasion to point out and denounce the miserable prudence of some people, the little nibbling mouse-like activity and industry and thrift and prudence of some small natures that always end by some act of glaring imprudence. You watch a man who is too prudent, neatly prudent, prudent on a small scale, and that man will die an open palpable fool; at the last, when nearing fourscore, he will do some deed that will topple him over, and the world will laugh at his mouse-like prudence. There is another prudence, the larger, grander philosophy, the faith that lives in God, and that says, I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, because the Lord is my Shepherd. That prudence will grow, that wisdom will be justified of her children; and many who trembled because of momentary eccentricity will live to see the day that he who trusted most in God had broken portions to eat that the world knew not of, the world did not give, and the world cannot take away.

Observe how characteristic this action is of the whole method of providence. God never gives just enough. If he does, tell me where. The calculator who is wise says, To-morrow month fifty guests will come to my table: for their satisfaction what shall I provide? The fare is detailed, totalised, pronounced sufficient, a little is thrown in for foam—what is the tankard unless it foam up high above its own level? That is supposed to be hospitality. With certain obvious qualifications it is what it claims to be. When does God give just enough, so that there is nothing to spare? I refer you to all you know of nature: is there just sunlight enough to last the little day and to creep to bed by? Does the one side of the earth say, I could have done with a million more beams, but they were not to be had, because the other side of the globe needed them? Why, God rains whole oceans of light upon the globe that the globe cannot retain; the little globe-vessel cannot hold the wine of the sunlight: down it comes in river and torrent, and Atlantic and Pacific—on and on—and running away over the sides of this too-little vessel to fill other globe-goblets with its largess of glory. When are there just enough leaves to cover the bare shoulders of winter, so that the Lord says, If I had more leaves I would clothe that little bare corner, that small bleak crag, but my ivy ran out, my grass was insufficient; I might have spared one flower, but that would have been all I could have done? Why, he wastes more blossoms than arithmetic can count. As for the leaves, have you numbered them? Have you had daylight enough to count the leaves upon one great oak? and what are these snowflakes under the tree? Shed blossoms! He could have clothed another globe with them as large as the globe we live upon. When does God "brake" in nature just enough? Whenever he has broken in personal providence just enough it was not an indication of his want, but a proof that he was educating and chastening our lives. He has not always entrusted us with the broken portions; he has seen that now and again we could not be trusted with them, and therefore he has had to be his own treasurer. God has had to take care of his own promises; the Lord hath not allowed all the angel promises to come and sing to us at once, but he has sent them one after another, each with his little Song of Solomon , enough to last out all the darkness of our fear.

It was like Jesus Christ to give ten thousand times more than the people really needed. At the wedding feast they said there was no wine, and he gave them firkin after firkin of wine, a whole Niagara of the wine of the kingdom of heaven, that never made the judgment dark, or the knees tremble in weakness, or the mind play the tricks of the fool. He began well—"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee." There never was so much wine in the little town before. When does Jesus do just enough to save the sinner? He saves the sinner with an eternal salvation, with an everlasting redemption; his Cross is not able simply and only to lift the world a little, it can lift the world to heaven. What a different meaning is this! We began by seeing the disciples sweeping up the crumbs, gathering up the little pieces that had been left over, and putting them into baskets; whereas Jesus Christ did not call them to this kind of work, he said, "Gather up the broken portions," he took the bread and brake it, and there was ten thousand times more than the universe could eat: and he said, Take care of the broken portions, my finger prints are upon them; these may be unto you some day as my broken body. Whatever Christ did he did sacramentally; he never uttered a word in any language without sanctifying that word, making it the gem of speech, the diamond of eloquence.

What about your little economy now, your small texts and neat quotations, and your religious labels? Why, all things are yours, if you will gather them up, and take care of them. God will not follow the spendthrift and put money into his pockets, but the Lord says, All things are yours, if you live in faith, if you live in love, if you serve faithfully: call upon me, and I will answer. We should have more—of everything—if we had more faith in God. "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon." That is what you are trying to do. You fail, and the universe is glad of your defeat. What, can you steal something without God seeing you? It will rot in your tents. The Lord knew that the Israelites were a gang of thieves, and he gave them just enough; and here and there some of them thought he was not looking, and they took some away with them, and when they went to laugh over it next day it was pestilent, poisonous, it had become as death in the house. You cannot outwit God. You do not want the promises every day; there are whole weeks and months when you need no promise at all, and you have nothing to do but toil and toil: but keep the promises near at hand, the day on which you will need them may come at any moment; then you will remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, "Gather up the broken portions, that nothing be lost."

The Christian need not live from hand to mouth. How much of history have you gathered up? History should be prophecy. History is nothing if it end in itself; it only becomes representative of its divinely-intended meaning when it lifts up a great light over the darkness of the future. Have you stored your history? Have you turned it into prophecy, poetry, idealism, faith? Or has God governed the world in vain for you? For you have heeded not the ever-moving and all-ruling hand. How much of your own experience have you treasured? What broken portion have you ready for use? Let David teach us again as he has often taught us; looking forward to the fray with Goliath of Gath he said, "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." That was gathering up the broken portions that remained, that nothing was lost. Some one had not to come to David and say, Have you ever had any serious encounters with any difficulties in your life? Woe to the soul that needs to be reminded of its own birthdays, its own conquests, its own days of coronation. Treasure God"s goodness as seen in the past, and use it as an assurance of God"s goodness in the future. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think; when he has done it, gather up the broken portions that nothing be lost. You need to be converted every day, and to be taken back to the infant school every day; you soon fall from what little faith you have into the silliest idiocy, so that you have to be taught again the first principles and the alphabetic elements of things, instead of being rich with unsearchable riches. Lord, increase our faith. Oh that we had gathered up the broken portions! then today we had been revelling in our heritage, we had been rich with unsearchable riches.

When you say to your children or your friends, "You may call upon me in the day of trouble: all I have shall be at your disposal, my experience shall be the bible out of which you shall read all day long; when you need me most call upon me earliest, and whatever I do for you shall be eagerly and cordially done;" then gather up the broken portions, that nothing be lost. You do not want them today, an easy "Thank you" covers the occasion; but there are times when lions and wolves are after you, when the sky is one great frown, when the cross-winds howl from every point of the compass, and you cannot tell the right hand from the left; then remember the broken portions laid up in store, you gathered what God broke: ye are fellow labourers with God.

So we are not called to save trifles, but to draw upon the treasured fulness of God. We are not called to a small economy, but to a tranquil and victorious faith.

Prayer

Almighty God, thou hast indeed set a King in Zion, and his name is Christ: the name that is above every name, around which the universe shall gather in homage. We humbly desire that we may know the meaning of that name more and more deeply every day; that its charm may become mightier over our spirits; that we may be led forth by it as by an inspiration and a challenge to many a holy fight, to much high daring, and that it may work in us all the mystery of patience and long-suffering, that in the end we may be saved as with triumph. We bless thee that we have heard of the King whose name is Christ; we love him, because he first loved us, so that now we can say, The love of Christ constraineth us. He takes the throne of our heart and sits upon it, and is the monarch of our whole life. For such a King we bless thee; we would have this man reign over us, we would be subject to no other king. Reign over us, thou whose right it is to reign; cause us to submit our will to thine, to bow before thee in continual and loving and delighted homage, and may our whole life be marked by a loyalty to divine law, to divine light, to divine love. Thus may our lives become a daily sacrifice, not living for themselves or unto themselves, but going up evermore towards the one throne where our life is hidden in Christ with God. May this account for the unchangeableness of our devotion, for the constancy of our faithfulness, for the pureness of our loyalty; may no enemy have power against us to trouble us, to torment our peace, to disturb our expectations, but in quietness and solemnity and in the perfect assurance of indestructible and unquestioning love, may we rest in God, and hope continually in the Most High. We bless thee that thou hast made us to be reigned over. Thou hast put within us the element of subjection; help us to use that element aright, to bow down before the true King, to be faithful to the one throne, never to forsake the standard of the truth. We thank thee for these aspirations; we would that they might come to fruition in our lives. Yet for them, as inspirations only, we bless thee. Their utterance does the soul good; whilst we speak them in thy hearing our life is lifted up. Enable us constantly to see the unattained ideal, to fix our minds upon the mark we have not yet reached; enable us by the ministry of the Holy Ghost constantly to urge onward towards that high mark—forgetting the things that are behind, enable us to make advancement in things divine. We would not be today as we were yesterday, but today we would have some new knowledge, some quickened expectation, some widened and brightened hope we never had before. Thus may our life continually expand and elevate until it becomes perfect with the measure of Christ"s own life. Thy Book is the man of our counsel; but how can we understand what we read except thou dost explain it to our understanding and our heart? Holy Spirit, dwell with us, revealing the hidden riches of Christ, showing us the yet undisclosed depths of his infinite truth, and constraining us to follow him with increasing diligence and devotion of heart, that we may not be left behind, but be found ready when our Lord cometh to enter into all the fulness of his joy. We have come up to thy house from divers occupations; we have brought with us memories of the world; we are pursued by anxieties, difficulties, tormenting memories, as were the emancipated Israelites pursued by the Egyptians. Enable us now fully to (lee away from these things and to enter into rest, the rest that remaineth ever for the people of God. Into this sanctuary may no worldly care come; into this hidden place may nothing that is tormenting penetrate. Give us quietness for an hour, time to bethink ourselves, to collect our strength, and enable us to draw from the riches of thy grace a plenitude of thy truth and thy mercy, so as to qualify ourselves for the renewal of the conflict in the opening week. May all our battles be conducted in thy strength; may all our difficulties be approached in the consciousness that God is with them that wish to be right and to do right. Enable us, in this sure faith, in the steadfastness of this revealed truth, serenely to walk forward into whatsoever direction thy Spirit may point, knowing this, that thou wilt cause all things to work together for good if our love to thee be a pure and constant flame. Regard us as representing many human experiences, many personal difficulties, and various human estates; regard us every one with an eye of favour. Let not the fear of thy judgment be amongst us to destroy, but only to search out and to renew. May thy gospel come to every one as a new truth—old as eternity, yet new and beautiful as the summer morning shining round about us. Revive our best recollections; brighten the hopes that are momentarily beclouded; cause us to recollect the goodness that has ever passed before us, and may all our yesterdays be gathered up into an emphatic and sublime prophecy, foretelling the victories that are yet to come. Bless the stranger within our gates; may this be to him his Father"s house, a place of rest, a gate opening upon the Infinite Land, where there are no strangers, where the home feeling is supreme, where the whole family gather together into one, and are indissoluble evermore. Look upon those who are in special trials and peculiar difficulties. Forget not the house that has been darkened by bereavement; remember the life suddenly desolated and impoverished; look upon the tree from which thou hast stripped the bud and the blossom and left it very bare—send summer down upon its roots, may the dew of the morning visit its branches, and may it yet bring forth abundantly, and rejoice in all the summer joy of thy glory. Be with us as individuals, families, households; remain with us as a Church and people naming the name of Christ, baptised with the Holy Ghost. Let thy ministry be luminous, mighty, powerful in tenderness, and may many people hear the Word of the Lord here, and receive it and bless his name, and give up their lives to his service. Hear this our morning prayer. Let not our psalm of praise be unheard in heaven. Send us down answers of peace. Thou wilt surely do Song of Solomon , for we are gathered at the Cross of Christ, we look up to his open wounds, we remember the meaning of the sacrificial blood which flowed from his veins, and because thou hast given thy Son to die for us, thou wilt with him also freely give us all things. This thy will be done. Amen.

Christ Not a King By Force

John 6:15

These words enable us to come to some just understanding of the place of force in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a common saying amongst ourselves that some men have greatness thrust upon them. From all such men Jesus Christ separates himself, knowing that what is done by force or compulsion may by force or compulsion be undone. So he would not have a kingdom that was forced upon him, nor would he be forced upon a kingdom. Wonderful words are written upon the blood-red banner of this king. Read some of them: "Put up thy sword into the sheath." "My kingdom is not of this world." "He took upon him the form of a servant." "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Are these kingly words? Is it the place of a king to stand outside and to knock? Jesus would not be a Prayer of Manasseh -made king; in some other way he would come to the throne. The creature of a populace must live by popular favour; this man must rule by a deeper and nobler law. So he passes away from the impulsive crowd that supposes it could make a king, saying, "It is better to be alone than to be a creature of such creatures."

What then has Jesus Christ done up to this time? He has actually declined twice to be made a king. It is not every man who has two such chances in one lifetime—Jesus had them and despised them. Once he was shown all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and was told that they might be his if he would bend his knee to the offerer, and he said No. Then the people who had seen him work the miracle of the loaves and fishes proposed themselves to work a still greater miracle by forcing him to be king, and he said No. Everything depends upon how you get hold of your kingdom. If you have offered false worship for your kingdom it will rot in your grip, and if you have been forced upon a reluctant heart, that heart will cast you off in the spring-tide of its returning power. We must, therefore, understand what true power is; we must go a little into the elements which constitute true might—there is influence and influence. The mystery about Jesus Christ"s declining two kingdoms is this; that he actually came to be a king, yea, King of kings, Lord of lords, and he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. And yet, when he was offered a kingdom for one act of homage he declined; when the people were all going to get behind him to urge him to ascend the throne, he fled, for solitude was better than such mock-royalty.

I shall claim something for Christ out of all this. A man who can act so shall not be snubbed in my hearing without protest. He shall not be reviled without indignant remonstrance. Oh, he works by a very long line, this man. When a step would take him out of the common thoroughfare into the highway of royalty, and he declines to take that step, I say there is something in this man more than in any other man. And are we, his loyal ones, going to allow our faith in him to be mitigated or impaired or snuffed out by somebody who imagines he has found some fault in him which escaped the microscopic and penetrating eyes of Pilate? For my part, I intend to stand by him a little longer. There is a breadth in his way of doing things; there is an outgo of soul in this man that I have found nowhere else. May I have strength to go with him to prison and to death! The more I study his character, the more I find that I am independent of all that series of proofs described by the theologians as evidences. I value them as introductory; they are a needful part of my alphabetical education in the things of the kingdom of Christ; but the grand claim of Christ to the supremacy of the universe is not resting upon merely temporary considerations and formal arguments, it goes right up to the very centre and necessity of things, and it will be our business to try and elucidate that proposition in a few words.

It appears, then, that nothing has to be done in the kingdom of heaven by violence—by mere force. Did not Jesus Christ come to be a king? Yes. Well, then, what did it matter by what way he was proclaimed king? Everything. A man must prove his title to his seat, or he may be unseated—dispossessed of the glory which temporarily encircled him. It is not right to do right in a wrong way. It was right that Jesus Christ should be king; it was wrong to seek to make him king by force. Let us say that it is right that men should pray. It would be wrong to attempt to force men to pray. It is right that you should come to church—it would be wrong to force any one of you to come to the sanctuary. Even a right end, therefore, is not to be attained by the wrong road; the end does not sanctify the means.

See how utterly powerless is force in all high matters, in all great concerns of the soul, the concerns that look outward towards education and matureness and destiny. For example, what can force do in this matter of prayer? You can force a man to kneel: true. You can force a man to speak, whilst he is upon his knees, religious language: true. You can force him to repeat all the devotional words of the Bible while you stand over him sword in hand: true. Can you make him pray? Never. There he defies you. A superficial observer would say, "We compelled him to pray," but he has done nothing of the kind. There is a line beyond which the tyrant cannot go, beyond which force is weakness: that is the line of perfect spiritual independence on the part of the individual judgment and conscience.

Take the matter of honesty. What can you do by mere force? You can by force compel a man to pay his debts—is that compelling him to be honest? Nothing of the kind. You can force him to pay the uttermost farthing of his pecuniary obligations, and you may be able to give him, on his so doing, a complete remittance and release from all such bond—have you made him an honest man? Perhaps you have only made him a greater thief! What is honesty? Something that force cannot create. What is dishonesty? Something that force cannot punish. You have a certain length of line, and that length of line must be used for social convenience and the purposes of social justice, but beyond that the man may pay you every penny he owes you, and be a thief in every drop of blood in his felonious heart.

They could compel a man to ascend the throne: they could not compel him to rule, nor could they compel him to be a king. Garment upon his shoulder, coronal upon his head, nimbus burning and glowing around his uplifted countenance—he is only a mean man still, a king in name, a creature of the dust in reality. What is true of the individual is true of the nation. You can compel a nation to build a church, but you cannot compel a nation to be religious. If you could do Song of Solomon , it would not be right—it would be out of keeping with the spirit of loyal worship; the very bloom and fragrance of all that is heavenly in religion would be destroyed. Think of this as deeply true to human nature—the very attempt to force a man to be religious destroys the temper which alone makes religion possible. Religion, truly understood, is the joyous sacrifice of the individual will to the will of the Supreme—it is the exaltation of God over every thought and purpose of the mind. Being all this, it is infinitely beyond the control of all force and penal compulsion.

Whilst all this is true on the human side, the real point to be considered is that Jesus Christ himself would never consent to reign over the soul by mere force. Observe that this is a two-sided question; if you could force men to Christ, you could not force Christ to men. If you succeeded in moving the finite, you could never succeed in also moving the Infinite. It is the Infinite that declines, it is God that says, No—I will not reign thus. Jesus Christ reigns by distinct consent of the human mind. Listen to these words; they should convert us all, they should make us love him: "If any man will open the door, I will come in." That is the king"s word. "If ye seek me, ye shall find me." "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "He that believeth shall be saved." If there is yet left in you, O man outside the kingdom of Christ, one element that mother or wife or sister could appeal to, I level my whole argument and expostulation in the direction of that element, and ask you to consider these infinitely tender words of him who came to be king—"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man will open the door, I will come in." Only a soul lost beyond redemption could fail to see the gospel that is in these words.

If he will not be king by force, by what means will he become king? Force would seem to hasten progress—the sword is famous for cutting a short road to remote ends. But Jesus Christ declines to be made a king by force. How then does he expect to become king over all the earth? What is his own notion? Hear it: tell me if ever in common brain there sprang a notion so divine. What is his method? Preach me, is one of his injunctions—declare me, unfold me, show my doctrine, my purpose, my spirit—go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That is a roundabout way, is it not? It Isaiah , but the swing of the divine astronomy is in it, the throb that stirs the planets. It is not the thought of a common man; whilst I look at him speaking these words, arrayed in his carpenter"s garments he may be, but there glows through them a light that supersedes the sun, and I claim it as a tribute of mere decency, of elementary courtesy, that when a man has a high thought, he himself should be regarded with a feeling appropriate to the loftiness of such thinking, be he carpenter, be he king.

Is it enough to preach him? He adds another word—Live me—"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."—I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so do ye one to the other.—Follow me, show that you have been with Christ—prove what I do for you in the mitigation of your care, in the sanctification of your affliction; tell people what it is that makes you pluck the sting from death, and spoil the victory of the grave.

It is in this way that he is coming to the kingdom. I believe he will keep it. Now that I see his plans, I hear his words with the ear of my soul, and their true meaning comes with their music—"the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, against my church, against my kingdom." What more does he say to us?—Lift me up—"I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." How lifted up? Not lifted up upon a cross—murderers gave him that elevation—but lifted up on the cross in the sense of sacrifice; in the sense of embodying the infinitely gracious purposes of God; in the sense of making reconciliation for sin; in the sense of being offered, the just for the unjust. There you have not a wooden cross, but the cross of the heart. Yet there is another sense in which we may lift up Christ—we lift him up when we love his law; we lift him up when we submit to his bidding; we lift him up when we reproduce his temper; we lift him up when we receive with unquestioning heart all the gospel of his love. He who bears affliction patiently for Christ"s sake, lifts Christ up. He who says to a looking and wondering friend in the time of agony and physical dissolution, "Christ makes me more than conqueror"—lifts Christ up—"and I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." A slow process? Yes, but unchangeable in its results. A kingdom built on these foundations is an everlasting kingdom. We are to do our utmost to create in the heart of man a deep interest for Christ; if we do Song of Solomon , we shall lift the Saviour up.

Now for the truly philosophical explanation of all this. We find it in the words, "We love him, because he first loved us." If it were a question of test, mere test, momentary probation, we might change. But this man lays hold of our entire love, leaves no element of it unclaimed, dominates the whole sphere of our purified and ennobled affection. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his father; to him be glory and dominion for ever."

There is still the element of endurance here—there is the divine compulsion moving through the heart, working along the line of the affections, getting hold of the confidence and the love—that means an everlasting reign. When I put these things together I cannot tell how my heart glows with love to this wondrous Nazarene. His words are like no other words; his method is self-vindicating. It looks so unhuman at the first, it proves itself so divine in its effects. The man who can proceed to capture human nature as this man proceeded, is presumably a true king. I repeat that no adventurer, no empiric, would have acted as Jesus Christ behaved. Here is the kingdom—he said "No" to the devil. If he found out his mistake he would never have repeated it a second time. He refused the kingdom from the devil, he refused the kingdom from violent men—he said he would be king, but not in either of these ways. The man who comes to take me captive by my judgment, by my conscience, by my will, by my love, by all that separates me from beast-hood, is likely to be a true king. Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!

Let little children think of this: Jesus would not have you forced to be good—Jesus would not have you whipped to church—Jesus would not have you punished for not learning the Bible—Jesus would not have you injured because you do not care for him. He says, "I will speak to the little one; I will say, I stand at the door and knock; if any child will open the door, I will come in." That is how Jesus Christ would treat you, little one. He would not smite you on the head because you do not love him; he would not crush you down by his great power, and try to make you love him; but he says, "I am standing still outside, and knocking still; I have been knocking all day and all night, and my hair is wet with dew: if any child will open the door, I will come in."

He makes no proposition about going out. His proposition is to get in, but to get in by your consent, on the invitation of your necessity, on the compulsion of your love. I repeat, therefore, and make an argument of it, that any Prayer of Manasseh ,—Galilean peasant, never in Rabbinical school, never having learned letters, trained under no settled ministry of metaphysics or philosophy,—any man who had the notion that to reign for ever you must reign by love, is presumably a true king, the king, King of kings.

The Church should be like the Master: it should not rule by force. I would never compel even a child to go to church; much less would I attempt to compel any one who was momentarily in my power. I would not bribe a man to go to church—certainly I would in no way inflict upon him loss or humiliation for not going. I would try to make the church itself the attraction. No child should be punished for not learning its Bible. Punish a child if you please for not learning the spelling-book or the geography, but do not associate penal suffering with biblical learning.

The Church should be like the Master: it should seek to rule by love. Not one penny would I take from any man by the law to support any form of religion, either my own or yours. Whatever is done must be done of a willing mind, and everything that is given must have this written upon it—"The love of Christ constraineth us." And in proportion as Jesus Christ will not force you, ought you to love him. If it were a contest of force, then you might rejoice in the apparent victory which you win for a moment; but when he says to you, "It is not a contest of hand against hand or sword against sword, but of your obstinacy against my love;" when he says, "I could by mere omnipotence crush you between my fingers, but that would only be a triumph of physical power. No; I will teach you, preach to you, love you, die for you, show you my hands and my feet," the very stripping of himself of his physical almightiness should constitute his supreme power as One who wants to captivate your love, and sit down on the throne of your confidence for ever.

Prayer

O that this day we might see the Lord and have our whole mind filled with his light and joy! Lord, dost thou ask us what we would have at thine hands? Our answer Isaiah , Lord, that we might receive our sight! When men cry unto the Lord in their trouble, thou dost deliver them out of their distresses; in this hope we come now before the Lord, and even whilst we speak our hearts feel the burden rising. Sweet is the day of the Lord, quiet and tender in its sacred peacefulness, opening into the very heavens, and showing us the New Jerusalem as the city in which we shall no more be threatened by fear and humbled by weariness. For every blessing we offer thee our praise. Thou didst lead us through the solitary way, and thou hast spared us from the shadow of death. Our souls are thine; our bodies are thy habitation. Thou art mindful of us with great care, and thy banner over us is love. Oh that we knew how to praise thee aright, that our hearts might not suffer pain because of the weariness of our worship! Thy judgments are very terrible, but thy mercies are greater still. Our life is full of the mercy of the Lord, and our days are made bright by his goodness. Lord, let not our feet stray from the path of thy will. Lord, comfort us, encourage our souls in the day of fear, and let our weakness hide itself in thy great power. We lay down our own wisdom as ignorance, and run away from our towers as from defences that will crush the life that built them. We come to Jesus. We stand beside the Saviour. We know the power of his blood. Lord, help us. Lord, send upon us the blessing of thine infinite pardon. Lord, show us the light of thy face. We daily see how great a gift is life; we know it not, we have not seen the divine secret, we feel the pulse beat, but we see not the power by which it is moved. We are our own mysteries. Life itself is a religion. Life is a continual prayer. How weak we are, yet how strong! We cannot just now bear the full daylight, yet we shall pass the sun on our upward way to the glory to come, and his great lustre shall be as a spark vanishing in the ever-enlarging vastness of thy universe. When we think thus of thy kingdom our light affliction is but for a moment. Thy kingdom, Lord, how great, how bright, how strong! May we one and all have a place in that everlasting house. Thy mercy is greater than our prayer, and therefore do we hope even where we cannot reason. Send the gospel to our lost ones, and bring our wanderers home. Visit our sick chambers, and whisper to our sick ones the messages of consolation, so that their very weakness may itself become a privilege, and their loneliness become the sanctuary within which thou wilt meet them. We put our own life into thy keeping. We lay aside our own poor help as a temptation, and we accept thy strength as our perfect ability. O thou God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when shall we be wholly swallowed up in thy great love? When will the devil leave us, and none but holy angels be at hand? How long the tempter tarries! He wears out our strength; he lures our fancy; he vexes our prayers; he tortures our very communion with thyself. Jesus of the wilderness, Jesus of Calvary, help us or the enemy will prevail. He is so strong, so swift, so wise; yet we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us, therefore do we pray—Jesus, save us, or we perish! Amen.

Bread and Water

John 6:35

The subject is clearly, Bread and Water. You call these common things, and my object will be to show that their commonness is not a defect, but an excellence; that their very excellence has occasioned their commonness; and that their commonness corresponds to a common want in the constitution of mankind. I will take the simple idea of bread and water, and apply it socially in the first place, and trace it upward to its highest and divinest meaning.

Let us look in upon the greatest feast ever spread for the refreshment and delight of kings. All delicacies shall be there that can be found in wood and air and sea; the richest wines shall sparkle and foam and glow upon the sumptuous board; and the fragrances arising from this luxurious feast shall excite and regale the appetite of hungry men. Now what have we there? What is the fundamental idea? What is the nucleus of the abounding and tempting feast? Surprising as it may seem, the whole thing is but an adaptation of bread and water! It is bread and water decorated; bread and water more or less adulterated; bread and water supposed to be at their best as to refinement, and richness, and power of gastronomic temptation and satisfaction. And if you could follow the sated guests into their privacy you would hear them say, in effect, "All this fine living is well enough now and then, but only now and then, after all; let us have something plain and substantial;" in a word, let them have bread and water. What is this prodigious art of the high cook? He is bound, like other popular slaves, to produce something fresh; without novelty he sinks into a common baker; a new relish may mean a new fortune; a new gravy may give him a country house and a footman; a new adaptation of an omelette may enable him to start a shooting box,—but it is bread and water that he works upon; bread and water are the basis of his fortune. He lives by mystifying the public, and mightily laughs at the trick by which he has made men think that bread crumbs have some connection with far-off spice groves and Ceylon breezes. Offer your guests plain bread and water, and they will not often call your way; but dress up the bread and water, torture them, colour them, spice them, and they will praise the delicacy and excellence of the viands. But bread and water survive! These are the things that cannot be shaken. Empires of soups and entries, wines and liqueurs, rise and fall, but the steady old friends bread and water remain as the unadorned and ever wholesome gifts of God. Ay, poor cook, clever trickster, half a creator, under all thy enchantments and wizardries there are the plain bread and water; disguise them, bribe them, paint them, and wreathe around them all manner of cunning ornamentation, they are but bread and water. The image and the superscription are the cook"s, but the bread and water themselves are God"s! Name the dishes that delighted Babylonian gluttons, and rehearse the menu which made the Egyptian gourmands smack their sensual lips. You cannot; these are forgotten delights, paste-boards that perished in the fire; but bread and water come steadily along the ages, over the graves of empires and the ashes of royalty, having escaped the tortures of the crudest cooks, and shown themselves to be the primary and necessary gifts of God.

Well, the application of this is obvious in higher spheres of life, such, for example, as the culture and satisfaction of the intellect. Reading and writing are the bread and water of the mind. Give a child the power of reading and writing, and let him do the rest for himself; it is worth doing (at least some of it), and let him find it out and he will value it the more. Your duty is done in giving the reading and the writing, the intellectual bread and water. But fine cookery is imitated in fine intelligence and with like results in some cases, namely, mental indigestion and ill-health. Hence, we have imperfect French, caricatured German, and murdered music, and the native tongue and the native history are passed by as quite secondary, if not beneath contempt. It is better to chatter French in a way which nobody can understand than to speak good plain exact English, is it not? We must be fine at all costs. We must have a few knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, even if we have not a bed to sleep upon. We must be able to say, Parlez-vous Francais, even if we cannot pay our debts. When will people learn to prize bread and water? When will they see that it is better to know a little well, than to know next to nothing about a great deal? Oh, when? This is not a little matter; it is a matter of great importance, from the fact that it is an index of character. We do not laugh at a man whose learning ends at the multiplication table; but we may laugh with grim amusement at a man who speaks hotel French and then spells October with a "h." Give your children intellectual bread and water without grudging, that is to say, give them a thorough grounding in the beginnings and elements of knowledge, and let them do the rest for themselves.

These illustrations prepare the way for the highest truth of all, namely, that Jesus Christ is the bread and water without which we cannot live. He never says he is a high delicacy, a rare luxury, a feast which the rich alone can afford; he says that he is bread and water, he likens himself not to the luxuries, but to the necessaries of life, and in so doing he shows a Wisdom of Solomon , a reach of mind, a grasp of human nature, which should save him from the attacks of malignant men. An adventurer would not have seen in metaphors so humble a philosophy so profound. Adventurers like big words and glaring figures; they speak great swelling words of vanity; they search heaven and earth for effective figures; they disdain the sling and the stone. Not so with Jesus Christ; he is Bread, he is Water, he is Light, he is the Door, he is the Shepherd, and these words, so simple, stretch their meaning around the whole circle of human life, and by their choice alone is the supreme wisdom of Jesus Christ abundantly attested.

Let us go further into this matter by a little detailed inquiry and illustration.

(1) Man needs Jesus Christ as a necessity and not as a luxury. You may be pleased to have flowers, but you must have bread. Christ presents himself as exactly fulfilling this analogy. Our whole life is based on one or two simple but necessary lines; we must have food, we must have shelter, we must have security. But into how many glorifications have all these simple necessaries passed! We have just spoken about food. Now look at shelter. How styles of architecture have grown out of that idea! We talk of Doric, and Grecian, and Gothic; of Norman arches and Corinthian capitals; and indeed we have a long and perplexing nomenclature, all coming out of the fact that man must have a place to go into when the weather is rough and when sleep is needed. Out of the need of shelter the science or art of architecture has come! Is this wrong? Most certainly not. It is a trait of civilisation. It is a sign of refinement and progress. But let an architect of high fancy be called in to build you a house, he gives you a fine elevation, a noble porch, a splendid dome; but in the fever of his fancy he has forgotten the foundations, overlooked the drainage, omitted the joists, and made no provision for the escape of the smoke. How then? Of what avail is it that there is much elaboration of cunning masonry on the front of the house? You could have done without the stone faces above the mullions, but you cannot do without the chimneys and the joists. It is exactly after the bearing of this analogy that Jesus Christ has often been presented in preaching and in books. He has been offered as an ornament merely. He has been preached as the most curious and entertaining of all riddles. He has been treated as the successor of Plato, or Solon, or Seneca. In this way, generally indeed intended to be respectful, the whole purpose of his coming into the world has been overlooked. He has not been presented as bread and water, or the very first and most indispensable necessity of life; he has been treated as a phenomenon; cabineted as a rarity in human history; labelled as a remarkable specimen; and in this way even some of his admirers have ignorantly betrayed and dishonoured the Lord. Jesus is not a phenomenon, he is bread; Christ is not a curiosity, he is water. As surely as we cannot live without bread we cannot live truly without Christ; if we know not Christ we are not living, our movement is a mechanical flutter, our pulse is but the stirring of an animal life. It is in this way, then, that Jesus Christ is to be preached. It is even so I would ever preach him. I would call him the water of life; I would speak of him as the true bread sent down from heaven; I would tell men that it is impossible to live without him; I would say, with heightening passion, with glowing and ineffable love, that he only, even the holy Christ of God, can satisfy the hunger and the thirst of the soul of man. In this way I claim a distinct vocation as a preacher. I am not one amongst many who try to do the world good; as a Christian preacher, or a preacher of Christ, I offer the only thing that can vitally and sufficiently touch the world"s condition, and thus the position of the Christian preacher is absolutely without similitude or parallel, in that the choice he offers is life or death, salvation or ruin, heaven or hell.

(2) What has been the effect of omitting to declare Christ simply as bread and water? Leaving the simplicity of Christ, we have elaborated theological sciences, established and promulgated with solemn sanctions the most intricate creeds; we have worked out a very high and cunning symbolism; we have filled the church with incense, with garments of many colours and many significances, ceremony after ceremony we have contrived; we have called councils, synods, and congresses; we have constituted splendid hierarchies, with mitres and crooks, and clothing precious with gold and glaring with ardent colour. All this have we done, O Son of God, though thou didst call thyself bread and water! We have gathered around thee liturgies and suffrages, and gowns and bands, and surplices and chants, and censers and albs, and stoles and chasubles, though thou didst call thyself bread and water! We have drawn a long and often mutinous procession of reverends and most reverends and right reverends and very reverends, and doctors and deans and eminences and holinesses, and suffragans and novices and licentiates, though thou didst call thyself bread and water! Horrible, indeed, and quite infinite is the contemptibleness of all this, and shall I not even say the sin? Suppose some inquiring stranger looking on and asking, What does all this mean? I should answer, not without sharpness and indignation, It means that man is a fool, and that he prefers vanity to truth. This is not the Saviour. This is not the way to God. This is not the door of heaven. This is incubus and rubbish and abomination. Christ is bread; Christ is water; Christ is the one answer to thy difficulties, the one Healer of thy wounds, the one Saviour of thy soul. Oh, but the curse of this mischief is terrible to contemplate! Poor souls are left to believe that they can only get to Christ by seeing ministers and priests and bishops, by learning catechisms, by swallowing dogmas they neither understand nor appreciate, and by listening to the mumbling and muttering of certain ecclesiastical men in livery. Oh, the horribleness! Oh, the blasphemy! Is not the devil laughing the while and filling his cruel hand with additional prey? To those eager to know the truth, I say, Christ is bread; Christ is water; he is nigh thee; take the pure Bible and read it for thyself, read it in solitude, read it with earnest desire to know its living claim upon thyself, and thou shalt see the Lord, and feel the Cross, and eat the heavenly bread.

(3) History furnishes a most graphic confirmation of these views. John Stuart Mill says, "Let rational criticism take from us what it may, it still leaves us the Christ." Exactly so; it still leaves us the bread and water! It still leaves us all we want. It takes away all human conceits and decorations, and it leaves the living bread. It mortifies the theological cook and confectioner, it humbles the decorator of tables, but it leaves the living water! Theological revolutions have come and theological revolutions have gone; timid souls have trembled as if the sanctuary had been destroyed, but when the noise has passed and the cloud has rolled off, behold the bread and water remain, and "Welcome," is written on the tables of the Lord! Men cannot get rid of Christ simply because they cannot get rid of themselves. Marvellous is it to watch how the Lord allows the chaff to blow away, but saves every grain of the precious wheat; and quite marvellous, too, is it to see how some nervous people think that the wheat is lost because the chaff has been scattered by the wind. The Lord will lose nothing. Society revolutionises itself, but society still lives. Theologies, Eastern and Western, wear themselves out, but the bread and water are still there, incorruptible and unlimited. Do we fear the dissolution of the earth because an owl"s nest has fallen? Will the sun not rise to-morrow because a candle has been blown out? Bethink thee, faithless soul, they are but accidents that change, the essentials abide,

I fancy we should change our standpoint in viewing all the revolutions and disasters that occurred within the limits of Christendom. Hitherto we have thought of them as the results of intellectual pride or spiritual insubordination. We have mourned over men as fallen creatures because they have risen against the systems in which they were reared. But possibly we are wrong. It may be Christ himself who is at work. He is the great Revolutionist. This may be Christ"s own way of clearing off the rubbish which has been piled upon his holy name. Christ pulls down papacies and hierarchies and rituals, that he may show that these are not needful, that all human contrivances are departures from his divine simplicity, and that he wishes to be known through all ages and amongst all men as the Bread and Water of human souls. He knows that our temptation is to make more of externals than of realities; hence he turns his providence against us, hurls down our cathedrals and temples and ministers, and says he will be known only as Bread and Water, not as a compound of coloured and poisonous confection. Oh the deceitfulness of the human heart in this matter of serving Christ! We tell lies to ourselves about it. We talk about enriching our services, ennobling our architecture, educating our ministers, creating universities, founding endowments, originating retreats of elegant leisure for the production of technical literature. Rubbish, all of it! Christ asks nothing of the kind at our hands. He prefers his own Spirit to our culture. It is "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit," saith the Lord. "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting." What, then, are we to do? "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." Thus we are driven back to simplicity; our "culture" is thrown down and dashed to pieces as a potter"s vessel, and nothing stands but the bread and the water, the first verities, the essential graces, of the Lord"s Christ.

I care not how rich our music, how noble our architecture, how imposing our method of worship, if all this be kept strictly in its proper place. I love beauty; I am moved to passion and heroism by inspiring music; I would make the Lord"s house glad with every expression of love; but this done, I would write on the doorposts, on the roof, and on every panel, the words of Jesus: "In this place is One greater than the temple." I prefer knowledge to ignorance, but I prefer holiness to either. Culture, when not a chattering and fussy prig, may be right noble and even majestic; but nothing is so cold as culture, and nothing so mean, when not inflamed and impassioned by the spirit of Christ. To-day the pulpit is in danger of being killed by miscalled culture. Men think that because they have been to college five years they ought to be preachers; which is as logical as to say that a man who has driven an omnibus five years ought to be able to take a ship across the Atlantic. The Lord continually dashes these culture-pots to pieces like a potter"s vessel, by making preachers of his own, and clothing them with mysterious but most beneficent power.

We must go back to bread and water. Our dainties must be given up. Our habits are too luxurious; we are killing our souls with sweet poisons; we are, by our fabrications and masonries and fine fancies, exalting ourselves above the Lord; so I would call myself back to the simplicity of Christ, and find all I want in his grace and truth.

The Difficulties of Disbelief

John 6:68

You know too well that we are all tempted—sometimes tempted severely—to give up religious faith and Christian hope. The hand which grasps religious treasures is not always equally strong. In dealing with the state of things which usually attends this painful experience, I intend to raise this most practical question: Suppose we give up the Christian faith, what shall we have instead? Wise men are bound to look at consequences. They do not trust themselves to the Song of Solomon -called chapter of accidents. They move with critical caution, putting things into comparison and contrast, and judging the value of results. If any man were to ask you to give up your house, would you not inquire what you should do in such an event? Even if the house was not all that you could wish it to be, you would still desire to know what you were to have in exchange. Are we to be less careful about a faith than about a dwelling-place? Are we to concern ourselves about a house for the body, and leave the soul without a shelter or without a home? Be as sensible in the higher region as you are in the lower. Discern the signs of the times as clearly as you discern the signs of the sky, and the result will be acceptable to God.

Let me remind you that it is infinitely easier to ask questions than to answer them, and to pull down than to build up. This must be one of the earliest lessons which the earnest student must learn. Never forget it. The rule applies to every department of life, but bears with especial force upon the highest questions which engage the mind. Is it not easier, for example, to waste money than to earn it? Is it not easier to spoil a picture than to paint one? You can pluck a flower from its stem, but can you put it on again? With the rudest hammer you can injure the sculptured marble; but can you shape any stone into beauty? These inquiries, made in the lower region of life and affairs, point towards the doctrine, that it is easier to tempt a man than to save him; easier to ruin life than to train it for heaven! There are men of vigorous but most ill-trained and incomplete ability, who give themselves to the work of unsettling the human mind upon every subject. They have a genius for destruction; they would be unhappy if there was nothing to break; they would kill themselves if there was no other life to be assailed! You who are earnest students of these great religious questions must know these men, and value them properly. If you listen to their utterances you will find that they quarrel with everything; they lay no foundations; they teach no distinct and positive truth; they give the lie to all faith, and throw distrust upon all experience. Mark how easy their task Isaiah , compared with the duty of the Christian teacher. A malicious man can do more mischief in one hour than a man of genius can repair in a lifetime! Let a ruffian have his way for one night upon any minster or abbey which was slowly reared through generations and centuries, and in the morning you may find it a smouldering heap! So with your infidels in their limited world; wherever they go they leave the mark of the beast, and their course may be tracked by the desolation which they leave behind. To all such men you must put the practical question found in the text, viz, If we go away from Christ, to whom shall we go? That is the question I would urge. Give up religion, and what then? Give up the first idea of God, and what then? We are bound to look at alternatives. Sometimes a course may appear to be ready-made to our hands, and to be simple, and to be self-justifying. Yet when we ask about the results or alternatives we may get a new and correct view of the whole case.

The tempter asks you to give up the idea of God, which we have so frequently endeavoured to explain; and every other idea of God which you have derived from the Scriptures and from your spiritual teachers. Well, what then? Remember, you refuse to give up the humblest cottage, until you know where you are to go; you will not throw away the poorest covering in winter until you know what you are to have in return; you will not, on a dark road, put out the dimmest lantern until you are sure of having a better light in its place. Will you, then, recklessly give up the idea of God at the bidding of any man—the idea of the living, loving, personal God, ruling over all—without asking, "To whom shall I go?" You can put away the mystery of God, and you get in return the greater mystery of godlessness. Your account of creation is then neither more nor less than a fool"s account. A chair could not have made itself; but the sun is self-created. Your coat had a maker, but your soul had none. The wax flower on your table was made, but the roses in your garden grew there by chance. The brass instrument was fashioned by a skilled hand, but the voice of Prayer of Manasseh , the grandest of all organs, was self-created. The figure-head on the ship was carved; but the face of the carver became a face by chance, without design and without law! We cannot believe such infinite absurdities. They not only destroy religion; they insult and dishonour reason itself. Were we to accept them and lay them down as the foundations of life, we should lose all self-respect; and feel that faith had been displaced, not only by intellectual madness (which may be a man"s infirmity), but by moral licentiousness and insanity! I claim for the reverent and earnest believer in God the highest common sense. His is the only rational creed. You may ask him some hard questions, but he can put harder questions to you in return. Without doubt, as a religious Prayer of Manasseh , he is surrounded by a great mystery, and he glories in it! The great must always be a mystery to the little; the arch must always be a mystery to the column; God must always be a mystery to his creatures. If we could understand all, we should be all. Only the whole can comprehend the whole; only God can understand God!

We teach that religion is the highest expression of reason. We can never consent to say that reason and religion are altogether different. Without reason there could be no religion; and without religion, reason would perish within the prison of the visible and the temporary. Religion is Reason on her knees; faith is Reason on her wings; Christianity is Reason on the Cross, on her way to the crown! You tell me to give up the idea of God. Then, to whom shall I go? Answer that, if you can. Shall I go to you who have tempted me? Are you prepared to take the consequences of your advice? If a storm should come, will you shelter me? If a sword should be lifted, have you room for me behind your shield? When the day darkens around my soul, can you guarantee me light? You must show me some of your works, that I may have an idea of your strength. I will go round with you and see what you have done, and infer what you can do; and if you can make out a clear case, then I may give up the idea of God. What is your answer to the assaults of great natural forces? Let us begin there. You tell me that you have built great fortresses—high, broad, strong—of the best stone that can be quarried. I ask you, Is it not possible for a bolt of lightning to shiver them to their foundations in a moment? You point to the noble bridges you have made, and you say, "That is my way over rivers." I point you to the floods which tumble their proud arches into confusion, and turn your harvest fields into a swamp. Where then are your sheltering places, and where are the signs of your strength? You have told me to give up the idea of God, and I only ask you this plain common-sense question in return: If I accept your advice and give up the idea of God—to whom shall I go? Remember, it is easy work to tell a man to give up this doctrine and that faith, and to surrender the chief hopes of his life. But he has a right to ask you to take the responsibility of your advice; and especially has he the right of reason, and the right of stewardship of his own life, to ask, If I accept your counsel, to whom shall I go?

The tempter tells you to give up the idea of the future as it is viewed from a Christian standpoint. Well, what then? We are not unwilling to listen to you; but you must make your case good before we can commit ourselves to it. What do you advise? You advise us to give up our idea of the future as it is viewed from a Christian standpoint. We must put this common-sense question in return, What then? If a man asked you to throw away a telescope, would you not inquire what you were to have in its place? Here is a father, whose only son has gone to sea, and the poor old man is watching the receding vessel through a badly constructed glass. A passer-by mockingly says, "Throw away that paltry thing." Will the loving watcher throw it into the water because the mocker ridiculed the instrument? Even though the glass was known to be poor, yet in so far as it helped the naked eye, it was sure to be kept until a better glass was offered in its place. Will you act so with a telescope, and yet fling away the faith-glass through which you read the solemn and wondrous future? Look at the case. Christian revelation tells you that death is not the end of your life; it tells you that death is dispossessed of its power; that, as a believer in Jesus Christ, God the Song of Solomon , you will pass from this poor weary scene into sanctuaries where there is no sin, and into activities which never tire the servant. It speaks of deeper studies, of holy mysteries, of higher engagements, of divine delights! It speaks with hallowed rapture of reunions, of immortal fellowship, of battles blest with complete and imperishable victories, of hope perfected in ecstatic and cloudless vision! If you believe in this revelation you draw water from the deep, cool well of its promises; your suffering becomes a joy through the support of its rich and inspiring grace. Under these circumstances the tempter says to you, "Give up this idea of the future." Will you give it up at his bidding without at least putting the question and waiting for an answer: If I give it up, what have you to offer me in return? I think this is a sound principle. The inquiry seems to be the very first question of common-sense.

I will suppose myself to be so tempted, and I will tell you how I should meet the tempter. I should say to him: You ask me to give up my Christian convictions about the future. I ask you, in return, Who you are that you should make a proposition so bold? Who are you? Give an account of yourself. Show me that you deserve the confidence which you ask me to repose in your judgment. You are bound to do this, and I insist upon its being done. Let me examine you. You have told me to give up my idea of the future as viewed from a Christian standpoint. You ought to be an able man; you ought to be prepared to answer some searching questions, if the counsel which you give me is to be viewed otherwise than the expression of the highest insanity. Can you tell me, then, with certainty, what will take place in this city within one short hour? Can you tell me without a doubt who Isaiah , at this moment, in your own house as a stranger awaiting your return? Can you tell me the contents of a letter without opening the envelope? Can you tell me what I shall be thinking about in five minutes from this instant? You ought to be able to do all this lower kind of thing, or something equivalent to it. You ought to be able to make out a very strong case on your own side before you have any status which will warrant you in asking me to surrender my Christian idea of the future. You ought to have made your mark somewhere as a spiritual thinker, and seeing that you have challenged my attention, I demand to know where that mark Isaiah , that I may examine it. Why, suppose I were to surrender my faith at the bidding of every man who came to me, without asking questions and making such inquiries as these, what a life I should have! A believer today, an infidel to-morrow! I must know who these men are, who ask me to surrender the convictions which are the inspiration and the comfort of my life. But I am not now to be easily misled. I have listened and watched; and I must see much more and hear much more, before I give such men as I have referred to my confidence. If I believe you, the tempter, will you leave me in the long-run in the lurch? Will you suffer my trial? Will you snatch me back when I am slipping over the precipice into the desolate caverns of death? If, as the shadows of life gather around, I begin to feel that I have been misled by you, will you show me how to repair a wasted lifetime, and how to draw the sting of mortal self-reproach? You must not in the long-run leave the man whom you have misled; you must not add the cruelty of Prayer of Manasseh -slayer to the flippancy of the unbeliever. Tell me, if I give up this Christian view, to whom shall I go, and what shall I have? It is easy for you to plunder me; but I must know how you intend to replace the faith you would take from me.

The tempter tells you to shut your Bible and to believe no longer in Revelation. Well, what then? We must still ask, To whom shall we go? We are invited by the tempter to believe that, even assuming the existence of God, it is impossible to find any record of his will; he has never spoken to mankind; he has set forth no outline of human duty; he has written no word for human comfort; he has shed no light on the darkest questions of life; he made us, but he takes no notice of us; he fashioned us as we are, upright, above the beasts of the field in dominion as in skill, but never opens the gate of the city wherein he dwells to bid us welcome to the hospitality of his love; he never bends down to see how his children are going on; and never, never—though he sends down the light and rain, and breathes across the universe the healthful winds which bring life upon their wings—does he send any message to any creature of his hands. The man who can believe that, has a truly capacious and terrible faith; he must be a very monster of a believer! He must. His soul, if he has one, must be a bottomless pit of credulity! Before I yield my hold of the book at his bidding, I must know to whom I shall go. The Bible says to me, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." And the tempter says, "Shut up the Bible and be your own shepherd." "But I am bruised, and wounded, and heart dead." He mocks with such advice. The Bible says, " Hosea , every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come!" The tempter says, "You have no thirst that you cannot slake in the muddy pools that lie at your feet." The Bible says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." The tempter says, "When you are in trouble dry your own tears, and get out of your own difficulties,, and snap your fingers in the face of the universe." The Bible says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The tempter says, "Lie down on the thorns; pillow your head on the stones; rest in the wilderness; take a moment"s sleep in the desert." The Bible says, "Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins." The tempter says, "You have never sinned; what forgiveness do you want? Go and wash your hands in the river and you will be clean." Jesus in the Holy Book says, "In my Father"s house are many mansions." The tempter says, "Your mansion is the dark cold grave; get into it and rot away!"

After hearing the two voices I say that, considering what human nature Isaiah , looking at its capacities, its powers, its desires, its wondrous thoughts, its marvellous accomplishments, the voice of the tempter is the voice of a liar! In all such cases I believe special importance should be attached to individual testimony, and in giving my own I believe that I am pronouncing that of a countless host of other Christian believers. When we have found God"s book to be to us the book of God when we have most needed it—there have indeed been times in our history when the book was nothing to us but a piece of literature; there have been other crises in our life when the book has been to us all good books in one, with the addition of God"s life and God"s love—and we are asked to give it up, we only put this common-sense question in return, viz, It is very easy for us to shut up the book, but when we have closed it, to whom can we go? It is very true that we can get some satisfaction out of the earth, and out of things that are earthly. We are zealous in our pursuit of learning; we give our hearty support to every man who increases our knowledge of the universe. If a man shall come to me and say, "I have found such delight in scientific inquiry, such pure enjoyment in looking into the construction of nature and finding out the secret of the world!" I say to him, frankly, "I hail you as a friend; tell me all you can; I will consider the results under your tuition, and I will study the great stone-book of the earth, and the great fire-book of the universe; you may be able to turn over the pages and interpret the wondrous writing. I bid you good luck in your work; I say you have a right to find out still more secrets, disentangle still more difficulties, explain still more mysteries, and I shall be grateful to you for all you have done." But after the man has done all this I tell him, " Sirach , I have a heart that you have not touched; I have an emotional nature that you have not yet approached. You have addressed my intellect, and I thank you for your eloquence; but you have not touched the springs of my life, you have not come near the place where my sorrow sheds her tears, where my soul thinks about the future, and where I wrestle with the deepest problems that can engage the human mind. You are on the outside, doing a wonderful work, and I give you honour for your service, and wish you God-speed in your researches; but my inner life, with its joy and sorrow, its hope, its distress and pain, you have not, with all your science, touched. Is there not a voice that can come unto my soul, and breathe a sweeter music than yours?"

In view of this, then, I have to teach that if you leave the divine life and aspect of things, there Isaiah , so far as I can see, no alternative but outer darkness! Further, I have to teach, that he only who looks at things in a divine light can see creation itself as it is. The scientific man who has no God and no Saviour has seen a great deal; but if he knew God and loved him, he would have some more keys taken from the divine girdle and put into his hands, with which he could unlock still further and deeper mystery. Hear the astronomer speak to us, and he will elevate us because of the sublimity of his pursuits. As you look up to what you call especially our own firmament—the firmament whose great dim glory lies more or less within the vision of the naked eye—the astronomer says, "In that great arch how many suns do you find?" "One." "Look again." "How many," we inquire in return, "have you found?" "What say you to a thousand?" "You have not found so many?" "Multiply it by ten, and multiply that by ten more, and multiply that again. We have found in your firmament eighteen million suns!" "And is there no other firmament?" "Yes. This telescope has searched the heavens, and found another firmament above yours, and another higher, and another again, gallery upon gallery,—four thousand such firmaments arching over one another in ever-widening expanses!" Look at them, and cease your infidel babble! Measure them, and learn how poor a speck is the dust of man! Go to Christ, and hear what he says about them. The infidel, looking up there, says, "They came there by chance; they mean nothing; you see them all now that you look at them from the outside; it is a glittering nothing, and that"s all." Jesus looks upon the blazing pomp, and turning to his poor one, he says, "In my Father"s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you." I prefer to believe the Saviour. The other theory insults my reason, makes a fool of me. Jesus Christ comes to me with poetry, which instantly becomes faith, and which is the truest reality of hope.

Look at that great cloud of fire. Do you see it? "Yes." Tell me what it is. Let the scientific man tell you. It is a comet. You speak about your great globe, what say you to that immensity? What is your great globe in diameter? "Why, about eight thousand miles, we have always been given to understand." Why, the diameter of the head of the comet, science says—not theology, not a fanatical zealot—science says, is nine hundred and forty-seven thousand miles in diameter,—a hundred thousand of your little globes, and twenty thousand more thrown in! Look at its wondrous train! How long is that train? "Two thousand miles—five hundred thousand miles—ten millions?" Away with your guessing! Science says, I have measured that train, and it is one hundred and thirty-two millions of miles long. And are these the arrows with which the quiver of the Almighty is filled? Can he strike with these terrible weapons? The infidel says, "Ah, it"s all—" and then he waves his hand as if that settled everything. Jesus tells you, it is a messenger of the Almighty that is running, along the breath of his own purpose; and that finding its way through the universe it shall never stagger, it shall not disturb the tiniest asteroid in the great glory of the universe! I prefer to believe Jesus. It is more in keeping with reason, sense, common judgment, to believe that great wise teacher. To him I have committed my soul. If he is wrong, I would rather be in his company—looking at all his life, the beauty of his character, the sublimity of his disposition—than I would be elsewhere. With him I live; with him, if need be, I would choose to die! Yet I think we are very mighty men in our own estimation, are we not? We get up behind our little rail and we say, "Give up the idea of God; give up the idea of the future, shut up your Bible, do not go to church any more, and do not listen to Christian teachers any more." And then we shake our heads as if we had settled the case. Who are we? We are very mighty within our own sphere; but an inch out of it and we are weakness itself!

I had a great difficulty to contend with the other morning. It was intended, indeed, to be the most serious difficulty of my life. Two enemies of mine had conspired to shut me within my dwelling place, so that I could not get out; and they did their work in the night time, and when I came out in the morning I found it quite finished. There was a barricade before my door; it was a beautiful barricade; it must have taken a great deal of construction; I admired the thing. In the centre of it were two great spiders—mine enemies—who in the night-time contrived this wonderfully malicious scheme to shut me in. How could I get out? There it was. I just took a walking-stick, and with one or two aims destroyed the web which was to have shut me in as with iron. And what is this but the feeblest illustration of the power of the Almighty! When we have set against him our little reasonings, and have tried to put him out of his own universe, and have endeavoured to show our own power on a scale of stupendous magnificence,—what if he need not lift his finger, if he need but to blow upon our fortresses and our mighty works, to turn us into confusion and bring us to shame!

Is there any inquiring man who is giving his mind and earnest studies to any department of life? I thank God for his earnestness. Am I going to take the book away from the man who is deeply and truly studying, with a view to knowing more about human life? No! Am I going to reduce the school hours of any Prayer of Manasseh , who gives himself zealously to learning? Not by a moment. What am I going to do then? I am going to say this: You are indeed doing well. You are thinking; and it is always healthful and beneficial in diverse ways for a man to exercise his intellectual faculties. But you are like the child who is finding his way home, and has got inside the king"s palace. We are glad you are in the palace of your fathers; but at present you are lingering on the great staircase—a noble, wondrous structure—but there is your Father"s door. Knock at that, and it shall be opened unto you! You are in the palace, on the staircase. Go into his sanctuary, lie at his feet and receive his blessing!

Prayer

Thou hast invited us to speak unto thee, our Father, in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ, our one and only Saviour. We cannot see thee, but we feel thy presence. We know how near thou art, because our hearts glow with a new sense of love, and because our minds are lifted up to new elevations of thought, and because we are sure that beyond all we see there lies the true reality.* Thus hast thou made us. We feel the greatness of our life even while we bemoan its littleness; we are of the earth, yet we are of heaven; we are dying, yet we die into immortality. Thou hast sent thy Son to tell us this, and he has told it to our hearts in music, he has expressed it in tears, he has symbolised it in the Cross. We know all that we do know of thyself through Jesus Christ thy Son. He called thee Father; he told us when we prayed to address thee as Our Father; he gave himself up to thy will, and he taught us to say in prayer, Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. From our childhood we have said this, but we have rarely felt it in all its meaning, in all its pathos, in all the sublimity of its obedience. Teach us day by day, little by little, a lesson at a time; for we are poor scholars in thy school, not apt to learn, wishful to have our own way too much, blinded by pride and vanity and self-trust; yet thou art patient beyond all motherliness of waiting, thou art tender beyond all we ever know of love; so thou wilt not drive us away if we ourselves wish to remain in thy school and learn a little more. Help us to bear the burdens of life; we can count the few tears we have to shed; at the most they make but a little rill amid the green delights of our inheritance and our joys. Teach us that these tears have a ministry of purification; show us that thou dost not willingly afflict the children of men, and that no chastisement is by thy hand delivered but in the spirit and with the purpose of love; thus we shall glory in tribulation also, and shall be exceedingly glad in conditions which make other souls afraid. Work within us all thy ministry; show us what thou dost mean by it all, and teach us that if we be crucified with Christ no stone rolled to our sepulchre door by man or enemy of what name or grade soever shall keep us in the earth, but we shall rise with him, and with him see all thy glory. Amen.


Verse 35

Bread and Water

John 6:35, etc

The subject is clearly, Bread and Water. You call these common things, and my object will be to show that their commonness is not a defect, but an excellence; that their very excellence has occasioned their commonness; and that their commonness corresponds to a common want in the constitution of mankind. I will take the simple idea of bread and water, and apply it socially in the first place and trace it upward to its highest and divinest meaning.

Let us look in upon the greatest feast ever spread for the refreshment and delight of kings. All delicacies shall be there that can be found in wood and air and sea: the richest wines shall sparkle and foam and glow upon the sumptuous board; and the fragrances arising from this luxurious feast shall excite and regale the appetite of hungry men. Now what have we there? What is the fundamental idea? What is the nucleus of the abounding and tempting feast? Surprising as it may seem, the whole thing is but an adaptation of bread and water! It is bread and water decorated; bread and water more or less adulterated; bread and water supposed to be at their best as to refinement, and richness, and power of gastronomic temptation and satisfaction. And if you could follow the sated guests into their privacy you would hear them say, in effect, "All this fine living is well enough now and then, but only now and then, after all; let us have something plain and substantial," in a word, let them have bread and water. What is this prodigious art of the high cook? He is bound, like other popular slaves, to produce something fresh; without novelty he sinks into a common baker; a new relish may mean a new fortune; a new gravy may give him a country house and a footman; a new adaptation of an omelette may enable him to start a shooting box,—but it is bread and water that he works upon; bread and water are the basis of his fortune; he lives by mystifying the public, and mightily laughs at the trick by which he has made men think that bread crumbs have some connection with far-off spice groves and Ceylon breezes. Offer your guests plain bread and water, and they will not often call your way; but dress up the bread and water, torture them, colour them, spice them, and they will praise the delicacy and excellence of the viands. But bread and water survive! These are the things that cannot be shaken. Empires of soups and entrees, wines and liqueurs, rise and fall, but the steady old friends bread and water remain as the unadorned and ever wholesome gifts of God. Ay, poor cook, clever trickster, half a creator, under all thy enchantments and wizardries there are the plain bread and water; disguise them, bribe them, paint them, and wreathe around them all manner of cunning ornamentation, they are but bread and water; the image and the superscription are the cook"s, but the bread and water themselves are God"s! Name the dishes that delighted Babylonian gluttons, and rehearse the menu which made the Egyptian gourmands smack their sensual lips; you cannot; these are forgotten delights, paste-boards that perished in the fire; but bread and water come steadily along the ages, over the graves of empires and the ashes of royalty, having escaped the tortures of the crudest cooks and shown themselves to be the primary and necessary gifts of God.

Well, the application of this is obvious in higher spheres of life, such, for example, as the culture and satisfaction of the intellect. Reading and writing are the bread and water of the mind. Give a child the power of reading and writing and let him do the rest for himself; it is worth doing (at least some of it), and let him find it out and he will value it the more. Your duty is done in giving the reading and the writing, the intellectual bread and water. But fine cookery is imitated in fine intelligence and with like results in some cases, namely mental indigestion and ill-health. Hence, we have imperfect French, caricatured German, and murdered music, and the native tongue and the native history are passed by as quite secondary if not beneath contempt. It is better to chatter French in a way which nobody can understand than to speak good plain exact English, is it not? We must be fine at all costs. We must have a few knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, even if we have not a bed to sleep on. We must be able to say, Parlez-vous Franaise even if we cannot pay our debts. When will people learn to prize bread and water? When will they see that it is better to know a little well, than to know next to nothing about a good deal? O when? This is not a little matter, it is a matter of great importance, from the fact that it is an index of character. I do not laugh at a man whose learning ends at the multiplication table, but I may laugh with grim amusement at a man who speaks hotel French and then spells October with an h. Give your children intellectual bread and water without grudging, that is to say, give them a thorough grounding in the beginnings and elements of knowledge, and let them do the rest for themselves.

These illustrations prepare the way for the highest truth of all, namely, that Jesus Christ is the bread and water without which we cannot live. He never says he is a high delicacy, a rare luxury, a feast which the rich alone can afford; he says that he is bread and water, he likens himself not to the luxuries but to the necessaries of life, and in so doing he shows a Wisdom of Solomon , a reach of mind, a grasp of human nature, which should save him from the attacks of malignant men. An adventurer would not have seen in metaphors so humble a philosophy so profound. Adventurers like big words and glaring figures; they speak great swelling words of vanity; they search heaven and earth for effective figures; they disdain the sling and the stone. Not so with Jesus Christ; he is Bread, he is Water, he is Light, he is the Door, he is the Shepherd, and these words, so simple, stretch their meaning around the whole circle of human life, and by their choice alone is the supreme wisdom of Jesus Christ abundantly attested.

Let us go further into this matter by a little detailed inquiry and illustration.

1. Man needs Jesus Christ as a necessity and not as a luxury. You may be pleased to have flowers, but you must have bread. Christ presents himself as exactly fulfilling this analogy. Our whole life is based on one or two simple but necessary lines; we must have food, we must have shelter, we must have security. But into how many glorifications have all these simple necessaries passed! We have just spoken about food. Now look at shelter, how styles of architecture have grown out of that idea! We talk of Doric, and Grecian, and Gothic; of Norman arches and Corinthian capitals; and indeed we have a long and perplexing nomenclature, all coming out of the fact that man must have a place to go into when the weather is rough and when sleep is needed. Out of the need of shelter has come the science or art of architecture! Is this wrong? Most certainly not. It is a trait of civilisation. It is a sign of refinement and progress. But let an architect of high fancy be called in to build you a house, he gives you a fine elevation, a noble porch, a splendid dome; but in the fever of his fancy he has forgotten the foundations, overlooked the drainage, omitted the joists, and made no provision for the escape of the smoke. How then? Of what avail is it that there is much elaboration of cunning masonry on the front of the house? You could have done without the stone faces above the mullions, but you cannot do without the chimneys and the joists. It is exactly after the bearing of this analogy that Jesus Christ has often been presented in preaching and in books. He has been offered as an ornament merely. He has been preached as the most curious and entertaining of all riddles. He has been treated as the successor of Plato, or Solon, or Seneca. In this way, generally indeed intended to be respectful, the whole purpose of his coming into the world has been overlooked. He has not been presented as bread and water, or the very first and most indispensable necessity of life; he has been treated as a phenomenon; cabineted as a rarity in human history; labelled as a remarkable specimen; and in this way even some of his admirers have ignorantly betrayed and dishonoured the Lord. Jesus is not a phenomenon, he is bread: Christ is not a curiosity, he is water. As surely as we cannot live without bread we cannot live truly without Christ; if we know not Christ we are not living, our movement is a mechanical flutter, our pulse is but the stirring of an animal life. It is in this way, then, that Jesus Christ is to be preached. It is even so I would preach him now, I would call him the water of life; I would speak of him as the true bread sent down from heaven; I would tell men that it is impossible to live without him; I would say, with heightening passion, with glowing and ineffable love, that he only, even the holy Christ of God, can satisfy the hunger and the thirst of the soul of man. In this way I claim a distinct vocation as a preacher. I am not one amongst many who try to do the world good; as a Christian preacher, or a preacher of Christ, I offer the only thing that can vitally and sufficiently touch the world"s condition, and thus the position of the Christian preacher is absolutely without similitude or parallel, in that the choice he offers is life or death, salvation or ruin, heaven or hell.

2. What has been the effect of omitting to declare Christ simply as bread and water? Leaving the simplicity of Christ we have elaborated theological sciences, established and promulgated with solemn sanctions the most intricate creeds; we have worked out a very high and cunning symbolism; we have filled the church with incense, with garments of many colours and many significances, ceremony after ceremony we have contrived; we have called councils, synods, and congresses; we have constituted splendid hierarchies, with mitres and crooks, and clothing precious with gold and glaring with ardent colour. All this have we done, O Son of God, though thou didst call thyself bread and water! We have gathered around thee liturgies and suffrages and gowns and bands and surplices and chants and censers and albs and stoles and chasubles, though thou didst call thyself Bread and Water! We have drawn a long and often mutinous procession of reverends and most reverends and right reverends and very reverends, and doctors and deans and eminences and holinesses and suffragans and novices and licentiates, though thou didst call thyself bread and water! Horrible, indeed, and quite infinite is the contemptibleness of all this, and shall I not even say the sin? Suppose some inquiring stranger looking on and asking, What does all this mean? I should answer, not without sharpness and indignation, It means that man is a fool, and that he prefers vanity to truth. This is not the Saviour. This is not the way to God. This is not the door of heaven. This is incubus and rubbish and abomination. Christ is bread; Christ is water; Christ is the one answer to thy difficulties, the one healer of thy wounds, the one Saviour of thy soul. Oh, but the curse of this mischief is terrible to contemplate! Poor souls are left to believe that they can only get to Christ by seeing ministers and priests and bishops, by learning catechisms, by swallowing dogmas they neither understand nor appreciate, and by listening to the mumbling and muttering of certain ecclesiastical men in livery. Oh the horribleness! Oh the blasphemy! Is not the devil laughing the while and filling his cruel hand with additional prey? My friend, man eager to know the truth, Christ is bread; Christ is water; he is nigh thee; take the pure Bible and read it for thyself, read it in solitude, read it with earnest desire to know its living claim upon thyself, and thou shalt see the Lord, and feel the Cross, and eat the heavenly bread.

3. History furnishes a most graphic confirmation of these views. John Stuart Mill says, "Let rational criticism take from us what it may, it still leaves us the Christ." Exactly so; it still leaves us the bread and water! It still leaves us all we want. It takes away all human conceits and decorations, and it leaves the living bread. It mortifies the theological cook and confectioner, it humbles the decorator of tables, but it leaves the living water! Theological revolutions have come and theological revolutions have gone; timid souls have trembled as if the sanctuary had been destroyed, but when the noise has passed and the cloud has rolled off, behold the bread and water remain, and Welcome is written on the tables of the Lord! Men cannot get rid of Christ simply because they cannot get rid of themselves. Marvellous is it to watch how the Lord allows the chaff to blow away, but saves every grain of the precious wheat; and quite marvellous, too, is it to see how some nervous people think that the wheat is lost because the chaff has been scattered by the wind. The Lord will lose nothing. Society revolutionises itself, but society still lives. Theologies, eastern and western, wear themselves out, but the bread and water are still there, incorruptible and unlimited. Do we fear the dissolution of the earth because an owl"s nest has fallen? Will the sun not rise tomorrow because a candle has been blown out? Bethink thee, faithless soul, they are but accidents that change, the essentials abide,

I fancy we should change our standpoint in viewing all the revolutions and disasters that occurred within the limits of Christendom. Hitherto we have thought of them as the results of intellectual pride or spiritual insubordination. We have mourned over men as fallen creatures because they have risen against the systems in which they were reared. But possibly we are wrong. It may be Christ himself who is at work. He is the great Revolutionist. This may be Christ"s own way of clearing off the rubbish which has been piled upon his holy name. Christ pulls down papacies and hierarchies and rituals, that he may show that these are not needful, that all human contrivances are departures from his Divine simplicity, and that he wishes to be known through all ages and amongst all men as the Bread and Water of human souls. He knows that our temptation is to make more of externals than of realities, hence he turns his providence against us, hurls down our cathedrals and temples and ministers, and says he will be known only as Bread and Water, not as a compound of coloured and poisonous confection. O the deceitfulness of the human heart in this matter of serving Christ! We tell lies to ourselves about it. We talk about enriching our services, ennobling our architecture, educating our ministers, creating universities, founding endowments, originating retreats of elegant leisure for the production of technical literature. Rubbish, all of it! Christ asks nothing of the kind at our hands. He prefers his own Spirit, to our culture. "It is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit," saith the Lord. "Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting." What, then, are we to do? "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." Thus we are driven back to simplicity; our "culture" is thrown down and dashed to pieces as a potter"s vessel, and nothing stands but the bread and the water, the first verities, the essential graces, of the Lord"s Christ.

I care not how rich our music, how noble our architecture, how imposing our method of worship, if all this be kept strictly in its proper place. I love beauty; I am moved to passion and heroism by inspiring music; I would make the Lord"s house glad with every expression of love; but this done, I would write on the doorposts, on the roof, and on every panel, the words of Jesus: "In this place is one greater than the temple." I prefer knowledge to ignorance, but I prefer holiness to either. Culture, when not a chattering and fussy prig, may be right noble and even majestic; but nothing is so cold as culture, and nothing so mean, when not inflamed and impassioned by the Spirit of Christ. Today the pulpit is in danger of being killed by miscalled culture. Men think that because they have been to college five years they ought to be preachers, which is as logical as to say that a man who has driven an omnibus five years ought to be able to take a ship across the Atlantic. The Lord continually dashes these culture-pots to pieces like a potter"s vessel, by making preachers of his own, and clothing them with mysterious but most beneficent power.

We must go back to bread and water, Our dainties must be given up. Our habits are too luxurious; we arc killing our souls with sweet poisons; we are, by our fabrications and masonries and fine fancies, exalting ourselves above the Lord; so I would call myself back to the simplicity of Christ, and find all I want in his grace and truth.

Prayer

Almighty God, we have come up out of the world into the church, a holy and chosen place, to make mention of thy goodness, to recall thy mercies, to meditate upon thy word and to have our spiritual strength renewed. We have also come up to the Cross that we may have our sins taken away, not by ministry of Prayer of Manasseh , nor by ceremonial of church, but by the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. We bless thee that the Cross is more than our guilt—that the blood of Christ abounds where our sin abounded once, and that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , the King, is able to destroy our sin and to cause it to be remembered no more for ever. We love the Saviour—we love him most when our torment is intolerable: it is then we see what he really did as the atonement and the propitiation for the sins of the world. We love his words—we love the tones of his voice, we love the smiling of his gentle face: but oh what words can tell the depth and passion of our love when we see our sin as it really Isaiah , and we feel our helplessness, and then behold the outstretched Priest, the dying Sacrifice. It is then our hope returns, and then doth our heart glow with fire from Heaven.

We rejoice that we care for thy word and for thy worship: this feeling elevates our whole nature, brings up our entire strength to its finest energy, and enables us with triumph, with holy scorn, to stand above the temptations and the lures of this world and all that is lowest in our own life, and to seize the enjoyments and securities of heaven. Thy word clears the future—it levels the hill that keeps away from our vision the delights and the beauties of the Coming Land. It levels up the deep places and overbridges the yawning chasms and gulfs, that we may reach towards the heavenly and eternal. Lord, evermore show us the meaning of thy word—may it be to us a word of ever-enlarging significance. We can never fully realise all its purpose—its sacredness will be an eternal mystery; still may we be drawn forward by that great, kind, loving word to some deeper knowledge and some higher excellence.

We are tired of ourselves—the world is a weariness to us—its prizes are deceits, its delights are mockeries: it draws us forward by many a fascination only that it may sting us with many a disappointment. Behold the earth under our feet is hollow as a tomb that is waiting to enclose the living. There is nothing true but God: there is nothing lasting but thy light—there is nothing sufficient but thy grace. Thou hast placed us in this world of beginnings and shadows and alphabets—forbid that we should regard it as the only world; help us to look upon it as a porch to the universe, the opening of the infinite spaces and liberties of thy kingdom. And thus seizing the present, we shall hold it with a light hand, and reserve our veneration and our loyalty for things eternal and complete.

We desire as heads of houses to bless thee: bread has been upon our table and our cup has overrun. Thou hast defended our habitations, thou hast been merciful to every member of the household; the master and the servant bless thee, the old man and his grandchild thank the same God. Receive therefore our homage as heads of houses, members of families, fathers, mothers, children, servants—may we unite in singing high Psalm , may our hearts find an outgoing in the same hallowed supplication. Wherein we have suffered, help us to see the Lord"s hand in it: suffer us not to look upon our disappointments as complete in themselves: may we look upon life as a whole, see the relation of its various parts, feel that no one member of it is complete in itself—may we measure all things by the eternal, may we desire the decisions and judgments of God, and not the conclusions of our own false understanding. Help us in all things to resign our life, our will, our work into thy hands, thou King of kings, thou Lord of lords.

Whether our days be few or many we cannot tell—we would not know. The Son of Man must come when he pleases, not when we desire: may we be ready for his coming with welcomes, with the entire hospitality and bounding delights and desires of our expectant souls, so that he may have a full incoming into the habitations of our hearts. We put all our concerns into thine hands—the letter difficult to answer, the appeal for which we have no present response, the sorrow for which we have not yet found a balm, the tears that scald us in their running, the life that is ebbing away, the business that seems to be receding from us notwithstanding our patience and industry—we put our whole case into thine hands, saying, "Undertake for us, lead us as thou wilt."

Now let us continue thy praise with increasing delight, search into the mysteries of thy word as men search in fields in which pearls are hidden, in which silver is to be found,—and thus may the morning worship and meditation make us strong for the contests and the endurances of the coming week. Amen.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on John 6:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/john-6.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology