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First, then, let it be remembered, that nothing is more frequent among the eastern nations than to use the metaphor of eating and drinking, when they are speaking, not of common meat and drink, which supports the body, but of spiritual food, which nourishes the soul. Thus Wisdom, as we read in Prov. ix., gives this exhortation: "Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine that I have mingled;" and St. Paul also, in writing to the Hebrews, saith, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat," that is, with the first principles, and not the higher doctrines of the oracles of God.
the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). This inspired declaration has been verified under every variety of circumstance. Take the incident recorded in the fourth chapter of this Gospel. When our Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria about "living water," she ignorantly supposed that he spoke merely of common spring-water, and accordingly made reply, "Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep from whence then hast thou this living water?" The commencement of the third chapter of this Gospel furnishes a still more forcible illustration of it. There we have an account of the conversation of our Lord with Nicodemus, on the all-essential doctrine of the new birth; and we find that individual, though a master in Israel, so Hence it is plain, that taking merely the grossly mistakes his meaning, that he replies, language of our text, it may fairly be inter"How can a man be born when he is old? preted otherwise than literally; and if we can he enter a second time into his mother's observe the context, we shall see that it must womb, and be born?" And in the chapter be interpreted spiritually; for you will perbefore us, the Jews manifest precisely simi- ceive that our Lord again and again declares, lar blindness; for when our Lord had said, that to eat this meat is the same thing as to "The bread that I will give is my flesh, believe on him: this you will see by comwhich I will give for the life of the world;"paring ver. 27 and 29. When our Lord had we are told (ver. 52), that they strove exhorted those to whom he spake," to labour among themselves, saying, How can this can this for that meat which endureth unto everlasting man give us his flesh to eat?" We see, then, life," and they ask for an explanation of his brethren, that when we are ill-informed as a meaning, he tells them, ver. 29, that he Samaritan woman, or when we are learned means by it, that they should believe on Him as a master in Israel, we must, according to whom God hath sent. Again, in ver. 35, when the language of verses 44 and 45, be "all he had told them that he was "the bread of taught of God," and thus be drawn of the life," he immediately adds, to shew that it was Father, ere we shall understand and receive to be understood spiritually," he that cometh the spiritual truths of the Gospel. May we to me shall never hunger, and he that beall experience the illuminating and constrain- lieveth on me shall never thirst ;" and yet ing influence of Divine grace, while meditating again, ver. 47, 48, he says, "Verily, verily, on the important doctrine contained in the words before us.
In pursuing our subject, we shall endea
say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life; I am the bread of life." What, then, can be more plain than that this food is to be eaten, not literally, but by faith; and that the words before us must be understood in a spiritual, and not literal, manner? But this further appears from the mistake into which the Jews fell; they, understanding our Lord literally, murmured, and said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Now, that they were wrong in thus understanding our Lord,-which they were not, if the Roman Catholic interpretation be true, our Lord himself plainly declares; for it is in order to set them right in this matter, that he says to them, in ver. 53, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth little; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." But in addition to these, I think conclusive, arguments against the literal interpretation, we observe, that were our Lord's words to be so understood, it would follow, since the ordinance of the Lord's sup
I. To explain the figurative language employed by our Lord in the text.
II. To shew the excellency of the food of which it speaks.
for what he receives or rejects, it may be well to spend a little time in exposing the fallacy of the Roman Catholic interpretation of the passage before us.
In explaining the figurative language, we observe that it must not be understood literally. It may seem unnecessary almost to mention this in addressing Protestants, who have been rescued from this and the many delusions of popery for a period of well-nigh 300 years; but seeing that this apostate church is at this time rallying all her energies; seeing that her ever active emissaries are now more than ever active amongst us, compassing sea and land to make one proselyte; seeing, too, that we live in an age when it is not only particularly desirable that every one should be thoroughly persuaded in his own mind, but also be ready to give a reason
per was not instituted for above a year after | our Lord spake these words,-it would follow, I say, that all those of his hearers who died during that year, or any that have since died without partaking of the holy communion, must be inevitably lost; for our Lord solemnly declares, in ver. 53, " Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." It would necessarily follow, on this interpretation, that none who communicate, however they live, or however they die, could possibly perish; for our Lord as implicitly and unconditionally declares (ver. 54) "that whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." If these words are interpreted literally, as the fallen church of Rome would have us interpret them, Judas, who in this sense partook with the other eleven of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, as well as the multitudes of ungodly characters who have also done the same, must have eternal life, and be the children of a glorious resurrection.
You see then, brethren, what unscriptural consequences follow from a literal interpretation; and, indeed, the holding of so monstrous a doctrine by the Roman Catholic church appears to be a remarkable instance of the fulfilment of that most awful denunciation recorded against them (2 Thess. ii.), that God would "send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." Again, not only must the words now under our consideration not be understood literally; but we observe, also, that they must not be understood merely of the instruction which Christ gave. This, though a spiritual interpretation, and one sanctioned by the names of not a few learned men, by no means gives the true force of the metaphor; for although it be granted, that the sacred writers continually represent Divine instruction as the food of the soul, still, where is there an instance to be found in which the instructor himself, as such, is called food, much less in which we are said to eat his flesh and drink his blood? Brethren, if this mode of interpreting the words before us be true, then, when we are reading the instruction of Moses, or the prophets, or the apostles, we must with equal propriety say, that we are eating their flesh and drinking their blood. If, then, these words must not be understood either literally with the Romanist, nor merely of the instruction which Christ gave, as minds of a Socinian tendency would interpret them, to what must they be understood as referred? We reply, To the atonement which he offered. This is clearly taught us in ver. 51, where our Lord says, "The bread which I shall give is my flesh, which I
shall give for the life of the world." And this is fully confirmed by the words which our blessed Lord used at the institution of the holy communion; for he there employs language exactly similar to that of our text, and speaks of his body being broken, and his blood poured out, to represent his dying as a sacrifice for us, his dying to make atonement for our sin. And it is the expiatory sacrifice of Christ, this grand doctrine of the atonement, this thrice-blessed truth, that Christ, by the one oblation of himself once offered, made a full, perfect, and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; it is this which is not only the grand distinguishing doctrine of the Gospel, but which is pre-eminently the food of the believer's soul.
But this leads us to the second head of our subject, under which we purposed,
II. To shew the excellency of this food. This is strongly marked by the mode of expression employed in our text: it is called "meat indeed and drink indeed." The word indeed, not, as the Roman Catholics affirm, signifying that it is meat and drink literallythis, we have already proved, it cannot meanbut being intended to mark its superiority to every other kind of food. It is a mode of expression frequently adopted in order to set forth the pre-eminency of our blessed Lord. Thus he is said to be the "true light," inasmuch as in comparison of him all other light is darkness; and in other places, the "true vine," and the "true bread from heaven," to teach us that feeding on Jesus Christ will in a far greater degree strengthen, refresh, and gladden the soul, than the finest wheat-flour, than manna itself, or the choicest "wines of the lees," can invigorate our bodies or cheer our hearts. We have likewise in the context its excellency distinctly marked out in three particulars: it imparts life to the soul; it supports the life of the soul; it perpetuates the life of the soul.
1. It imparts life. The most excellent natural food cannot profit a dead person; the functions of life must be going on, or no benefit can be derived from it. This divine food, however, of which are speaking, quickens those who are actually dead-" dead in trespasses and sins." Hence (ver. 51) it is called the living, or, as it might be rendered, the life-giving "bread;" and thus our Lord says also (ver. 33) of this same food, that "it giveth life unto the world;" and this is again implied (ver. 53), "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Brethren, the doctrine of the atonement is the grand life-giving doctrine of the Gospel.
We might set before you, who are spiritually dead, the odiousness of sin, and the beauty of holiness; the horrors of hell, and the glories of heaven; the extent of the law, and the doom denounced against transgressors; and these divine truths might be the means of stirring up persons to labour for this excellent meat; but there is no real life in the soul until it has heartily embraced by faith the grand doctrines of the atonement. There may be knowledge; there may be morality, in some sense; there may be a name to live; but all the while the soul will be dead, except it spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood.
Brethren, it must be so. By nature we are branches severed from the vine; withered, and dead, and destitute of life, of course, must we ever continue, till we are grafted into the true vine again. Now it is the hearty acceptance of this blessed doctrine that unites us to Christ; it is by feeding by faith thereupon, that we become one with Christ, and he with us; or, as it is said in the verse after the text, we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us." This alone can avail to
adorable Redeemer, either at the table of the Lord, or in meditation in his closet,-whether it is not at such times that he feels the remembrance of his sins most grievous unto him? Then, again, what divine truth so strengthens faith as this? O, how are distressing doubts and fears of the soul dissipated in a moment, driven as the chaff before the wind, when the soul has been enabled to feed upon the full, perfect, and sufficient atonement which Christ hath made for sin! Or, would we become more dead to the world? this is the grand means for promoting it. Yes, "it is by the cross of Christ," says the great apostle of the Gentiles (Gal. vi. 14)," that the world is most effectually crucified unto us, and we unto the world." Or would we become more devoted? the keeping in mind this blessed truth is the prime method of becoming so. "What, know ye not," demands St. Paul of the Corinthians, "that ye are not your own, being bought with a price? therefore," says he, glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are his"-language evidently implying that we know not, or at least feed not, upon this divine truth, who are not powerfully constrained thereby to live to Him who died for them, and rose again. It were easy also to shew how this blessed doctrine feeds the flame of unfeigned gratitude; how it strengthens the principles of Christian charity, holy patience, heavenly meekness, and, in short, all the graces of the Holy Spirit. Other blessed doctrines of the Gospel are suited especially to the support of one or more particular graces; but this sup
produce in us the spirit of dependence, which (as has been well observed) opens the veins of the branches, as it were, to receive the sap of the root, and repairs the decayed aqueduct that conveys the waters of life to the soul. Indeed, this is plain also from experience. Look at those individuals who deny, or that more numerous class who hold in a low and diluted form, the doctrine of the atonement; or look at those congregations where the due prominency is not given to this all-ports all, yea, it is this that imparts to all essential truth,-and what do we see? A candlestick without a light; a lamp without oil; a branch without sap; a body without a spirit to animate it; the form of godliness, but nothing of its life and power. Leave out this doctrine, and the Gospel becomes a dead letter as devoid of all life-giving energy as the law itself. The doctrine of the atonement in the system of divine truth is exactly what the sun is in the solar system—all is darkness, dreariness, and death, without it.
2. But, further, this divine food pre-eminently supports life; and in this respect also "it is meat indeed and drink indeed." Where this food is not constantly fed upon, whatever life a soul may possess, it will soon become feeble, and decay. It is essential for the renewal of our strength, and for our progressing in divine matters. There is nothing like this for deepening our penitence. It is, brethren, when we look on Him whom we have pierced, that we shall mourn for sin after a godly sort. I ask the believer, whether it is not when he is feeding by faith on the body and blood of our
the other blessed doctrines of the Gospel
3. But, once more, see its excellency in that it perpetuates life. Common food, however
suited to support, cannot perpetuate the natural life; nay, even manna itself could not do this. "Your fathers," says our Lord, a verse or two after the text, "did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead;" yea, it was incapable of even prolonging life beyond its usual limits. But this (as our Lord again and again asserts in the context) "preserves the soul unto everlasting life:" "this," says he (ver. 50), "is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever." "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." So that the partaking of this divine food not merely prolongs, but perpetuates spiritual life; yea, we may add, it not only perpetuates the life of the soul, but secures the revivification of the body itself to a glorious immortality. The partaking by faith of the body broken and the blood shed, will, according to that cheering language of our communionservice, "preserve our bodies, as well as souls, unto everlasting life."
And now, to pass by various other particulars--for I have confined my observations simply to those suggested by our context-to pass by, I say, other particulars in which the excellency appears, I ask, Since it imparts life, and supports life, and perpetuates the life of the soul, might not our blessed Lord well say respecting it, "My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed ?" In conclusion, brethren, you must allow me to give you the exhortation which our Lord himself gives with respect to this heavenly food, and to say, "Labour for this meat."
Those that rise up early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness, in eager toil after the things of this life, are spending their money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which satisfieth not. It is to them, then, that I give our Lord's entreaty, and say, "O, labour not thus for the meat that perisheth, but labour for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life." I have endeavoured to shew you, brethren, somewhat of its excellency; and let me remind you again of the indispensable necessity of your partaking of it. "Verily, verily, I say unto you," says our Lord (and that double asseveration marks not only the certainty, but the importance of the declaration) — Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Brethren, is not this a solemn word? should it not stir up each to inquire diligently whether he hath truly partaken of Jesus Christ? And do you ask how you are to ascertain this?
I answer it by another question, How do you regard the doctrine of the atonement? do you hold it at all? do you hold it loosely? do you hold it to be of no great importance? do you hold it theoretically merely? Or, on the contrary, is it to you unspeakably precious-the one ground of your hopes, the daily food of your souls? This is what it should be, this is what it must be; and if it be not so with us, if we are not feeding on this divine food, then, as you have already seen, we have no life, and perish we must.
pray you, then, brethren, as you would not die, but live, labour for this meat; and be assured you shall not labour in vain, for Christ will freely give it to you; for him hath God the Father sealed, appointed for this purpose; yes, though you have no money, come and buy without money and without price."
But, alas! men will not labour for it; men will not seek it, because they have no appetite for such food. Labour, then, I say, for an appetite. And do you ask how you are to acquire an appetite? Consider what the having of an appetite in regard to common food signifies. It implies a sense of our want of food. So, then, I say, labour to acquire a full conviction of your need of an atonement. Look well at the holy law of God, which says, " Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them;" look well at your hearts and lives, and you will see that you have broken the law times without number; look at your very righteousnesses, and if you have eyes to see, you will perceive that they cannot stand and answer for themselves, much less fulfil that law which cannot be broken, and satisfy that justice which must have compensation. Ponder on these truths, till, by the Divine blessing, your minds clearly perceive, and your hearts are duly impressed with, a sense of your undone condition; then will you no more despise this heavenly food than a starving man a loaf of bread; nay, then will you hunger and thirst after it; and feeding upon it, you will find it "meat indeed and drink indeed." To those that know what it is spiritually to eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, we say, Feed daily upon it.
This should be our daily bread; and there is something unhealthy in the state of that soul that does not relish this food. Brethren, if you would not starve your souls; if you would be spiritually fat and well liking, as the Psalmist speaks; if you would have your repentance deepened, your faith strengthened, your gratitude enlarged, your hopes lively, and your heart more devoted-the principles of your character, holy patience and holy
meekness; in short, all the graces of the Spirit to prosper and grow exceedingly;-if you would not merely have life, but have it more abundantly, I pray you, brethren, feed daily on the Redeemer's flesh, which is "meat indeed," and on that blood which is "drink indeed." Come, as the seasons recur, to the table of the Lord, and partake of that ordinance, which is so especially appointed for the purpose of our feeding upon this most nourishing food; come in faith, and with an appetite; come with a deep sense of your need of an atonement, and you shall, in your own blessed experience, find the words on which we have been meditating to be trueMy flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”
FRANCE A WARNING TO ENGLAND.* ALL nations may learn a solemn lesson in the history of Israel's Sabbath sins. When Moses declared the future woes of Israel, should they be disobedient, the prophecy began with a warning against two principal national sins, which, indeed, are to be found closely connected throughout all the Old Testament history: "Ye shall make no idols; ye shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord" (Lev. xxvi.). Ahaz, the first king who brought idolatry into the very temple, is also recorded as having publicly slighted the Sabbath, by "turning the covert for the Sabbath from the house of the Lord for the king of Assyria." About the same time God threatened Israel by Hosea, that he would cause to cease her Sabbaths and all her solemn feasts." Long after this threatening had been fulfilled in Samaria, and when the troubles of Jerusalem also had begun, God charged Judah thus by Ezekiel: "Her priests have violated my law, have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths." He further said by Jeremiah," If ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath-day, but hallow the Sabbathday to do no work therein, then this city shall remain for ever;" "but if ye will not hearken unto me, to hallow the Sabbath-day, then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, and it shall not be quenched." The word came to pass: the city was burned; the king dethroned, and carried captive with his nobles to Babylon; the people slain without mercy, and the land overspread with horror and misery. Observe how Jeremiah's lamentation over that national ruin connects the sin with its fruits: "The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and Sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised, in the indignation of his anger, the king and the priests." After the captivity was over, God's inspired servant Nehemiah still kept before their view the connexion between Sabbath-breaking and national ruin: "What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath-day? Did not our fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath." We learn from history that afterwards, between the days of Malachi and the coming of the Messiah, at a time when the Jews were cruelly persecuted by the Syrian king, to force them to open idolatry, their reverence for the true God was joined with such veneration for the Sabbath, that many, mistaking the law, rather allowed themselves to be slaughtered than defend themselves by joining
in battle with their enemies on the Sabbath-day. Nor had the nation ever been so prosperous and mighty
since the days of Jehoshaphat, as it was immediately after that persecution passed away.
But some perhaps will say, that God deals not thus with nations now. This is an error, for he still deals with nations according to their ways, even as regards the Sabbath-day. About forty years ago, the ungodly and the infidels in France gained the mastery over the nation; and having destroyed their king and lawful rulers, openly set at nought the God who made them. They first put down Christianity; not to set up a better form of it than the popery which they had before, but to do away with all national religion. A law was next made to abolish the Sabbath, and to appoint every tenth day a season of bodily rest and of recreation. Mark what followed. They soon made a decree" that there was no God;" and passed a law that no worship should be allowed in the nation, that the churches should be shut up, and that the clergy should be forced publicly to abjure and give up Christianity. It was death to any one to be found to have a Bible. Festival-days were fixed in honour of the goddess of reason; and a profligate woman was chosen, to whom they gave that name, whom they shamelessly exhibited and openly worshipped. Then was it in France as it had been in Israel just before their ruin, when God had said of his people, "They despised my statutes, and polluted my Sabbaths, and their hearts were after their fathers' idols." The same connexion of sins appeared, the like marks of God's wrath followed in the history of modern France as had happened two thousand years before: "The fool had said in his heart, There is no God;" he had set at nought God's Sabbaths, and was therefore, notwithstanding his boasted philosophy and science, instantly permitted to fall into the most debasing and despicable idolatry. God turned and gave the French up to their own heart's lusts; he poured his vengeance on the guilty nation, until they had drank the dreadful cup of wrath to the very dregs. The festivals to their impure goddess became scenes of the most scandalous and unheard-of abominations. They murdered each other by thousands, until no man could count upon his life for a day. Self-chosen judges and juries put to death all who were brought before them; their only question was not, "Are they guilty?" but, "Are they suspected?" nor did the accused know the crime for which he was to be executed, further than that he concluded the parties in power that day suspected him to differ from them in politics. Single murders were too tedious, and therefore numbers were tied together and blown to pieces by cannon, were driven into rivers, were crowded into boats and drowned. The murderers of to-day were themselves butchered on the morrow, and "blood touched blood" through that great kingdom; until those that remained were glad to obtain safety, by throwing themselves under the iron tyranny of Napoleon. Thus did God avenge the honour of his "holy day," in our own part of the world, in our own times.
Let not Britain slight such examples as these. Judgment began at the house of God, and his chosen people were driven from their land for neglect of the Sabbath. He "brought evil on the city which was called by his name, and shall others be unpunished?" We have seen that they shall not. France braved the Almighty to his face, pouring contempt on the Sabbath as a thing of nought, and she too "became an astonishment to the nations that were round about her." And shall England escape, if she despises or dishonours the Sabbath? God could easily give England up to scenes such as France knew in 1793. Things insignificant in themselves are yet sufficient to shew that elements exist among us, which could bring this about, were God to leave us to judicial blindness. Are there not to be found among some of those who
From "Five Tracts on the Sabbath." By Rev. A. W.