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ease, and not after the will of God; and thus there is neither worship nor life in it.
In the often repeated declaration, that it is only through eating the flesh of Jesus, and drinking his blood, that we can be partakers of His eternal resurrection life,--this passage agrees with the parable of the corn of wheat, which must die before it can bring forth fruit,—and also with the faithful saying and eternal purpose of God, 2 Tim. i. and ii.that if we die with Jesus, we shall live with Him, if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him,—and also with the parable of the Potter, whose first vessel must be broken, in order to the making of the vessel unto glory. So that we have in it the same testimony as in them, that God elects the second vessel and its spirit, and lays His reprobation on the first vessel. Perhaps even the figure of eating the flesh and drinking the blood, expresses more strongly both the willingness to suffer with Jesus, and the oneness with him in suffering, than any of the other expositions of the principle.
But that to which I would now draw the reader's attention chiefly, is the connection between this passage and the parable of the Sower. In both of them we may observe
that certain steps in the progress of salvation, are marked and insisted on. Not only is there a certain condition of character required, but there is a way to the attainment of that condition distinctly defined, and declared to be the only way that can lead to it. Thus, in our passage, it is not only set down as a principle, that we must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus if we would have eternal life, but it is farther set down as a principle, that we cannot do this according to God's judgment, as we cannot even come to Jesus, except by hearing and learning of the Father, that is, by yielding ourselves to the authority and direction of the voice of the spirit which speaks within us. This state of hearing and learning of the Father, is evidently the same thing as the good ground in the parable of the Sower, which our Lord interprets to be those that hear the word and understand it. All the other kinds of ground heard the word, as well as the good ground, but they understood it not—they heard, but they did not learn of the Father. The word was nigh them, in their mouths and hearts, but “they hearing, heard not, neither did they understand," and therefore the word was an unsolved parable to
them; they yielded not to it—they did not receive it into good and honest hearts—and this was their sin—and, whilst they continued in this sin, they shut themselves out from God's election; they followed not His drawing, and therefore he could not give them to Jesus.
The first step in true religion consists in turning to this word and yielding to it, as the word of power and righteous authority. And as we have no true religion until we have made this step, or entered into this condition, so whenever we leave it, we leave true religion. And thus all farther knowledge that we get from without, either from the Bible or any other source, can only profit our
, souls by nourishing this seed of the word, and so enlarging the compass of its instruction to us, and its quickening influence over us. So that whenever a man acquires religious knowledge, or sets about the outward acts of a religious life, without this first step ;without “this hearing and learning of the Father,”—however zealous and sincere he may be, still he is deceiving himself, like the multitude following Jesus; he is yet out of the only way by which he can come to Him, and feed on his broken body.
This, then, is the all-important step, by which man is called on to connect himself with God's predestination. It is indeed an all-important step; for, until he takes it, the infinite love of God flowing out upon him, and the blood of Jesus shed for him, cannot save him. And how is he to take this step? Is he capable of taking it? He has no power of his own to take it; but in the living seed of the word, which is sown in his heart, the Spirit of God is communicated to him, in the strength of which, he may take it. (See on this subject, pages 86, 87.)
This step or condition of mind, which implies a preparedness for receiving Jesus, is described in the passage before us, under two forms—the one, “ labouring not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life;” the other,
hearing and learning of the Father.” But it is the same condition of mind that is described under both; for the meat by which the everlasting life in man is sustained, is not bread, but “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God;" so he that laboureth for that meat, is indeed he who is hearing and learning of the Father, because his labour consists in receiving the Father's word, and following it.
That word always calls for a present surrender of our own will; and thus in effect it truly calls upon us to give up the hope which is connected with the present life, that we may take hold of the eternal life. There is no real seeking after eternal life, except in turning to that word; and that word is only turned to in truth by those who are prepared to lay down the present life, in the hope of a life of righteousness yet to be revealed. Those who are in this condition,—who have turned to hear that voice, and to seek after God and eternal life, are prepared to receive Jesus; they are given to Him by the Father; they are drawn by the Father to the Son.
This condition of heart, is the thing which the Searcher of hearts is searching for; He seeketh such to worship Him; “He looks down from heaven, to see if any will understand, and seek after God;" and when He sees any turning to the word, there is joy over them in the presence of our Father. They are following the drawing by which He would draw them to Himself, and they are desiring the meat which will nourish them unto eternal life; and, therefore, now there is room for the fulfilment of the promise, " Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and