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with the power of choosing which he will follow, then such an expression addressed to him, as that in ver. 44, “no man can come unto me, except the Father draw him,” really imports only this warning, that if he would go to Christ, he must follow, not the world's drawing, but the Father's drawing. The phrase might be thus varied, “no man can come to me whilst the world draws him," that is whilst he yields to its drawing. Mani. festly our Lord is condemning a wrong choice, or a wrong way of coming to Him; and requiring a right choice, or a right way of coming to Him. And then, as for the expression “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” it is evident, that those who follow the Father's drawing to Christ are those who are given to Him by the Father. This seems to me a plain and unforced solution of the difficulty; but, as I know the weight that this chapter has with many, I shall expand my observations a little.
The Jews, as we read in the early part of the chapter, were following Jesus in great numbers, on account of the cures which he had wrought on those who were diseased, and on account of the miracle of the loaves, and were even prepared to acknowledge Him as
the Messiah, and on that ground would have made him a King, saying, “ Of a truth this is that prophet that should come into the world.” But Jesus rejected this following of him, and acknowledging of him, saying to them, “ Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, (not for any thing ye saw of God in me,) but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.”
They were seeking such a Saviour as the impenitent thief on the cross sought—they were seeking one who would deliver them from disease, and from hunger, and from national degradation, and other evils incident to their present condition—they were seeking for one who would take them down from the cross—and it was under the impression that Jesus was a Saviour who would satisfy these desires, that they followed Him and acknowledged Him as that prophet that should come into the world. And Jesus, in rejecting their advances, meant to condemn their worldly thoughts, and to undeceive them, both as to the nature of the salvation which he came to bestow, and as to the true character of their own feelings towards him;—He meant to show them that his salvation was not for the purpose of making this present life more easy, but that it was a communication of the
, will and life of God, to be received through the laying down of the will and life of the flesh; and He meant also to awaken their consciences to the fact, that although they were professedly following him as a prophet, yet they were not really seeking God or his salvation, but the things of this life, and the gratifying of their own wills; and that therefore, although they gave him their bodily presence as followers, yet they were not truly and in heart his disciples, and could not be so until they turned in earnest to seek after God, and to attend to the drawings of His Spirit within them.
But whilst he charges them with this worldly spirit, he does not speak of it, as if it were a condition to which they were bound, or from which they could not change; but, on the contrary, He calls upon them at once to leave the evil way, and to come into the good way, saying to them, “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but labour for the meat that endureth unto everlasting life." He warns them in these words, that they were in
the broad way, which leadeth unto death, but he calls them out of it, into the narrow way which leadeth unto life. They were walking in the broad way, drawn by the flesh, and yet they had the outward appearance of having come to Jesus; and thus they deceived themselves, thinking that by giving his name to the broad way, they had really changed it into the narrow way; that is, they thought that they had changed it from being the way of death, into the way of life, whilst yet it retained all that was agreeable in it to their carnal hearts. They thought that if He were the true Messiah, then surely those who followed him must be God's chosen people. But he declared to them, that it was not a name nor an outward appearance of following him that could connect them with his salvation—that nothing could do this but a true leaving of the broad way, and coming into the narrow way, in which the drawing of God's Spirit, instead of the drawing of the flesh, was followed.
The narrow way, which is the way of following God and denying the flesh, is the only way of God's election. No man can have eternal life except in this way; and every
man is commanded to walk in it, by Him whose commandment gives right and power. And there is no substitute for the narrow way—nothing will do but itself. And the falsehood of all false religions consists in finding substitutes for it, and changing the broad way into the narrow way, by the use of a name or a form, or by belonging to a particular party or family. Thus, the Jews in general, thought that the being circumcised, or being descendants of Abraham, was a substitute for the narrow way; which error of theirs, as a manifestation of a most deep and wide-spreading root, is condemned in the epistles to the Romans and Galatians, and in John viii. 31–40. This also was the error of Hymeneus and Philetus, whose vain babbling was, that a substitute for the narrow way was found; for that by the resurrection of Jesus, His followers were delivered from the necessity of dying daily to the flesh, and were warranted, even now, and whilst yet in the corrupt body, to enter into the security of the resurrection state. And here, in the passage before us, we find the multitude confiding in an outward following of Jesus, as if that could make the broad way in which they were walking the