Imatges de pÓgina
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drink his blood, ye have no life in you, our Lord intended to assert, primarily and directly, the necessity of a participation in the sacrifice, which he was to offer for the life of the world; of which participation the feeding on the victim slain, was, in reference to other sacrifices, the usual and recognized method: and that, secondarily, or by implication, he meant to declare the future necessity of partaking in that rite, which, when instituted and carried into effect, should remove the difficulty, which so severely shocked the minds and feelings of his hearers at the time. Against this interpretation of the passage, I am aware of no objection, which does not in truth lie, not so much against the interpretation itself, as it respects the words of our Lord, or the context in which they are found, as against the particular notion of the Sacrament on which it proceeds, and which has hitherto been maintained in these Lectures.

But the probability or improbability of the interpretation will be best ascertained, by an examination of the circumstances which led to our Lord's declaration.

Now the passage itself occurs in the course of a very remarkable dialogue between our blessed Lord and the Galilean multitude, which had followed him, after the miraculous distribution of the loaves and fishes, from the desert to Capernaum: and is introduced by a reference to that transaction.

The effect of that miracle was peculiar: it was the first and the only one that provoked, from any considerable assemblage of the Jewish people, any very direct acknowledgment of Jesus Christ, as their expected Messiah: in consequence of it, those who saw the miracle, declared, This is of a truth that prophet which should come into the worldc.

The similarity of the particular exertion of power on that occasion to the miraculous feeding of their fathers in the wilderness, seems to have been the circumstance which produced this effect upon them, and led them to the conclusion, that he, who exhibited it, was the prophet, like unto himself,

c John vi. 14.

whom Moses had taught them to expect. This, we are to observe, was the first and immediate effect of the miracle on those in whose presence it was performed. But in the interval between its performance and their finding our Lord at Capernaum, difficulties had arisen in, or been suggested to, their minds; or, at all events, a method had been found of extenuating the mighty work which they had witnessed, in comparison with that wrought by Moses in the presence of their forefathers. Unless indeed, which from our Lord's first words to them seems not improbable, they had followed him in the hope, that he would prove his equality with Moses, by a like continuous grant of supernatural sustenance. Be this however as it may, it is evidently to this test that they seem willing to submit our Lord's pretensions, when, in demanding of him a sign, they suggest the gift of manna in the wilderness, as that which would furnish a good example of the sort of sign that they desired, and of which they were ready to acknowledge the validity.

d John vi, 30, 31.

In answer to this our Lord, omitting any notice of the pretended reason for which they sought a sign, endeavours to turn their attention from the carnal benefit, which was their real object, to the spiritual blessings to be obtained from his manifestation to the world; from the food, which they sought for the sustenance of their bodies upon earth, to the true bread, which was to nourish them to everlasting life; and which, like that given to their fathers by Moses, or rather by God through Moses, he declares to them, had come down from heaven in his person.

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It is at this assertion of his having come down from heaven, and not at any thing that he had hitherto said of the bread of life, that their first murmurs are excited; nor could they comprehend, how he, whom they considered as the son of Joseph, whose father and mother they knew, could be said to have so come down.

This difficulty Jesus Christ seems to admit by his declaration, that the belief of it

e John vi. 42.

required a faith, which was the gift of God, and could not be had without his gracious interference; for no man could come to him, except the Father drew him. But so far from suggesting, or attempting any explanation of what he had before said, he goes on to enforce his previous doctrine, and the further necessity of that faith, which their incredulity had impressed upon his mind, by the reiteration and extension of his former words. He that believeth on me, says he, hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life: the bread, that is, by which everlasting life is sustained, but which can only be itself procured through the medium of faith in me. Your fathers did, indeed, eat of bread from heaven, the manna in the wilderness, but that was for the sustenance of their bodies only in the present life; and they died. This is the bread, which also, like that, cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die, but live for ever h

Now it is particularly to be observed,

8 John vi. 47, 48.

f John vi. 44.

h John vi. 49, 50, 51.

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