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out of their contemplation, but that by which they were doomed never to be carnally benefited. spiritual sense that sacrifice was to give life to the world; but in the common acceptation of the words, in all other meanings and views, the death of Christ was no more food for the Jews, than his material body is flesh and sustenance for us.
He could not, therefore, refer immediately to that. Neither did he allude directly to the future institution of the last supper,
for this is not an actual but a commemorative sacrifice, and, consequently, it only represents, but does not literally revive the death of Christ upon the cross.
Besides, if our blessed Lord had meant to apply the figures of his speech literally, and that his hearers should understand him as alluding to material things, how could he have spoken of their coming to him, and dwelling in him, as terms equivalent to eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He might be said, by a participation of their nature, to dwell in them, but they could not dwell in him, unless he were to feed on them. It is evident, therefore, that neither his death upon the cross, nor his contemplated institution of the holy communion, were the primary objects he intended by this discourse, however these might be, and probably were, comprehended under it; but he meant something different from them, by the participation of which, they would be continually nourished, and that was his doctrine. If, in reading this chapter, we carry the idea of his doctrine along with us, as signified by the terms “bread of God,” “ meat indeed, and drink indeed,” “my flesh and my blood,” we shall see how exactly it corresponds to all the other parts of the discourse in which he speaks of the mode by which men are drawn to him, the efficacy of that drawing, and the final benefits to be derived from a spiritual union with him. “ No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."
If, as our blessed Saviour declares, the resurrection at the last day depends on the being drawn to him by God, and being once drawn, then continuing in him, and feeding upon him; and if he could add, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing ; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life,” it is evident that the eating and drinking, by virtue of which men are to be quickened at the last day, signifies the reception of those heavenly doctrines which contain the seeds and principles of eternal life, by which the soul of man is nourished and refreshed, as his body is, by animal food and sustenance.
III. And this brings us to observe, in the Third place, That this doctrine is to be so received into the heart by faith, as to become its spiritual food and sustenance.
Our blessed Saviour gives a clear key to the mystical meaning of his words, “I am the bread of life,” when he adds, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." Now, here we see that faith and trust in him are equivalent to feeding upon him. This shows us the spiritual signification of this discourse, and that what he says of partaking of his body and blood, is not to be received in a carnal and literal sense, but figuratively and mystically, as allusive of his doctrine. To believe in him, is to believe in the truth of his mission, to imbibe all his doctrines, and to conform to his example, and this is, in effect, receiving him into our hearts. As he who honours God, is said to walk with God, so he who trusts in Christ may be said to live by Christ. “This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Faith in Christ is put universally in the Gospel for the whole duty of a Christian life, and the rewards of obedience are annexed to it. This is the will of him that sent me,” are our blessed Lord's words in the chapter before us, “ that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
When, therefore, we speak of Christ as the bread of life, we signify those doctrines which he brought down from heaven, and which contain in them the seeds and principles of a spiritual and eternal existence; and faith is the means whereby we avail our
selves of those doctrines, and appropriate them to ourselves. To receive any doctrine, so as to make it the guide of our actions, is to feed upon and be nourished by it; for it becomes a source of animation in us, and hence a doctrine may be called our spiritual food and sustenance; that is, it may be the main-spring and evident cause of any particular line of conduct in us, as obviously and effectually, as any kind of natural food may sustain and influence the bodily life. “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed,” says our blessed Saviour. “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” That this mode of expression should have appeared a hard doctrine, especially to the carnally-minded Jews, we cannot wonder; for in its natural sense it implies an impossibility, but had they, by faith, taken the veil from off their faces, and considered how far believing in Christ might be mystically comprehended in the notion of feeding spiritually upon him, they would have seen, that in no other sense could it be possible for them to dwell in Christ, or Christ in them. Our Saviour all along declares to the Jews, that their blindness and dullness arose from want of faith. Seeing they would not perceive, and hearing they would not understand. Although the miracles, the discourses, the example of our blessed Lord, pointed him out as that PROPHET that should come into the world, they rejected all these incontestable evidences, and presumed upon their own notions and traditions, which had taught them to look for a very different Messiah. Hence they were led on this very occasion, first to murmur at him, because he said that he came down from heaven, whereas they all knew him for the son of Joseph and Mary; then to strive or contend with him, because he spoke of giving them his flesh to eat; then to complain of his doctrine as a hard saying, because they could not understand its metaphorical allusions; and then, in numbers, to forsake him altogether, because they could not take part in such spiritual conversation.
That bread, as an emblem of doctrine, is no new thing, we may gather from the terms of the Law, where it is written, “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Our Lord quotes this very passage when he replies to the insidious suggestion of the Tempter, “ Command that these stones be made bread." And that this reference to spiritual food, under the emblem of natural nutriment, was an object never to be lost sight of, he taught his disciples to pray for it in the admirable composition which goes by his name.
There we find one of the petitions expressly declaring, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In the first import of the terms, and as it stands naturally presented to the human mind, the petition, doubtless, applies to material food by which our bodies are refreshed, but it includes likewise, and is meant to express, that spiritual meat and drink; that immaterial and invisible nutriment; that hidden manna, by which our souls are succoured, and our heavenly and eternal life is