Page images

between us. We say that at that verse, or somewhere about that verse, a change takes place in our Saviour's discourse; that from that moment he is not to be understood as speaking of faith, but of the real eating of his Aesh, and the real drixking of his blood, sacramentally in the Eucharist. Those who differ from us, consider that the same discourse is continued, that the same topic lasts till the end of the chapter. It is manifest, that this is a question of simple fact ; that it is like any legal question regarding the meaning of a document; and, we must establish by evidence, whether the latter part of it continues, or can continue, the same subject as the preceding.

In the first place, I need hardly observe, that nothing was more familiar with our Saviour, than to take the opportunity of any miracle which he performed, to inculcate some doctrine that seemed to have a spiritual connexion with it. For instance, we have it recorded in the ninth chapter of St. John, that having cured a blind man, he proceeds to reprove the Pharisees for their blindness. We have it recorded in the fifth chapter, that after having raised a man who had been deprived of the use of his limbs; or, at least, who had been in a very languishing state of illness; after having raised him up from his infirmity, he took occasion, very naturally, to inculcate the doctrine of the resurrection. Again, in the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew, after having cast out a devil, be proceeds to discourse upon the subject of devils. I bring these examples merely to show, that such being our Saviour's custom, assuredly it will be agreed, that if ever he should wish for the opportunity of preparing his hearers for such a doctrine, as that of the real presence in the Eucharist, he could not, in the whole course of his ministry, have found one more suited to his purpose; for it was precisely the sort of miracle, where, by blessing the bread, he gave it a new efficacy, and made it sufficient to feed several thousand persons. He could not have found any thing more parallel to that miracle which is supposed to be wrought in the Eucharist, where his body is, in a eertain way, multiplied, so as to afford food for all mankind, in whatever part of the world they may dwell. This, therefore, makes it, in the first place, not at all improbable, that if ever such a doctrine was to be taught, if such a lesson was ever to be given, this would have been the favourable moment for preparing his hearers for it.

I may remark also, by way of illustration, of the manner in which this discourse is still more naturally introduced, that the Jews asked our Saviour for a sign from heaven, and that the sign they wished was this, “ What sign, therefore, dost thou show us, that we may see and may believe thee? What dost thou work ? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'' Our Saviour answers in the thirty-second verse, “ Amen, amen, I say to you, Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth

you the true bread from beaven.” I may remark, in illustration of this, that we have it laid down by the later Jews, and in one of the very earliest works after the time of Christ, that is, in a book entitled“ Midrash Coheleth,” or a Commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes, that one of the signs that Messiah was to give was this ; that in the same manner as Moses brought down manna from heaven, so should be also bring down bread from heaven. Now this being the persuasion of the Jews, we have it explained very naturally, why they should have fixed upon this criterion of Christ's being sent from God, in the same way as was Moses; and why our Saviour should give them a parallel to this food which had been given from heaven; that is to say, some other institution, whereby men could be truly said to be nourished, by something more excellent still than manna, by the true living bread wbich came down from heaven. So much, therefore, for our preliminary matter : now, therefore, let us examine the subject.

I have no hesitation myself whatsoever, in placing the transition at the forty-eighth, instead of the fifty-first verse. I will not enter into the reasons, because they are immaterial ; and it makes no matter, whether we begin one verse sooner or later. My reasons are founded upon an exceedingly minute analysis of that portion of our Saviour's discourse, wbich is included from the forty-eighth to the fifty-third verses, compared with other discourses of our Saviour, in which I find precisely the complete form there shown, as indicative of a transition. But I will pass over these, because they would lead us to some length, and I will come at once to the point.

In the first place it may be said, “ Is it possible that our Saviour, who had just been speaking

himself as the bread of life which came down from heaven, should, in the fifty-first verse, going on with precisely the same expressions, make such a complete transition in the subject of his discourse ? Should there not be something to indicate a complete transition from one subject to another ?” Now, to show that there can be no weight in this objection, I need only refer to another passage in our Saviour's discourses, where precisely the same transition takes place, and that is in the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew. It is agreed by most modern commentators, English and foreign (and allow me to repeat a remark which I made on a former occasion—that when I vaguely say, “ commentators,” I always mean exclusively protestant commentators, because I think it better to quote the authority of such as may not be so easily refused by those who do not agree with us in doctrine): it is the opinion of all, whose works I have read, that in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew, there is a discourse of our Saviour upon two distinct topics; the first part being upon the destruction of Jerusalem, and the second part being upon the end of the world. Now any one would naturally ask, “Where does

that transition take place ?" It is manifest, upon looking at the extremes that is at the verses in tbe first part of the discourse, and at the others in the second, that the same subject is not continued; but where are we to find the point of separation ? Now the best, and the most accurate commentators, place it at the forty-third verse of the twenty-fourth chapter. I will just read you one or two of the preceding verses, and one or two of those that follow :-“ Watch ye, therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come. But this know ye, that if the good man of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come.” Can you perceive any transition from one subject to another in these three verses ? And yet every one of these commentators places it between the two first, “ Watch ye, therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come :” and the next: “ But this know ye, that if the good man of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch.” So that you see the same imagery is continued, the same admonition to watch, from one verse to another, and yet it is agreed, that there is a transition from one subject to another, so remote as the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred eighteen hundred years ago, and the end of the world, which may not yet come for many centuries. Thus, therefore, is the preliminary objection at least removed, that we are to expect strong and marked transition, something like paragraphs, when our Saviour passes from one subject to another,

Now, therefore, upon what ground do I say, that in the preceding parts of our Saviour's discourse, and in the latter, he treats of a different topic? The question, as a question of fact, is two-fold. In the first place, is there a transition of the subject? and, in the second place, is that transition to the doctrine of the true eating of the body of Christ?

I believe, that in the first portion of our Saviour's discourse, he speaks of faith, and for this simple reason, that every expression which he uses throughout it, is such as was familiar to the Jews, whom he addressed, as referring to that subject at that time. Thus, for instance, we have the ideas of giving bread, of feeding, as commonly applied to the idea of teaching, or instructing, or receiving instruction; and, consequently, there was no misunderstanding them. For instance, we have it said in Isaiah, “ All you that thirst, come to the waters : and you that have no money make haste, buy and eat:" and the rest -- Hearken diligently to me." Here is the explanation-" And eat that which is good”-that is, “ Hearken to me,” is the same as “ to eat.” And in Deuteronomy, quoted by our Saviour, it is said, “ Not on bread alone shall man live, but by every word that cometh out of the mouth of God.” Again, the same idea occurs where God uses the remarkable

figure, that “ he will send a famine over the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of God.” So again, Wisdom is represented as saying, “ Come, eat of my bread,” and so on. We find precisely the same expressions in use among the later Jews. Philo expressly tells us, that eating is a symbol of wisdom. We are told in two or three Jewish commentaries, that where the expressions “ eating” and “ drinking” are used in the prophets, but more especially in the book of Exodus, they are always to be understood of doctrine. Therefore, when our Saviour simply addresses the Jews, speaking to them of the food of which they were to partake, I have no difficulty in supposing, that he could be understood by all as referring to faith in him and his teaching. But in order to contrast these expressions more strongly with those that follow, allow me to notice a singular circumstance that occurs in the thirty-fifth verse ; it is grounded upon this reflection; that through the first part of this chapter you will perceive, if you read the discourse carefully, that you rever once find our Saviour using the idea of eating—not once, not even eating of bread : I do not say eating himself, or eating his flesh, but he never uses the expression : “ Whosoever shall eat this bread,” or, “ You who do eat this bread.” But, on the contrary, be actually violates what would be considered the ordinary rhetorical propriety of language, to avoid this harsh and unnatural figure. For in every instance I quoted, and in others that I have omitted, where hearing or believing is spoken of under the figure of bread or food, it never amounts to this, that the prophet, or the person speaking says, “ Come and eat my flesh.He says, “ Eat my words - eat my doctrine,” but he never uses such an expression as directed to his own person. Now in the thirty-fifth verse our Saviour avoids this, " Jesus said to then, I am the bread of life:” he does not say, “ He that eateth me,” but “ He that cometh to me shall not hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.” It would appear, that to fill up the metaphor, the figure, he should have used the words “ to eat” and “ to drink," as opposed to "hunger and thirst.” He carefully avoids this, and substitutes another mode of speech, indicating his meaning. The phrases, therefore, from their own nature, were such as to convey to the Jews, the idea of the doctrine and belief. But supposing they had not been so plain, our Saviour himself is most careful to explain them in that sense, because the Jews make an objection. “ The Jews, therefore, murmured at him because he had said, I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” Their objection was not so much to his calling himself bread, as to his saying, that he came down from heaven: for they object, saying, “ Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then, sayeth he, I came down from heaven ?” Now then, see how our Saviour answers this objection; he takes up

seven verses in removing it; but mark! Having observed some little difficulty about the expressions used till now, and having in the verse quoted before (the thirty-fifth), made use of the words, “ Coming to him,” as parallel or equivalent to “believing in him,” from that moment till the forty-seventh verse, or the fifty-first, if you please, he never once returns to the idea of bread, or food, or any thing of the sort, but goes on inculcating, again and again, the necessity of believing upon him, and coming to him-phrases which have been shown to be equivalent. “ Moreover,” he says, no man can come to me”-that is, believing upon me, as I before explained—“unless my Father, who hath sent me, draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” Then he says, “ Not that any man hath seen the Father, but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father. Amen, Amen, I say unto you: he that believeth in me hath everlasting life.” So that he was most careful not to return again to the expression of eating and drinking ; but he himself explains, that up to this moment, his conversation is of faith. Therefore, upon the principle I laid down at the beginning, finding the expressions were calculated to convey that signification, and feeling that he who spake them interpreted them in that way, I conclude he was so far treating of faith-and we must understand to be of faith.

But now, then, we come to the second part of the discourse. He closes the first part, as I consider, in the verses which I have just read to you, “ Amen, amen, I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life.” I consider, therefore, that this is a proper epilogue or conclusion to the discourse. From this moment he begins to use another form of phraseology, that which he had so carefully avoided in the first part of his discourse; and it only remains for us to examine whether these phrases, to those persons who heard them, could possibly convey the idea that he was still going on with the same doctrine, or must not have necessarily led them to believe that he was now speaking of the real eating of his flesh, and the real drinking of his blood. Such, therefore, is the inquiry—and it must be conducted precisely upon the same principles as those already laid down.

Now, I say that there are differences of language in the words that follow, such as must necessarily have made the impression upon the hearers—that is, by the true interpretation of the words—that our Saviour no longer meant to teach them the same doctrine, but quite another. In the first place, I have observed to you how our Saviour avoided carefully, and even with some sacrifice of propriety of speech, the expression of eating this bread of life: but still more of eating himself, or his own flesh, or his own person. He had even abstained, seeing that some obscurity had ensued, from using these expressions any longer; and he now, all of a sudden, returns to them, and returns in a much stronger manner, to the idea of such eating ; so that, to the

« PreviousContinue »