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THE BREAD OF LIFE.
JOHN, vi. 35.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger.
MAN liveth not by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live; for he has a soul that is immortal, which, like the body, has its appropriate appetites and pressing necessities. This indisputable fact is deplorably overlooked by the majority of mankind, who live and labor as if the present were the only state of existence, and as if the decaying and dying body were alone worthy of support. To correct this prevalent error, and to call off the attention of mortals from things visible and transitory, to those which are unseen and eternal, is an act of genuine benevolence; and to which
great and useful service, our blessed Lord devoted his life and labors ;-yes, this was indeed the object for which also he died-that his people might be crucified to the world, and the world to them.
The mild and merciful genius of the gospel, ever manifests itself in the discourses and deportment of our Great Teacher; his yoke is easy, and his burden is light; he draws, rather than drives; he invites, rather than impels; he benefits the body, that he may feed the soul.
These remarks are illustrated by the context, which details the interesting story of our Lord's miraculously feeding five thousand men, besides women and children, with five barley loaves, and two small fishes. The benevolence of the disciples urged them to apply to our Lord to dismiss his auditory, for they were faint and hungry: the compassion of Jesus issues the command-" Make the "people sit down." Now there was much grass in that place, and he distributed the bread to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were sat down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. The report of such advantages resulting from attending on our Lord's ministry, induced great multitudes to flock to him, and observing the far greater avidity they evinced for temporal, than for spiritual sustenance, he took occasion in charging
on them this criminal preference, to urge a correspondent zeal and diligence in acquiring those provisions of which such as eat, live for ever. "Jesus "answered them, and said, Verily, verily, I say "unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the "miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, "and were filled. Labor not for the meat which "perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto "everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give "unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed."* The reply our Lord received from these persons, shews the natural indisposition of the human mind to the instructions or duties of religion; for paying but little regard to the gracious promise he had just made, of living, rich, and heavenly provision, they began to question his authority to teach them, and sceptically enquired, "What sign shewest thou then, that we may believe?"
Alas! my hearers, how much have we lost by the same spirit! idle speculations; curious enquiries ; the talents, the origin, the manner, the method of the preacher; and such frivolous and inferior subjects have engrossed our attention, and the meal prepared for us has been lost; the hungering have been filled with good things, and we sent empty
That is not Christian benevolence, which soon flags and wearies in the pursuit of its objects. Jesus mildly replies to their insidious query, proceeds to his grand business of bringing back the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and explaining what he had said; assures them, in the words of our text, that he is the bread of life; that he would give his body to be broken for sinners; that incalculable numbers should participate of this food, and enjoy eternal satisfaction and refreshment as the unfailing consequence. May it be our happiness to compose part of that multitude, who, sitting down in the verdant and grassy fields of ordinances, shall receive this bread of which there is indeed " enough "and to spare."
Let us enquire in the first place,
What are we to understand by this expression, "I am the Bread of Life ?"
Every human being has desires which nothing temporal or material can satisfy; even the uninstructed heathen discovered the fact; argued from it the existence of an immortal spirit; and concluded that the soul was the offspring of Deity; who was not to be worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing. The contrast is maintained by our Lord between bread, here used
generally for all food, which the dying body desires and consumes, and that which is hungered after by the soul, which lives for ever. This inward life requires appropriate sustenance, food which may be called living bread, and we find therefore that the foolish attempt (for the attempt, however absurd, is made,) to feed the soul with earthly vanities, is only a method of starving the immortal mind, it is spending money for that which is not bread, and labor for that which satisfies not.
"In vain, on earth we hope to find,
But in Him who is the desire of all nations, in Jesus the true Messiah, there is alone to be found, a suitable, a necessary, and an inexhaustible supply of spiritual sustenance. "I am the bread of "life."
1. Jesus Christ, in his person and offices, presents to every perishing sinner, a necessary supply of all his wants; as bread is the staff of life, so by faith receiving and feeding on the Savior, the famished soul obtains what is absolutely requisite to the possession, and enjoyment of eternal life. In him alone is the supply to be found. Our first ancestor was, as the Assyrian, ready to perish, we