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XI. BREAD OF GOD.
'For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.'
John vi. 33.
AMONG all the titles which distinguish the Son of God, no one is more significant than that which he applies to himself in the above passage. It appears that our Lord took occasion to introduce himself in this way, immediately after the miracle of feeding
thousand with a few loaves and fishes. Many seemed to have followed him from that hour from wrong motives, 'not because they saw the miracles, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled.' He seemed, on this occasion, as on every other, desirous to leave some good impression. Hence he says, 'Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.' * During this interesting conversation, the subject of the manna which God sent from heaven for Israel, was presented, and a masterly contrast was drawn between that and the bread sent from heaven to give life unto the world. A variety of sentiment then follows which strengthens and illustrates the great doctrine here presented under the figure of the bread of God.
A remark on the manner in which this term is used, may not be inappropriate. We read of the bread of affliction,' 1 Kings xxii. 27.—'the bread of tears,' and 'the bread of sorrows,' Psa. xlii. 3. cxxvii. 2, 'shew bread,' [Heb. bread of presence,] Exod. xxv.
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30. It is a word signifying food in general, Gen. iii. 19, etc. In the motto, doctrine, of course, is intended. A similar use of the word in a negative form is found in Isa. lv. 2.
"Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not?' * * *
It will be perceived, even by the most superficial reader, that the subject presented is one of vast extent. The easiest and most natural inferences flowing from the metaphor, therefore, must only be expected.
This bread, it appears, was designed to 'give life to the world. It is worthy of remark that we cannot, strictly speaking, say we have given anything until it is in the actual possession of the person for whom it was designed. It is not, perhaps, too much to say that the same reasoning applies to God himself. He cannot say He has given life unto the world, unless, at some period, the world is brought into the enjoyment of it. The gospel does not treat of offers, but of the gift of God,' which is eternal life.'
The great Creator has seen fit to organize our frail natures in such a manner, that without bread, our existence would soon terminate. He has manifested his wisdom and benevolence not only in furnishing that bread, but in giving it in such a way, that it seems rather the fruit of human toil, than the result of preestablished laws. To make a farther display of his kindness, he has so constituted our taste that we derive great enjoyment from partaking of that very food necessary for our earthly existence. The same wonderful provision is made for every sense and faculty which inan possesses. This benevolence is not confined to man alone, but extends to every living thing. * As food is adapted to our physical nature, so truth is adapted to our intellectual and moral nature. That religion then, or system of doctrine which best suits our spiritual nature must be from heaven. What then will satisfy man? All the views taken of the destiny of our race, may be ranked under annihilation, endless suffering, or universal happiness. The two former may be believed, but cannot be desired. They furnish no food for the mind. Suppose, in the natural world, we should have a beautiful spring, a luxuriant summer, but no autumn. The husbandman looks anxiously for his accustomed harvest; but nature stops in all her operations in the vegetable kingdom. The unripe fruit hangs upon the trees; the grain is unprepared for the reaper's sickle; the rose buds, expands, but never blooms; the grass springs forth, but is never ready for the hand of the mower. Decay, disease, and death pervade creation. Indeed, there is neither seed for the sower, nor bread for the eater.' What this would be in the natural world, annihilation would be in the moral world. We see man in his infancy: he reaches the period of youth, but never ripens into perfect manhood. He has noble faculties, but they never expand into perfect knowledge. There is a fine spring, a charming summer, but no harvest. Will this view of man's destiny furnish bread to the mind? It is the bread of sorrows' and of death.
* It is a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon, or a summer evening, on whichever side I turn my eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon my view. The insect youth are on the wing. Swarms of new-born flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their wanton mazes, their gratuitous activity, their continual change of place, without use or purpose, testify their joy and the exultation which they feel in their lately discovered faculties.'—Paley's Nat. Thool. 8vo.
But horrid as the thought of the extinction of being may be, it is not to be compared with the idea of endless suffering. This produces insanity, despair and death in all their most aggravating forms. He who cherishes this doctrine is like the eagle that left the craggy cliff, and soared through rolling clouds. In his ascent, the fatal arrow from the archer's bow sped with unerring aim, and brought the noble bird quivering to the ground. So with the believer in endless suffering. His doctrine pierces his soul with many sorrows, and destroys his peace and life. Can such a sentiment be called 'the bread of life?' If it were universally believed and realized, it would fill the world with sadness and wo. Society would be broken up, and man would sink beneath the weight of the crushing thought!
The last and only doctrine left is that which maintains the ultimate reign of universal purity and bliss. This alone satisfies. This, every man eats for himself, whatever he may offer to others. Here is spirit, and here is life. This sentiment is exactly suited to our intellectual and moral nature. It is the only doctrine for which man can consistently pray. To analyze and present all the glorious truths that cluster round it, would be the work of an eternity. Suffice it to say, that two principles connected with it would, if realized, fill the world with joy, and raise man from degradation to the highest state of mental and moral elevation. One is, that God is the Father of all men. The other, that man is to be made 'equal unto the
angels. Here is 'bread enough and to spare.' "This bread cometh down from heaven.' It
possesses none of those deteriorating qualities that compose the bread made in this world!
Gladly would we continue this delightful subject, but our general plan forbids our going into particulars in every title. We bring the article to a close by presenting the following imperfect parallel :
Manna of the Israelites. 1. For one nation. 2. Of a perishing nature. 3. Exhaustible. 4. A mere type. 5. Sustained the body. 6. Temporary effects.
Bread of God.
We trust the reader will eat this bread, and never offer any other kind to his fellow-men. No doubt, all kinds will be tried till man becoming dissatisfied with earthly bread, will come to Jesus, and having once tasted, we are sure he will exclaim with fulness of joy, 'Lord, evermore give us this bread.'