Page images
PDF
EPUB

by day it fell ;—a new thing, one might say, was created to meet the necessity of the case, --something before unknown to the people or to the fathers, but only one of ten thousand things, any one of which God could have sent, and on any one of which life could have been sustained, --for the life of man is not absolutely and necessarily dependent on bread, it may be supported and sustained by anything whatever that may come forth by the Divine command with that view.

The lesson in all this is, of course, Learn to trust. Have faith in God.Individual men, God's children, in all times and places, may be terribly put to it by trial and change, by secular vicissitude and pecuniary loss, by the pangs of hunger, it may be,--the pressure of calamity on mere physical wants; but they are never to give up hoping and trusting; there may seem to be no prospect and no possibility of a supply; it may be so, but have faith. Heaven is round about you; God is over all; He can command the ravens to feed you, or can bring to your relief, in the most marvellous manner, the fulness of the sea or the food of the skies, -as the fish filled the net of the men who had toiled long and taken nothing, and the manna fell as from the superfluity and from the hand of angels. We don't tell you that a miracle will be wrought for you, but something may be done which, to the eye of faith, shall be as direct a Divine interposition as if “the hand of the Lord was visibly revealed."

II. The next use that we shall make of the text may be indicated in this way :-—" bread" may be taken not literally, but representatively; that is, as standing for all animal and secular satisfactions and enjoyments, for everything that gratifies the appetites and passions, for “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life."—Human nature is sensitively alive to these things. Within certain limits, and under certain laws and restrictions, man can come into contact with all the objects of interest or pleasure, and may touch them without sin. But he cannot live on them. They were made for him, not he for them. “ Man's life," the true and proper life of man, “consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. a man becomes the mere slave of any object of desire which may be allowable and innocent in itself, then desire becomes lust, and " lust, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin, and sin being accomplished bringeth forth death." There is a higher life for man, simply considered as man, as a moral and intelligent being, a being endowed with reason and conscience; there is a higher life for him than that which can be fed and pampered through the exercise of the senses, the animal appetites, or even the more respectable of the passions, -though none of them, separate from the control of the normal sense, can be called respectable,—they then become derogatory and base. Man cannot live by bread alone-by the pleasures and good things of this life, even if he gets them honestly and enjoys them with moderation. He was made for something greater than that. But if a man has no faith in anything but in animal satisfactions, if his creed consists of only one article, that which affirms that "pleasure is pleasant,” and if this faith is perfected by appropriate works, and he sinks down into a mere voluptuary, saying continually “stolen waters are

If ever

sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant," why, he ceases, in any proper sense, to live at all, or to live a life worthy of a man, for we know who hath said, that “he that liveth in pleasure is dead while he liveth.” In the same way, if a man despises the “secret bread" and the “stolen waters” of licentiousness and sin, but lives solely for the objects of the affections and passions, for the gratification of pride and ambition, the love of money, of power, of worldly rank and secular distinction; why, these things are not his life, not what he ought to live for; they are not health or strength, but weakness and disease, for “ they will eat into his vitals like a cancer ;” the higher passions will destroy the soul, as the tyranny of the lower appetites destroys both soul and body. The fact is, that even the most depraved and the most worldly men know and feel that they “ cannot live on bread alone "-on that bread which is furnished by the flesh, the world, and the Devil. The most profligate and abandoned are often sick and satiated, and have to turn away from the objects of concupiscence to find relief in books or travel, in science or song, or some exercise of faculty more or less intellectual, which is the utterance and protest of their higher nature against the despotism of the senses ;—and the most fierce and fevered in the race of worldly distinction are compelled at times to pause in the pursuit,—to sigh for rest, to confess to themselves the worthlessness of the prize for which they labour and toil,—and they always know that it will be worse than worthless if it is not obtained consistently with honour. This, again, is the unconscious testimony of men of the world to the great truth that man, as man, has within him the yearning and the capacity for a higher life than theirs, and that he cannot live by bread alone, not only by that which is like the husks and garbage which swine may eat, and with which the grovelling and the debauched try to fill their belly ; but even by that which is served up on plate,—on gold and silver, and with all the elegant appliances which to vanity, ambition, or pride, can make it seem * pleasant to the eye or good for food.” III. But there is yet one other way in which the passage

be applied, which will lift us into a higher sphere than that either of the reason or the conscience. Man is not only capable of a higher life than that of the animal nature and the secular affections, by having within him improvable reason and moral capacity, but is endowed with something greater than these, he has the capacity for religion, for Divine faith, for love to God, and likeness to Him, and communion with Him; for all that belongs to the attributes and enjoyments of a holy and spiritual life. In this sense also, then, he cannot live by bread alone, that is, by anything which is visible and tangible ;-which can be looked at, or handled, or even heard by the ears and received by the understanding. Things of these different sorts may be all necessary to him, and all helpful; they may be means to lead him to that by which he is to live, or they may be channels by which its influence comes to him, and through which he is fed,—but they are not the food itself; they may be very important, so important that he may not be able, ordinarily, to live without them, but he cannot live on them alone.

The principle which underlies all these general statements is this : Christ is

before us may

our life; Christ received by faith; Christ formed in our hearts; we, by loving trust, entering into Him; He, by His Spirit, taking personal possession of us. Man, being taught of God, feels the reality if he does not understand the mystery of sin and guilt ; he sees the emptiness of natural virtue and the utter impossibility of being justified and accepted on the ground of his own righteousness. He comes to perceive that the proper and true life of the human spirit, that for which it was made, must consist in its being in harmony with God, --in perfect repose in God's fatherhood, in likeness to Him, and in the conscious enjoyment of His favour and complacency; and he is farther taught that for such a life he was not only created, but that his condition is such that for it, and in order to it, he has had to be redeemed ; that only by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus can it either be possessed or retained. Hence, coming to God in contrition and repentance, accepting Christ with trust and love, he is raised up by the Holy Spirit from the death of sin into the life of righteousness. Then, whether he has been converted from flagrant sin, or turned from trusting in his own virtue, he can say with Paul, “ I was alive once, under the law and in ignorance of it, but when the law was revealed in its terrible majesty, sin lived and I died. Then, when, after this, God revealed His Son to me, and I was able to receive Him as my new, divine, and better life, then what had been gain to me I counted loss for Him ; yea, all things were esteemed loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord ; now I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; for the life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Christ, then, is our life,-Christ thus spiritually apprehended and received. This is the true bread, the Divine manna, that is given for the life of the world. This bread becomes, when spiritually received, flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of the Son of God. This is the Christian man's daily and necessary food; but this spiritual food has its visible type and emblem in the Church ; the senses of hearing, sight, touch, taste, are all brought into play as helps to faith and means of nourishment, and it is to these outward and visible things that we now take the liberty of applying the words of the text. The kingdom of God, like the life of God, is within you, -and “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ;' that is to say, it is not ritual, outward forms, bodily service; it is not hearing, or preaching, or praying, or being baptized, or taking the Sacrament; all these things are important in their place, and are not to be neglected, but you cannot live on them alone; they are the outward and visible bread. Like the manna that fell in the wilderness, or the loaves that Christ multiplied in the desert, they are types and representatives of Him, but they are not Him. The Sacrament cannot say, “ He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” Christ only can say that; and if we do not penetrate through all forms, if we do not rise above them, if we do not spiritually see the Lord and partake of Him we have no life in us. We cannot do without means ; they are very important; but the Lord gave us the philosophy of them all when He uttered the golden words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Services and Sacraments are made for us, not we for them ;-we

[ocr errors]

cannot spiritually grow and thrive without them, but we cannot live on them alone. They must lead us to Christ; and just in proportion as they do that, do we obtain the sustenance of the inward man. Christ is God's great gift, -His redemptive undertaking the divinest work ever accomplished in all the ages or in any world, and it was done with the express object that “in Him we might have life, and have it abundantly.” Man, as a spirit, created for a glorious, eternal life, cannot live by bread alone; by anything of the nature of outward service and mere ritualism, however significant; but by that great work of God, the redemption of His Son, which He has accomplished for this very purpose,-by that work doth man live.

THE PURITAN AND HIS BIBLE.

FROM DR. VAUGHAN'S REVOLUTIONS IN ENGLISH HISTORY.

It was,

In our secular and conventionaltimes there was no such thing as accident. it is not easy to imagine the influences All was in the highest hands. As which made the Puritan forms of the leaders felt in this respect so thought so potent in their sway over their followers felt the feeling indeed minds of eminent sagacity. But the becoming only the more deep as it Bible in the sixteenth and during the descended to the humblest. first half of the seventeenth century, It is easy to see how men living in was, even to thoughtful men, compara- such relations to a higher world tively a novel book-a treasure which would be inclined to question earthly had been lost and was found. It was authorities when regarded as opposing to them, moreover, a book the full themselves to that Higher Power. inspiration — the unerring truth of Every man who supposes that right is which, was above suspicion.

on his side, supposes that God is on in the most emphatic sense,

the word his side. But the Puritan conceived of God, and its facts and doctrines that he had a special warrant so to were taken in their most simple and

think. And he was too much acnatural significance. The age was an customed to concern himself with age of faith—we may say, of a child questions affecting the law and the like and a loving faith. Such men as government of the Almighty, to be Eliot and Hampden, Cromwell and deterred by any superstitious scruple Vane, believed in God and Christ; in from a free scrutiny as to the basis Sin and the Evil One; in Heaven of law and government when merely and Hell, as the Bible presents them, human. Hence his speculations often and very much as Milton has depicted darted onward, so as to anticipate them. The world to them was full of some of the most advanced positions spiritual influences both good and bad of modern speculation. “Treason,"

- full eminently of God. Where said a Puritan preacher, addressing a duty called, men of this order could London congregation, “is not limited brave all things, and still feel that to the royal blood, as if he only could nothing was hazarded. To them be a traitor who plotteth or attempteth the dishonour, or the shedding thereof; much of the intelligence and culture but may be, and is too often, com. of the classes above them contributed mitted against the whole Church and to make it the power it became in our nation, which last is so much the history. worse of these two, by as much as the One grand fault alleged against the end is better than the means, and the Puritans, and a fault regarded as whole of greater consequence than convicting them both of cant and bad any one part.” Such was the clear, taste, consists in the manner in which strong grasp of political principle of they used the language of Scripture. which the mind of a Calvinistic Almost everything belonging to the lecturer was capable in the early religion of the Bible they describe in days of Charles the First. So spoke the language of the Bible. What is Milton and Locke in their season, more, they looked upon all things in and so have many great men spoken the light in which that volume presents since. Bound by conscience to resist them, and they spoke of them very the pretensions of the civil power in commonly in the words which that regard to religion, it was natural, as volume supplied. To the majority of this controversy grew upon

their the Puritans, the great educating hands, that the Puritans should thus power of their time consisted in the extend their inquiries to points affect- teachings of that book, and in the ing the foundations of all government. expositions of it by their ministers

The reader must not forget that from the pulpit. It was the atmothe Puritans under James and Charles sphere of thought-of simple, sober, were in a position differing consider- grand thought-in which their spirits ably from that of the modern Noncon- breathed. Hence it was just as formist. They were of the national: natural that men receiving the Bible Church, both ministers and laity. with the faith and affection with which There was much in the existing the Puritan received it, should use its ecclesiastical system which they would language as he did, as it was that the have reformed. But their parish

sceptical and shallow wits of the time churches were their religious homes. of Charles II. should fail to appreciate They had been baptized within those the sources of this peculiarity and walls. There they had been married. should heap their ridicule upon it. There they had buried their dead. That this use of Scriptural expressions There they expected in their turn to was often a cant, no man of sense sleep their own long sleep. Their will deny. Language could not have ministers were all University men. become thus common in connexion Their laity embraced persons of all with any subject, without fault, more ranks.

In that age Puritan and or less, of that nature. But if the Orthodox were terms denoting parties ring of that coin had not proved to be who differed from each other in in the main the ring of the true metal, thoughts and sympathies, but who it would not so long have passed were of the same social status. The current. Symbols in words, like fact that English Puritanism embraced symbols in ceremonies, may become not only the strong feeling of the mere symbolism. When that comes middle and the lower classes, but their work is done. But there is an

« PreviousContinue »