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1. What reason have we to be thankful that in , these times we are all taught of God; that we are not left to collect our duty and expectations from the slow, painful and uncertain exertions of our own minds; or from the contradictory opinions of the admired sages of Greece or Romę; or from the boasted maxims laid down by the pretenders to wisdom in modern times; but have in our hands an authentic account of what God has taught respecting himself, his character, ad. ministration and future designs! Let us not be insensible to the value of this privilege, which makes the meanest believer of the present day a better informed man, upon the subject of religion, than the ablest speculatists of ancient or modern times: let us not desert so excellent an instructor, to follow these uncertain guides, which will leave us totally inexcusable; but carefully attend to the instructions which we receive remembering that they can lead us to nothing but what is right and good.
2. The considerations which Christ suggests to his disciples, for their consolation under the open rejection of his gospel, are equally deserving of our attention in, the present day, when so many of our neighbours of acquaintance are acting in like manner. It is the will of God that it should be so; none can embrace Christ. ianity and come to Christ but those whom the Father disposes to do so, and none reject him but those whom he permits to overlook the strong and various evidence in favour of revelation, If, therefore, we hear the character of Jesus vilified; if we see bis precepts ridieuled and despised; let us endeavour, as far as we are able, by reason and argument, to undeceive such mise taken men; but let not our cager desire for the prevalence of truth betray us into any intemperate warmth in its defence; nor let us be discouraged, if our efforts.
should prove ineffectual. The defection and opposition of modern unbelievers may be as useful to Christianity in future times, and as necessary for accomplishing the benevolent purposes of Divine Providence respecting it, as the general rejection of it by the Jews was in the beginning. Let us, therefore, acquiesce in the will of God, however opposite to our own wishes.
3. Let us endeavour to secure to ourselves the important benefits which are annexed to believing in Christ. There is much metaphor, and some degree of obscurity, in his language on this occasion; but his general meaning is easily understood. Eternal life is repeatedly promised to all those who believe and obey his gospel ; or, which is the same thing, who believe in his death and resurrection. But this is a benefit which we cannot expect to be conferred upon us without our own endeavours. We must hear so as to learn of the Father. Much pains are requisite, in order to meditate upon the grounds and objects of faith; to practise what the gospel enjoins, and to avoid what it forbids. Yet, whatever such services may cost, the glorious prize will more than reward our labours.
John vi. 60. to the end. 60. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, or, “ heard these things," i. e. several things before mentioned, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it? Who can bear to hear it with patience ?
What they seem to have found hard to understand, was principally how they were to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a living man, and how this was to
give them eternal life; as appears from Christ furnish"ing them with a key to this part of his discourse in
verse sixty-three. The persons who were thus per. plexed by his language were not the twelve apostles, but some persons who had shown an inclination to be come his followers.
61. When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62. What and if ye shall see the son of man ascend up where he was before?
It has been supposed by many that Christ here refers to his ascension into heaven, after his resurrection from the dead, and to his having been already in hea. ven, before he was born into the world; but it is not conceivable how being witnesses of this ascension should offend his disciples, much less offend them more grievously than the language he had just been using, as the words imply. Besides, if the real ascension of Christ was referred to, as that was the ascension of the whole person, of the body and of the mind, the being in heaven must also include as much, that is, the existence of the body there as well as of the mind: but this is contrary to the faith of those who have recourse to this interpretation : for they suppose that it was only the pre-existent spirit of Christ which was in heaven before he appeared in our world.
I do not see, therefore, how any consistent meaning can be given to these words, but by supposing that the language is metaphorical, like the rest of Christ's discourse with these Jews; and that he only meant to intimate that he could say things more offensive and perplexing than any which he had yet delivered. He had been telling these sensual and ignorant Jews, who followed him for the sake of the loaves and fishes, that he was the true bread from heaven, and that if they expected to live, they must even eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. This was strong metaphorical Vol. 2.
language, certainly, and the last part of it seems to approach to harshness : for although it was sufficiently common for the Jewish teachers to speak of wisdom and instruction under the image of bread and wine, and although Christ himself says that he is a vine, a door, and a way, without much danger of becoming unintelligible, or of being misunderstood, because the literal sense was evidently absurd, and therefore the transition to the metaphorical easy, yet, since to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a living man is not in its own nature impossible, the literal meaning is here not excluded, and his hearers might easily be led to suppose that his words were to be so understood, and therefore be offended with them. Christ, observing this offence taken by his followers, in consequence of their understanding literally what he had spoken metaphorically, naturally used such language as this; “ Does this offend you? this slight difficulty? What if I should tell you, as I easily could, something that should appear more extraordinary and perplexing? What if I should rise in my discourse into the divine counsels, as I have done already on former occasions, and before other hearers, and display to you some of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven?" This is all I understand by the words “ ascending up where he had been before, or already ;" and I think that they bear a near resemblance to his language on another occasion, and may be illustrated by it: thus, when Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, was offended because Christ told him that a man must be born again before he could enter into the kingdom of heaven, Jesus replies, John iii. 12, 13, “ If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things ? And no man hath as. cended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the son of man which is in heaven.” In respect to these last words, I have already shown you, that being in heaven is only a figurative expression for being acquainted with the divine counsels. Ascending up to heaven, therefore, according to this interpretation, can mean no more than making use of the knowledge thence received, and ascending up, in the passage now under consideration, is only the same expression a little shortened. It signifies the same thing as teaching men heavenly things. It is hardly necessary to add that seeing, for observing with the mind, is : a common figure of speech in all languages.
63. It is the spirit that quickeneth ; .. the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.
These words are intended by Christ as a key to most of the obscurities in the preceding discourse, particu. larly to what he had said about his being the bread from heaven, and of the necessity of eating his flesh. These things the Jews understood literally: but he now intimates that he had a spiritual meaning, and that it was the figurative sense of his words, intended to express his doctrine, which could alone produce and support a spiritual life; and that his flesh would be of no use for this purpose. From Peter's answer, verse sixty-eight, “ Thou hast the words of eternal life," it appears that he understood the figurative meaning of his words, and rightly conceived him to speak of his doctrine.
64. But there are some of you that believe not (for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.).
It was revealed to Christ, from the beginning of his ministry, which of his disciples were sincere converts, and which of them were not so; and particularly, who it was that would deliver him up. This made him take so little pains to explain himself, and be so indifferent about giving them offence: his explanations would have. produced no effect upon men who were not at all inclined to believe in him.
65. And he said, Therefore said I unto you that no man can come unto