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power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing;"—for He hath “ redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
ON THE FIGURATIVE PHRASE OF “EATING
THE FLESH OF THE SON OF MAN.”
JOHN, CHAP. VI. VER. 53–56.
• Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the
Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day: for my
flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”
NOTHING can be more just, more beautiful, and more impressive, than the metaphors and allegories introduced into holy writ. Figures are interwoven with all languages, and used in ordinary discourse; nor are they misunderstood, or perverted, on common occasions ; but, when the subject is sacred, men seem to think there must be some hidden meaning, something more than meets the ear; and this humour of involving religion in obscurity, and seeking to discover what is not apparent, has proved very injurious to true piety.
Figurative terms and illustrations more peculiarly abound in the eastern tongues. The works of the Hebrew poets and prophets are crowded with these rhetorical ornaments; and our Saviour's lessons and discourses, especially those recorded by St. John, are often conveyed in the boldest tropes and hyperboles. He calls Himself the vine, of which his disciples are the branches, and his Father the husbandman ;-the door of the fold, at which his sheep must enter to be saved ; —the living bread which came down from heaven: And in that remarkable passage, so absurdly perverted by the Romish church,“ This is my body which is given for you ;—this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many :” on which strong but evident figure, I need not remind you, has been fabricated the most monstrous and ridiculous doctrine that, perhaps, ever entered the human brain,—the absolute transformation of the consecrated bread and wine in the Eucharist, into the real substance of Christ's body.
But it is time I should proceed to the elucidation of the text; which, you perceive, is a continuation of the same figure. The sacred historian, St. John, who was himself an eye witness of the facts he records, after having given the same account as the other Evangelists had published, of the manner in which his beloved Master miraculously fed five thousand men from the scanty supply of five loaves and two small fishes, acquaints us, that, on the day following, a multitude of people, the greater part of whom, probably, had been thus plentifully feasted, “ took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.” “When they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither ?” Instead of gratifying their curiosity, our Lord thus mildly rebuked them,—“Verily, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracle, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.” He then exhorts them no longer to be thus eager for temporal things, but to seek those which are eternal;_"Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” His hearers then demand what He requires from them as the
servants of God. His answer is plain and positive : “ Believe on Him whom He hath sent.” But they reply, “What sign showest thou, then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work ?" Moses, they alleged, had exhibited this mark of his divine legation ;--our forefathers were long miraculously supported—they “eat manna in the desert, as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Our Saviour (for it was usual with Him to lay hold on any incident that occurred, and to take up what dropped from others, in order to make it an instrument for conveying some religious truth) our Saviour pursues the thought, and adopts the image they had suggested. “Moses, He rejoined, gave you not that bread from heaven" - It was not the prophets mandate that supplied your wants ;-nor, indeed, was that manna heavenly and spiritual food, but slender and temporary nourishment for the body: “ But my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven,"—-food which will prove an unfailing supply to the soul; “ for the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” By the mission of me, his Son, He supplies you with celestial sustenance, and " he that cometh to me"