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SERMON XXIV.

ST. JOHN vi. 13.

Then Jesus said unto them, 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.

I HAVE been often struck, in reading different notes or commentaries upon the Scriptures, with the pains which the writers seem to take to lessen the force of many of our Lord's speeches, by explaining them in vague and general language. Now this is in fact to undo Christ's work. He who best knew what manner of speaking would most reach the heart and the understanding of men, chose on all occasions a style the most lively, distinct, and forcible, that is any where to be found. It takes hold of the attention by its novelty and beauty, and by its strength and clearness comes home at once to the mind of every one, how different soever the education of each may have been. In trying to explain it, we too often either darken it or weaken it; we deprive it of that peculiar charm, of that especial power of reaching the soul, for which Christ chose to use it; we lower his words and teaching from the teaching of one having authority to that of the Scribes.

There is an old story told of St. John, that towards the close of his life, his addresses to his hearers were nothing more than a repetition of the words, “ Children, love one another:" and that when he was asked, why he was always saying the same thing, he answered, because that one thing contained every thing. So there are many speeches of our Lord, to repeat which over and over again in their own simple words, would be better than all the sermons which the wit of man could devise-speeches which require no explanation, and which, if in any degree altered, only lose something of their power. Such are those divine lessons ;

" What shall it profit a 'man, if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"

“ Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; for strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be which go in thereat; because wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction; and many there be which go in thereat." « The hour cometh when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

" Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls; for my yoke is easy and

my burden is light.” These and many more such passages can never be heard or read too often; they should be sounding for ever in our ears, till they are exchanged for the song of the Angels before the throne of God and of the Lamb; and he who would be weary of the one, would assuredly find no pleasure in the other. Christ's words must be our daily food, if we are willing that our souls should live. Or do we think that our bodies would be weak and unable to do their work if kept for less than one day without their nourishment; but that our souls shall feel no hurt, if they are left, as is too often the case, for six days together without theirs ? Give us this day our daily bread, is a prayer which our souls need full as much as our bodies. Give us the bread of life; give us our best and most necessary food, without which we cannot live. Of a truth, except we do eat of this food, except our

souls have their daily hunger and thirst supplied with the bread and water of life; or by those holier refreshments of the Christian wilderness, except we eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood; there is, there can be no life in us.

I have thus brought you to the words of the text, to show how little they require any explanation when taken in connexion with what

goes before them, and how poorly any thing that we might put in their stead, would come up to their force and liveliness. And now what shall we say to the cavil of the unbelieving Jews, “ How can this man give us his flesh to eat ?" Can we think that this was said in real ignorance; that among all Christ's hearers there was any one so grossly stupid as really to believe that Christ meant him to eat his flesh, and to drink his blood ? Even amongst us, who are so much less used to such a lively and figurative way of speaking, I am satisfied that no man could so misunderstand the words : what would be the case then among the Jews, to whom parables and comparisons were a part of the national mode of instruction, and whose own Scriptures were full of similar phrases, likening the refreshment of the soul to the meat or drink of the body. Doubtless it was a difficulty which

they made, and not one which they found; they were inclined beforehand to find fault with all that he said, because he, the carpenter's son, whose father and mother they knew, had told them that he had come down from Heaven. So there are many amongst us, who, although as I hope and believe, far less blameably and far less fatally, do yet make to themselves difficulties in the language of our Lord, which plain, simple, and sincere men, without much learning, reading the Bible honestly as their rule of life, are not at all puzzled with. The truth is, we are afraid of the strength of our Lord's words; we do not like to take them in their full and plain meaning; and then we pretend that they are difficult, and take care so to explain them as to deprive them of that force and strictness which had alarmed us. But let us take for example the words of the text, and by seeing the different ways in which they have been misinterpreted, let us learn by God's grace to hold fast the lessons of our Lord in all their original freshness and piercing power.

First then, there was the error of those who understood, or rather pretended to understand, our Lord's words according to the very letter; who said, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? It would have been such utter foolishness

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