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shed its blessings on the church, we may safely look for the doctrine and practice which constitute the true simplicity that is in CHRIST. The nearer we conform to them, the less shall we be in danger of being corrupted from that simplicity. The best prayer that we can offer for ourselves, for society, and for the church, is, that the spirit of those times may be revived among us; and upon the principles then prevalent, all Christians be united in one body; and as then, be distinguished from the world, not only by profession, but in life and conversation.
JESUS CHRIST THE ONLY SOURCE OF REST
BY WILLIAM L. JOHNSON,
RECTOR OF GRACE CHURCH, JAMAICA, L I.
John, vi. 68.-" Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast
the words of eternal life."
The discourse of our LORD, recorded in this chapter, unfolds many of the most essential truths of his gospel. The words which dropped from his blessed lips on this occasion were indeed spirit and life. Speaking with great authority and intelligence he unlocked the heavenly treasures ; he proposed them as worthy of the most ardent pursuit of an immortal soul; and showed by what means they were to be obtained. “ Labor not,” said he, "for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you.” He declares himself a sufficient and willing Savior, when he says, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger ; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."
He shows thc absolute necessity of that intimate union with Him, which is
effected by his Spirit in the operations of faith ; the happy result of which is a participation of his anointing. This unspeakable benefit he expresses in the following strong and metaphorical terms: “I am the bread of life. This is the bread which cometh down from Heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever ; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Verily, verily I say unto you, except ye eat of 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. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father : so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." When this doctrine and these expressions were by many literally understood, our Savior immediately directed to a spiritual apprehension of them; and intimated, from his approaching ascension, that they could not possibly be meant in a carnal sense. “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you,” that is, my doctrines, “they are spirit, and they are life.”
Further, he shows that salvation is not of man, but of God: that we are entirely dependent upon Him for illumination to discern the truth, and for ability to embrace the blessings of his gospel : and thus, to drive us from every false hope, and bring us to the only foundation on which we can rest with safety, he explicitly declares, “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” And again, “ No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."
This exposition of his heavenly doctrines, and the faithfulness and love which prompted him to declare them, one would truly
think, ought certainly to have conciliated his hearers, and attached his professed followers more closely to his person. But these truths were too spiritual, and too humiliating for the generality to relish. As it often happens, they were well enough pleased with the exterior of the sanctuary; but had neither taste to discern those beauties, nor desire to possess those treasures, which make its inmost recesses glorious. The doctrine of man's impotency mortified their pride ; of spiritual union to the Lord Jesus, opposed their carnal views; of sanctification, was adverse to their corruptions. They murmured; they were offended ; and, it is added, “from that time many of the disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” It was a season of general defection among those who professed to be Christ's followers. It would seem the far greater portion had entirely renounced his authority, and thrown contempt upon his pretensions; for they walked no more with him." Their example, no doubt, had its effect; and the poison began to insinuate itself into the hearts of Christ's real disciples. There was but a small number that still adhered to their Master. The thousands which had followed him, were no longer seen in his train. Those that were left, disheartened and disappointed, were in danger of becoming the victims of false shame. Even the twelve, the intimate friends of Jesus, and the chosen heralds of his gospel, appear to have been offended at this unexpected event, and to have had their faith greatly shaken. But the compassionate Savior, who knew their weakness, and the severity of the present trial, soon affords them seasonable relief. By a single question he brings to their recollection the wonderful displays of his
power and grace; their inviolable obligations of attachment to his person and his cause; and the endearing relation which subsisted between him and them. “He said unto the twelve, will ye also go away?" This address instantly touches their hearts, and revives the languishing flame of their love. Returning hope and confidence strengthen their holy resolution never to forsake him ; and prompt them to reply, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
In this their confession of the Messiah is implied--a conviction of the insufficiency of all human means for the attainment of
salvation--a firm belief in his perfections and qualifications as a Savior—and a resolution to adhere to him as their Savior and LORD.
I. In this reply of the apostles is implied A CONVICTION OF THE INSUFFICIENCY OF ALL HUMAN MEANS FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF SALVATION. “LORD, to whom shall we go ?" Shall we apply to the Scribes and Pharisees ? Shall we inquire of the ceremonial or moral law ? Shall we submit to the decisions of reason ?
1. The Scribes and Pharisees, and other doctors of the law among the Jews, at that period, were blind, leaders of the blind. Their corruptions had darkened their minds, and thrown a veil over the sacred writings; so that the plainest prophecies were misunderstood, and the most important doctrines perverted by them. The "weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith,” were overlooked or contemned; while particular and proud attention was given to the trifling duties of paying tithes for “mint, anise, and cummin.” By their explications of the Holy Scriptures that which was plain became obscure ; that which was of the first importance became indifferent; that which spoke of spiritual glories was construed to mean worldly splendors: and even Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer from Sin, the Conqueror of Death, was, through the strange perverseness of their minds, expected under the character of an earthly monarch, who, for the salvation of the Jews, should become the conqueror of all the nations of the earth. To these absurd sentiments was superadded a higher veneration for the traditions of men than for the oracles of God: as is evident from the declaration of our Savior, “ Ye have made the word of God of none effect by your traditions." Such being the character, and such the doctrines of the Jewish teachers, the apostles were convinced that from them no spiritual instruction could be derived.
2. Equally convinced were they that life and salvation could not be obtained from an observance of the ceremonial or moral law.
With respect to the former they knew that the tabernacle service was chiefly typical, and, under various representations, sha
dowed forth good things to come. They knew that the sacrifice of a beast could never be accepted by God, as a real atonement for iniquity; and, therefore, that being sprinkled with the blood of the victim, was neither to be cleansed from the impurity, nor freed from the guilt of sin. Nor did they dare to rely upon the moral law, for acceptance with God, and a right to eternal life. Even if they could not recollect that they had been guilty of any gross immorality; if they were conscious that they deserved the character of peaceable and good citizens; yet they knew that they were far from that perfection which the law demands that they were conceived in sin—that their hearts were by nature corrupt—and that God required truth in the inward parts. They heard Moses, as well as the Lord Jesus, declare “ Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind : This is the first great commandment : And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Here they could not but see their awful deficiency, and be terribly alarmed, when they heard the voice of eternal truth declare, " The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The law, then, so far from promising life, denounces death ; so far from encouraging the hope of reward for our imperfect righteousness, for the imperfection of our righteousness threatens us with the wrath of God.
3. But could not reason have pointed out to them the path of life? The apostles do not hesitate on this subject. They are persuaded of the entire insufficiency of reason to effect this great end. They do not entertain the faintest hope that their reason, or the combined reason of mankind, is able, by all the light it can furnish, to conduct them to eternal felicity. And we are bold to maintain that this opinion is uniformly prevalent in those who have justly considered the immense importance of eternal things; who accurately appreciate their own powers; and who have enjoyed the common light of the Gospel.
Untaught by revelation, to what knowledge can we obtain respecting the salvation of a sinner ? Can human reason discover whether it is even possible for sin VOL. II.-6