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to Capernaum. To wean them from such interested expectations, he warns them that they have mistaken his intentions ;-that the supplies which he is willing to procure for them, are of a far nobler kind,—not perishing food, but the food of the soul, the means of eternal life. “ Labour not for the food which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life; which the Son of man shall give unto you;
for him hath God the Father sealed '," this very miracle is a seal and testimony that God hath authorized him to do so. Upon his auditors requiring some stronger grounds for their belief than this, which, in their opinion, had been equalled by the miraculous supply of manna in the wilderness, our Lord re-asserts the more satisfying nature of the nourishment which he offers them ;—and again and again informs them that he is that bread of life. The expressions he employs are such as the following :“I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever? :” (and, by a still bolder form of expression,) “The bread I will give you is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world®:”. and again, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, shall live for ever." It is remarkable,
John vi. 27.
2 Ibid. vi. 51.
that, notwithstanding all the cavils of the Jews, who either would not or could not comprehend the figure, he continues to employ it throughout his whole discourse. He might at once have done away with all misapprehension by dropping the metaphor: but his object in retaining it, undoubtedly was to establish the more forcibly the connexion between the miracle and the doctrine couched under it. And the figure, at the same time, is so transparent, and his meaning is at last made so obvious, that, we should have thought, none but the prejudiced could affect to misunderstand it. We are informed, however, that, for the satisfaction of his immediate followers, he found it necessary to explain, that in saying they must “eat his flesh,” he does not mean literally his body, for that will soon ascend to heaven; “but it is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” We
remark that, eminently figurative as is the whole of this discourse,--though here, if anywhere, we might have expected a minuteness of interpretation,we nowhere find our Lord diverging into minor resemblances. We shall recur to this observation in another place.
The last instance which we have to adduce, is the miraculous draught of fishes. When
5 John vi. 63.
Peter, overpowered with awe and consternation, besought Jesus to depart from him,
from him, “ Jesus said unto him, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” The nature of the Apostolic office, and the success of Christ's ministers in converting men to his religion, are aptly represented by this extraordinary draught of fishes. The same figure is made use of in the parable, Matt. xiii. 47: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away."
These seem to be the principal passages, in which our Lord has himself directed us in the development of the spiritual import of his miracles. Many of the analogies are sufficiently obvious, and might perhaps have been discovered without the aid of such enlightenment. But, employed as the balance in our future scrutinies, they may enable us to avoid two opposite and common errors,—that of searching for mysteries where none are intended,—or clinging to the literal, to the exclusion of the figurative sense
Luke y. 10.
See Note (D).
II. In no branch of biblical enquiry, does it so much become the student to proceed “with fear and trembling?,” as in the mystical exposition of Scripture. Although, undoubtedly, when guided by a firm and cautious hand, it is an instrument of the very highest value, indeed indispensable to the right understanding of many portions of the sacred volume ;-there is none more liable to abuse, or, when misdirected, more likely to injure the true interests of religion. The indiscriminate application of it has given rise to much fanciful and contradictory interpretation, calculated to do any thing but good to the cause it was intended to serve. And, as might have been expected, the opponents of Christianity have not been slow to avail themselves of so advantageous an opening for their attacks. Every sincere Christian, therefore, should be aware of the danger of extending this principle beyond its natural and obvious application ; lest he should wander himself, and lead others astray from that clearly traced path, in which, we are assured, 'a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err.'
Let no temptations, which vanity, a desire of popularity, or the more specious but equally fallacious plea of usefulness may present, seduce him from his
On the contrary, let him adhere, with jealous care, to the plain and unforced 3 Phil. ii. 12.
4 See note (E).
dictates of the word of God: lest, by departing from the simplicity of the Gospel, he should inadvertently contribute to the adulteration of Christianity, and to the consequent injury, which must thence arise, to the spiritual interests of his fellow-creatures!.”
In pursuance of the plan proposed, we shall now proceed, in an humble spirit of cautious enquiry, to apply the principles which we obtained in the former part of our Essay, to the investigation of the limits of our Lord's mystical intention, in the performance of his miracles ;—we say, our Lord's intention, because, whatever in them is properly mystical now, must have been so at the period of their occurrence --foreknown and preordained by God. This indeed is implied in the very definition of the terms we employ : A type may be defined to be an example prepared by God to prefigure something future and distant; and it is essential to its very nature, that there should be a competent evidence of the divine intention, in the correspondence between it and the antitype ; -a matter not left to the imagination of the expositor to discover, but resting on some solid proof from Scripture itself, that this was really the case.
Christ. Instruct. 1805, Vol. iv. p. 133. · Horne's Introd. Vol. 11. p. 649.
Bp. Van Mildert, Bampt. Lect. p. 239.