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Though the Jews were no strangers to a figurative way of speaking, yet such was their blindness and perverseness, that they understood those words, and the rest of CHRIST's declaration in a literal sense, and inquired, with the utmost astonishment, How can this man give us his flesh to eat P But our Lord, knowing what manner of persons he was conversing with, did not think proper to explain his meaning in any other way of speaking; but continuing in the same figurative way of expression, he repeated, and affirmed what he had before asserted, Verily, verily, I say unto you, said he, ercept 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 7meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed; meaning, that no person can obtain that eternal life, which the gospel of CHR1st makes known, but by a vital faith, which receives the Son of God, and, partaking of his divine nature, draws spiritual nourishment and life from him. “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.’
Our Lord proceeded to inform them, that this is the bread which he had before told them came down from heaven, infinitely superior, in its nature and consequences, to that bread which their fathers eat in the wilderness: “ for they eat the manna and are dead; but whoso eateth this bread shall live for ever.’
Such was the conference which our Saviour had with the Jews, in the Synagogue at Capernaum, which took its rise from the miraculous repast which he had so lately provided for the multitude in the desert, and thence naturally turned on bread. Though the Jew: were no strangers to a figurative way of speaking, and might have found the same mode of expression in their own prophets, yet they had no clear idea of his mean
ing, eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, they still understood literally ; and, as it was a thing prohibited in the law of Moses, and abhorred by the most barbarous nations, they looked upon it with the utmost astonishment and aversion; and many of his disciples, with a mixture of dissatisfaction and surprise, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it * Our Lord,
"perceiving their discontent, said, Are ye offended because I told you my flesh was meat, and my blood was drink; what would you think if you saw 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, they are spirit, and they are life. Thus, our Lord further explained the meaning of what he had before advanced; as much as if he had said, When you see me ascend with this body into heaven, you will be convinced that I really descended from thence; and you will also perceive that you cannot eat my flesh, or drink my blood in a corporeal manner; I never intended you should think my words had any such meaning: my flesh in such case, could not be of any advantage to the sons of men; but the great blessings I have been relating, arise from receiving the doctrines I preach; to reveal these, I laid aside the glory which I had with my Father; I took upon me the veil of flesh, and assumed the nature of man: it is, therefore, entering into the spirit of these doctrines, which will bring you to eternal life; but I know your hearts are so wicked, and your prejudices so strong, that you will not receive them ; nor am I disappointed in you ; for, I have told you before, that no man rean come unto me, except it be given him of the Father. *.
The Jews were so puzzled, confounded and offended at this discourse, that many who had professed themselves the disciples of CHR 1st, departed out of the synagogue, and followed him no more. They did not understand his views, nor like his method of proceeding ; nor could they perceive how a temporal
kingdom, that idol of Jewish vanity, was likely at this rate to be established: and, therefore, they could no longer acknowledge JEsus to be the Messiah, whose appearance and reign they expected so vastly different.
When the Jews were departed, our Lord turned himself to his disciples, with benignity of countenance and with an air of condescending goodness, bid them remark how degrading and shameful it was for the sons of men, to consider and reflect on the perverseness and obstinacy of the unbelieving Jews; who thought themselves offended, and made it a crime, for asserting and spreading such divine, immutable truths, and knowledge, to which they deafened their cars, and which affected so materially their future welfare and tranquility. Divine truths' demonstrated to them in supernatural miracles, heavenly goodness, and by the fulfilment of the predictions of the ancient prophets, out of all probability of doubt, if they would only reflect and consider on the sacred writings, and how inconsistent it ought to appear to all, who were not blinded, nor led astray by evil minded men, nor over fond of following implicitly, without considering the manifest contradictions and absurdities contained in the dogmas of their Elders; whom they themselves despised, by performing the least, and neglecting the most material rites which they contained. .
Our blessed Redeemer added, that by such an ungrateful conduct towards his heavenly Father, they rendered themselves unworthy to partake the blessings arising from his divine and spiritual kingdom, to which they turned their hearts, in defiance of the precepts and examples of the Son of Man ; delighting in iniquity and walking in darkness; preferring the works of feeble men, to the paths of his heavenly kingdom, turning their hearts against his ministry, by entertaining such notions of the Messiah's temporal kingdom, so inconsistent with the divine will of his heavenly Father; but that the time will come, when,
convinced of their iniquitous proceedings, they should atone for their transgressions, and the power of the Son of man will be fully known. Adding also, that because he permitted his disciples to eat with unwashen hands, which was contrary to the tradition of the elders, by which the Pharisees explained the law of Moses. Several instances of legal uncleanness were particularly stated, and forbidden by the Jewish legislature; but these, and other ceremonial performances, were multiplied in the most extravagant and ridiculous manner in those traditions, which were held in such high veneration by the Pharisees. These people, who valued themselves on an exact and scrupulous performance of every tittle of the law, considered it as a notorious offence to eat bread with unwashen hands, though at the same time, they were scandalously careless in things of the highest importance.
To shew the stupidity and folly of this conduct, our Lord answered the question of the Pharisees, by retorting on them the wickedness of their conduct in a scrupulous exactness and punctuality, in the observance of human traditions, and, at the same time neglecting the positive commands of God. Why do you also, said he, transgress the commandment of God by your tradition 2 For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother ; and, he that curseth father or mo, her, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me: that is, whatever I might have spared for the relief of my parents, I have dedicated to God, and thus suffers his parents to want, not honoring his/ather and mother he shall be jree. Thus have you, continued our great Redeemer, set aside the immutable duties of natural religion, and dared to oppose and contradict the positive commandments of God, by your ridiculous and contemptible traditions: ye hypocrites, said he, tcell did Isaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me: but in vain do they worship me, preaching for doctrines the commandments of men. -
Our Lord having thus sharply rebuked the Pharisees, turned to the people and explained to them the nature of the argument, and desired them to reflect on the absurdity of the doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees. Not that which goeth into the mouth de..fileth a man: but that which cometh out of the mouth, that deftleth a man, said he; and appealed to the common sense and understanding of mankind, for the apparent truth of this observation, desiring them to judge what contemptible hypocrites those persons must be, who could professedly neglect the great duties of morality, which are of universal and eternal obligations, and at the same time, value themselves on the exact - and scrupulous performance of such a trifle as washing of hands.
The Pharisees were highly offended at our Lord, because he spake in a degrading manner of their traditions, of which, having complained with some warmth, the disciples came and informed their master. JESUs replied, that they need not give themselves any pain about the offence which that set of men had taken at . his words, nor need they be afraid of their anger; for both themselves and their doctrine would soon be destroyed, for neither of them were of God. Every plant, said he, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone : they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch.
But the disciples themselves did not fully understand, nor were they entirely satisfied with his dogtrine; and Peter having desired his Lord to explain it to them, the divine instructor proceeded to inform them, that meats being of a corporeal nature, could
not defile the spirit of a man, or render him polluted