Lexington, Greene County, N.Y.,1855.
BROTHER BEEBE: - While attending a yearly meeting at Andes, Delaware County, New York, in February last, I was requested to give my views through the SIGNS, on the following scripture, “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35.
At the time when this scripture was spoken, our Lord was in conversation with the Jews, who followed him not because of the miracles which he performed, but because they did eat of the loaves and were filled. When he testified that he was the living bread which came down from heaven they manifested their ignorance of his divine character. They knew him not as the Son of God, or as the bread of life, but supposed he was the son of Joseph, whose father and mother they knew.
Absolutely and essentially Jesus Christ is the eternal God, but as the Son of God, he proceeded forth, and came from God, and is the living bread which came down from heaven. Therefore as the Son of God, he is the bread of life. It cannot be justly supposed that in the sense spoken of in the text, that he is the natural life of the Adamic family, and natural bread for them to live upon. The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, the beasts of the earth have animal life, and subsist upon temporal food. Our Lord was not from the earth as Adam was, nor from Adam by ordinary generation, “The first man is of the earth earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven.” I Cor. 15:47. The whole Adamic family were identified in Adam before their individual manifestation by ordinary generation, so the spiritual family of God were identified in Christ the living bread before their individual manifestation in time. If it was not so there would be no manifestation among the posterity of Adam, of a people born again of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever. Paul speaking in relation to the communion of saints, declares, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we brake, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.” I Cor. 10:16,17. Could there be any communion of saints if they were not one bread and one body having life in Christ? Certainly not! And his people are bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, and are consequently one bread and one body.
I will now come to that part of the text upon which I was requested to be the most full and definite in my remarks. The Jews supposed they were coming to Christ and would be accepted of him while they were seeking to be justified, as it were, by the deeds of the law. They were the natural progeny of Abraham, and boasted much of their pedigree, and their own righteousness before God. But they were enemies to God by wicked works, and it was clearly manifest against Christ and his apostles. The same spirit has been, and still is manifest in the world since the apostolic age. Thousands have supposed they have come to Christ by their self-righteous prayers, and creaturely efforts, and make great pretension to religion in a variety of forms, manifest much zeal, and devotedness, and yet after all, it is of the same nature, and no better than the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. They will treat with contempt the doctrine of free, matchless, distinguishing, unmerited grace. Such have not come to Christ, neither believe on him.
Jesus said to the Jews who murmured at him, “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me draw him.” John 6:44. There was a people who were under divine instruction, and were drawn to Christ, and had come to him, and saw him in the days of his flesh, and also after his resurrection, and in his ascension, and who believed on him and were satisfied. They loved him, and he was the bread and water of life to them. They had seen, heard, and handled of the good word of life and rejoiced in hope of the glory of God.
The Jews as a nation were under obligation to observe and keep the laws, rites, and ceremonies which had been delivered to them under that legal dispensation. But through the wickedness of their hearts they substituted many things to be observed which the Lord never commanded them. The violation of that national covenant did not prove that the covenant was bad, but it proved that the people who were under it were a wicked race. But there was a spiritual family that dwelt in that national house, who trusted in the Lord, and had no confidence in the flesh. It is worthy of remark that the old covenant when kept outwardly in the flesh did not spiritually justify its subjects before God.
The ancient saints, probably, were faithful in obedience to its requisitions in the letter; but they had the faith of Christ to justify them before God. Life and salvation from sin, death, and hell, was not revealed in that covenant. If it had not been for the new covenant established upon better promises, the saints under that typical dispensation would not have had any hope. Paul said, “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Gal. 3:21,22. What would have become of all the saints from righteous Abel until Christ came in the flesh, if the law had existed without the promise of the Savior? They must have remained in sorrow and mourning, for their own works would not save them, and the law cursed them. They would have hungered and thirsted without relief, or hope, for the law in its demands furnished no bread, nor water. By faith they were justified and did rest in hope, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Rom. 10:4.
But the text says, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” All the redeemed family of God among the Gentiles are recognized by the distinguishing characteristic he that cometh to me, he that believeth on me, &c. It is natural for a sinner to suppose it is his own act to come, and to believe. He vainly attempts to do so when under the leadings of a self-righteous spirit, but when brought under divine teaching, his own works of righteousness are swept with the besom of destruction, and being drawn by the Father away from his own works, he comes to the throne of sovereign mercy – a lost and ruined sinner – and cries, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He has labored long and hard for life, has done all he could to live upon, and receive support from that kind of bread which feeds hypocrites, nominal professors, and pharisees; but alas, to his sorrow and grief, his own prayers, and performances are a mass of corruption in his own view. He thinks he must do something for life, but alas the law in its spiritual demands removes every subterfuge from him. He learns that it is the effect of grace to come to Christ; but he does not yet know to his own satisfaction that he is actually coming to Christ. He cannot see how God can be just and save him. He believes in God from real knowledge of his character and divine law, and his justice. He finds he is in a pit wherein is no water, and cries, “Lord save or I perish.” He learns that it is not the work of the creature to believe, to repent, to cry for mercy, or to pray; for he tries hard to believe, repent and pray, and fails to do so, for his heart is unbelieving, hard, and impenitent. It is only by the still small voice of the Spirit that he has any knowledge of his deplorable condition, and the justice of God in his condemnation. Being quickened to divine life he feels to be in a state of death. He is kept under the law, shut up unto the faith of Christ, until that faith is revealed in his deliverance from wrath. Christ is the bread of life, and water which never fails. The penitent and contrite sinner is in distress and trouble until his hungry and thirsty soul is satisfied with a comforting and refreshing assurance of the blessedness of that dear Redeemer as the bread and water of life. He believes on him by an experimental knowledge of his glory and preciousness. Being completely delivered from the curse of the law, and the power and dominion of sin, and brought experimentally under law to Christ, he hungers and thirsts no more as he did under the curse and condemnation of the law. He is not under the law, but under grace. Being established in the truth he feels satisfied with the glorious way of salvation, and it is his meat and drink to do the will of his heavenly Father.
The experience of the saints in substance is the same. The deliverance of the church collectively, from under the law, and her redemption from sin, death and hell through Jesus Christ, is a scheme too profound for seraphs to pry, or finite worms to scan. Paul declared, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I Cor. 1:30. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Rev. 7:16,17.
But do not the people of God still hunger and thirst? To contrast their situation under grace, with their former situation under the law, they do not. A query suggests itself to the mind. Are there not some now that hunger and thirst for the bread and water of life? Very probably. In their experience they are not yet set at liberty fully, by the revelation of the immaculate Son of God.
I will express another view of the subject. They that have come to Jesus and believe on him will never hunger and thirst any more as aforetime, for those things they once enjoyed. They have seen an end of all perfection, and being established in the gospel, Christ is their theme and song.
I have in substance expressed my views of the text, and I trust it is not far from being scripturally correct, though perhaps it may not be satisfactory to all who may read my communication.
Joseph L. Purington.