THE FIRST SERMON UPON
JOHN vi. 11.
And Jesus took the Loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the Disciples, and the Disciples to them that were set down, and likewise of the Fishes as much as they would.
JOHN vi. 11.
And Jesus took the Loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the Disciples, and the Disciples to them that were set down, and likewise of the Fishes as much as they would.
YOU can turn almost to no part of the whole Gospel but you shall light upon a Miracle. They are well called the bright Constel∣lations, which shine in the Orbs of the New Testament. Yet all Stars are not of the same Magnitude, have not the same influ∣ence; so the Miracles of our Saviour have not all the same re∣markable lustre, work not all alike upon the understanding and the conscience. My Text is the main share of one that hath no little excellency in it. Perhaps I may prefer it before the most, or equal it with the best. But I revere the Word of God, I dare make no such compari∣sons. This I may affirm, preserving modesty, and observing safety, that it is of great conteinment. It made the Divinity of Christ most conspicuous, his power above Moses and the Prophets notorious, and his tender compassion most gracious. The Disciples were much edified by it, the People greatly satisfied, and, which is the aim of all, God was highly glorified. It is not usual with our Saviour to upbraid his Apostles with his mighty works: yet he did with this. Do ye not understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Mat. xvi. 9. It is not usual for all the Four Evangelists to enter the same Story into their sacred Writings: yet their Pens have all concurred to recite this miracle. Commonly that which is recorded by one or two is omitted by the rest. Or if three have en∣dited the same thing, the fourth leaves it out, (saving about the Passion, and the Resurrection, which are the Pole-stars of our faith) and this wonderful multipli∣cation of the Loaves and Fishes the Spirit of God hath inspired them all to make it most famous, being so unanimously represented in all the Gospels. Thirdly, It is not usual to have the wonderful works of Christ anticipated in heathen Prophe∣sies: But the Sibyls have prenuntiated in express terms all the circumstances of this miracle, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 &c. that the Son of God with five Loaves and two Fishes should feed five thousand in the Wilderness, and twelve baskets should remain of the Fragments. You will say perhaps this is a little too explicite in all points for a Prophesie: It hath been doubted of, I confess, in all Ages. And he was a learned man that thus censured these Sibylline Oracles, Quo apertiora sunt eò mihi suspectiora; The more clear they be, the more to be suspected. Yet Lactantius had no such jealousie of them, but ad∣mires them that they so exactly foretold all the occurrencies of my Text. Yet in case those Verses were not the Sibyls, but an interlineation of some Christian Poets, it argues strongly that the Interliner thought this Miracle to be a glorious note of the Kingdom of our Saviour. Finally, It is not usual with the Jews to bear a Testi∣mony to our Lord that his works did shew him to be the promised Messias. Some things that he did, made them say that he was Elias, or John the Baptist, or to de∣fend him that he was a good man. Other actions forced them to a demur, When Christ cometh will he do more miracles? But their judgments were quite captivated with this Page 912 deed, for they determine upon it in the fourteenth verse of this Chapter, This is of a truth that Prophet which should come into the world. This Scripture therefore made so notable by the finger of Christ, by the Pen of all the Evangelists, by the Oracles of the Gentiles, by the Confession of the Jews, this is it which I propound unto you, and out of these particulars I shall draw forth my doctrine upon it. Here are two things chiefly to be attended, a preparation to a Miracle, and the Miracle it self. The preparation is Bodily and Ghostly: Bodily, in accepit, Jesus took the Loaves, and likewise the Fishes. Ghostly, in gratias egit, or benedixit, he gave thanks. The Mira∣cle consists, 1. In the distribution, that was Christs Act, He distributed to the Di∣sciples. 2. In the subdistribution, that was the Disciples Office, The Disciples distri∣buted to them that were set down. 3. In the reception, that was the Peoples part, They did eat and were all filled, they had as much as they would.
A better preparation to a Miracle cannot be imagined than this accepit. If Jesus take the work in hand, look for a round dispatch: For the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand, Joh. iii. 35. Had he laid his hand upon it, or but touched the bread, vertue would have gone out of him, if he had pleased; but to grasp the Loaves, or to hold them in his Palm, it was a full signification that his power and liberality were eminently met together: for it is that hand which openeth and filleth all things. The Apostles knew where these Loaves were forth∣coming, but they set not their mind upon them, they would not meddle with them. The People were an hungry, and far from home, in a desart place, where there was nothing but grass. Two hundred penyworth of bread perchance would have staid their stomachs, and Philip thought that would be too little. Howsoever they had not the money to buy it. Five barly Loaves and two Fishes were all they had in store, and who durst take them forth and shew them openly, lest they should scramble and quarrel for them? The People were ready to stone Moses and Aaron in the Wilderness when they were pinched with scarcity of food. Therefore some gave counsel to send them away betimes, certainly suspecting a mutiny. But here is an accepit which runs cross to all their imaginations. Christ betakes himself to those means which they contemned; instead of dismissing the Congregation, he calls them closer together: instead of referring them to the Villages round about, he contents them amply in that barren place. Instead of the Tumult which was dreaded the issue came to great applause and admiration. In all their days they had never seen such a Feast as this Table in the Wilderness, where every Crum became an Handful: Great things became vile, and vile things became great by the dispensation of Christ. In his own Person the stone which the builders refused be∣came the head of the corner: and in his own hand the Loaves which the Disciples re∣fused became such a Banquet as never was prepared. Lord take it first into thine own hand, whatsoever we receive, and then it will increase and prosper. Give us our daily bread, and if it be thy gift for no more than one day, the vertue of it will last a year. Labour not then so much to have good things, as to have them of God. As David did quickly cast up a chearful account of all his estate, O Lord my God all the store that we have it cometh of thine hand, 1 Chron. xxix. 16. whatso∣ever drops from his fingers is sweet smelling Myrrh, Cant. v. 5. but all false ways he utterly abhors, and whatsoever comes in by fraud, by extortion, by cavillation, it will consume away as fast as ever the Loaves and Fishes increased.
But surely the whole quaternion of Evangelists have set down this Preamble to the Miracle with such joynt consent, He took the Loaves, that it cannot choose but have some depth of observation in it. St. Chrysostome hath reacht it so far that great numbers follow him, namely, that our Saviour did impatronize himself thereby to the work which followed, and published himself from thence to be the Author of the Miracle. It was alike easie to his Omnipotency to say the word, and to make bread of nothing: Or to take a little into his hand, and to amplifie it into a great quantity. Depend upon this, what we have he can increase, and what we have not he can create, it is all one to him. But by handling the lump, and so giving vertue to the augmentation, the People might behold him as the Fountain of all Power and Majesty, and say with the Lycaonians, God is come down unto us in the likeness of man. Hear what that Father says more unto it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. It was very expedient that the People should be taught these two Articles of their belief, that Christ came from the Father, and that he was equal with the Father. The one must be proved by power, the other by holi∣ness: The one by taking the Loaves, the other by giving thanks: The one by doing all, Page 913 the other by calling upon God, when he did all. Put the case he had looked up to Heaven, and furnished them with satiety of victuals out of nothing, what would the multitude have said? why, this comes from above, this is Gods doing, and this Jesus is a Prophet that's come from God. O but can humane reason be brought to no better opinion of him? 'tis true, whatsoever can be done, they that are unbelie∣vers may gain-say it, yet to subdue all contradiction in them that are willing to obey the truth, he took the bread; and took the glory to himself to make every loaf content a thousand, that they might cry out with the Centurion, this is of a Truth the Son of God, and it is no robbery to say he is equal with the Father. So at Cana in Galilee he did not create wine when they wanted, and supplied them out of nothing, but he turned water into wine, water of their own fetching, as this was bread of their own bringing, a pre-existent matter, whose substance they knew to be vulgar and natural: he wrought upon these sensible things before their eyes, that they might impute the transmutation to his own Divinity. Unto which of the Prophets therefore can you liken him in this Miracle? Moses obtained Manna from Heaven by prayer and supplication: Christ did this by his own hand. The Widows Barrel of Meal did not waste, nor her Cruise of Oyl fail, it was Elias his prediction, not his immediate operation. Elisha bad his Servant set twenty barley loaves before an hundred men, they did eat, and left thereof, yet for his own part he did not meddle with it, because he would have the children of the Prophets ascribe all to the Word of the Lord: they did according to that spirit upon them,* which was circumscribed and limited. God had lent them a tongue to declare his noble acts, but the hand which did all was far above, the hand of power was radical in Heaven: therefore this is a distinctive note to know the Master from his Ser∣vants, he took the loaves.
He took them indeed; but for justice sake it is fit to ask, unde habuit? from whence he had them. A mean question many times hath found a grave resolution: it may prove so in this. Whence he had them? Why, some say the Disciples did own them: for they answer him, Matt. xiv. 17. We have here but five loaves and two fishes. The words bear it as if they were theirs, because their Master was wont to carry them into desolate places, and to detein them there all night, it was their wonted providence to carry some small refection with them in their journey; as it appears Matth. xvi. 7. When our Saviour bad them beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Saducees, they reasoned among themselves, saying, it is because we have taken no bread: Then they had not, yet usually they do not forget it: and it may be this was their provision for the present season. But the votes of them are more that conceive they did belong to some other. In the nineth verse Andrew says, there is a Lad here which hath five barley loaves and two fishes, that he did belong to him and his fel∣low Disciples, 'tis neither in the Book, nor in the nearest likelihood. Baronius says that it is descended by Tradition that this Lad was St. Martialis, who became an holy Martyr, and was Bishop of Limoges in France. Whosoever the party was, if it be yielded, as no man can refuse it, that these Viands were his own: how came they into Christs hands without bargain and sale, for ought we read? When Offer∣tories were frequent in the Church, every Sunday a voluntary oblation presented to the Lord by all that could give, then the answer to this scruple was quickly under∣stood. If this were St. Martialis, piety revealed it self in him in his tender years, for I may safely say, he surrendred these things up unto Christ as a willing Offer∣tory, as soon as he knew that our Lord did ask for them. No offices of Religion will vanish away insensibly so soon as those that be chargeable. For can any man tell how free Oblations are quite laid down, and disused among us, unless it be at some Solemn Festivities, and Magnificent Funerals? no reason, but that two much thrift hath marr'd our thankfulness. Abel, and Noah, and Abraham did not forget it in those Sacrifices which they offered up unto the Lord,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉,*〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. The Law of nature egg'd them on, gratitude provokt them, say the Clementine Constitutions, to which I can give no less than the antiquity of the fourth Century. The Israelites, beside their Tithes and First-fruits, and other Ce∣remonies to which they were taskt, were left to their own discretion for the Choice Vow, and the Freewill Offering; and they perform'd it sumptuously, knowing that it was a glory due to the name of the Lord to bring an offering into his House of their own accord, Psal. xcvi. 8. The lights that shined in this piety under the Gospel was the poor Widow, that cast her two Mites freely into the Corb•n; Mary Magda∣len that poured a Box of Spicknard upon Christs head of great estimation: beside Page 914 the Wise men of the East, that cast their Gold and Myrrh before his Cradle; and Ni∣chodemus that dedicated his hundred pound weight of Aloes and Spices to his dead Body in the Sepulchre. It were ostentation of reading to point to free Oblations out of Antiquity, for there was no Age or Church without them. Happy was he whose life was accounted so unreprovable, that the Bishop would suffer him to bring a Gift to the Altar.* Sycophants, Drunkards, Whoremongers, unjust Judges, all scandalous persons were turned back disgracefully with their Oblation in their hand, and it would not be taken: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but such as possessed any substance by lawful increase, they did voluntarily bring a Portion to the Lord, to acknowledg their Tenure, that they held all from him, and their debt, that they owed all unto him. And this is pressed unto you by putting the case, if Jesus took the loaves by free donation.
But what shall we say if he commanded them before they were offered to him? Bring them hither to me, so he speaks in St. Matthew. By what Title did he require them be brought unto him? or by what authority did he take them, if another had the right possession? even by that authority wherein he was invested in the dominion of all earthly things, by that Prerogative whereby he sent for the Ass and the Colt when he rid into Jerusalem: Bring them unto me, and if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say the Lord hath need of them, and straight way he will send them. By that propriety which he had in the Gadarens Swine, by that right which he had in the Figtree which he cursed: manifest signs that he did dispose of all things as he pleased, with∣out asking leave of the owners. Belike, say some Papalines, there was a temporal Soveraignty in our Saviour over all things here beneath, and this did rest upon St. Peter after him, and is now immanent in St. Peters Successors, all the Kingdoms of this World are theirs, nec Constantinus dedit quickquam Sylvestro, in strict justice Constantine gave nothing to Pope Sylvester, for he was Lord of all before: a poor plea for so proud a purchase. And surely Pilat was more just in this point than those flattering Canonists. The Jews exclaimed against our Saviour that he made himself a King; Pilat could find no such fault in him, but pronounced him innocent. And well he might, for all things were given unto him by the Father, yet not by ruling all things like a King in his Kingdom, but by uniting the humane nature to the Godhead; and that ye doubt it not but that he had power over all Creatures as he was Man by the influence of that hypostatical union, he had a name written on his thigh King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, Revel. xix. 16. super femur, mark that, upon his thigh, that is upon his humane nature. Now what should I call this Dominion of Christs, whereby he was made Heir of all things, Heb. i. 2. Surely it surpasseth all description, and it hath no name. But I am sure he held it not after a Regal way, as David and Solomon were Kings in Israel. It was transcendent above humane Ma∣jesty, commanding Men and Angels, Heaven and Earth, Quick and Dead, things sensible and insensible; yet withall he was most subject to Rulers, paying Tribute to Cesar, and refusing to divide a small Inheritance between them that were con∣tentious. A mystical Kingdom, and not to be exprest: ruling over all, and yet most obedient to Magistrates, commanding every thing under Heaven, and yet mini∣string to his Servants; seized of no Inheritance, yet having right in every Inheri∣tance, quod de suo non habuit, sumpsit de alieno, says St. Austin of these Loavs, he had not bread of his own, but that which another had became his own; there was a justice paramount, wherein no mortal Creature succeeds him, which gave him interest in all things: Therefore without offence or injury to the owner he took the Loaves.
But if he had them from his Disciples, amicorum omnia communia, then he might usurp them without any litigious brabble moved against his power; and that the possession was theirs may be as true as the contrary: the truth inclines rather to that side, as I conceive, because our Saviour said unto them, date vos illis, give ye them to eat; and they, and none else, took away the twelve Baskets of that which remained. And was this the purveyance which they had made against hunger, five barley loaves and two fishes? little enough, and coarse enough, God knows: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, says St. Chrysostom, this was the Phylo∣sophy and austere temperance of the Disciples, they abhorred luxury and su∣perfluity: Yet do you miss nothing to make up the Meal? where was their drink? the fish is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 by our Evangelist, it had been dried before the fire; now that and bread made of Barley had need to be washed down. But what said the Roman Captain to his Army, Nilum habetis & vinum quaeritis? they that had the whole River of Nile before them need not complain of thirst: so they that were Page 915 near to the Sea of Tiberias took no thought for any other Beverage: it was a Lake of wholsom and fresh water, which after the custom of the Jews is called a Sea, if it be large and spacious; and with that they were contented to quench their thirst. Our Saviour furnished them once with wine at the joyful Solemnity of Marriage; they lookt not for the like at every occasion: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it is a plea∣sant liquor says the Poet, but it is the Milk of Venus. They declined all incentives of lust, and lived almost after Daniels rate with pulse and water. When Christians lived among the Heathen, they were detected by their parsimony and moderation of diet: though it were to save their lives they could not gurmandize like Epicures, Nos oleris comas nos siliqua faeta legumine paverit innocuis epulis, says Prudentius; by tem∣perance and fasting they got the mastery of the concupiscence of the flesh. But a∣bove all Christians especially sobriety descended from the Apostles upon Ecclesia∣sticks; it deserved a censure in them to exceed in delicious fare: the Canons are ex∣tant, and the proofs are authentique, that the great and solemn Fasts of the Church, well known to us, were observed by them a good while before they were admitted by the People. None know better than we, says St. Austin, that when temperance directs us to deny our selves those things that are lawful, we are the better instructed to shun the sinful works of the Devil, which are altogether un∣lawful. The Apostles are our Forerunners in this frugality,* or rather austerity of food: and yet to see, that for all this they were scandalized for riotous libertines. The imputation against them according to St. Matthew is this,*that they did not fast when the Disciples of John did. In St. Luke more palpably spiteful, they tell our Savi∣our, that his Disciples did eat and drink: why not? would they have them macerate themselves with wilful famishment? but could envy it self lay excess or intempe∣rance to their charge? I would we were as clear from the fault as they? we that abuse the fertilness of our Land to rankness of gluttony; we that pay more to the belly than we owe to the whole body: who almost is not an Apicius that can main∣tain it? what sin did ever grow up in any State to a more prodigious extremity? but if the droughts of three years successively threatening dearth and scarcity will not affrighten this sin from our Table, it is not a piece of a Sermon that will beat it down. Yet I pray you remember that sharp Epiphonema of the Parable; These three years have I come and found no fruit, cut it down. Nay God defend. Why then expiate your surfeitings with Apostolical abstinence, and forget not what a thrifty pittance they had in store, even five barley loaves and two fishes.
And was this all? and were they pleased that Christ should take that little from them, and give it away to strangers? yes it appears by Andrews answer they did not grudg it. We have no more, it is as good as nothing to feed such a multitude. This implies as if he spoke the rest, they shall have it all, and much good do them, if that will content them. And was he so willing to part with that which was ne∣cessary for his own sustenance, he had no more? And will not we bestow our su∣perfluities upon them that want? Every luxuriant Vine must be largely pruned; and he that hath much must scatter bountifully. The Vine doth not miss the re∣dundant branch, and a rich mans Purse is like a River, that doth not fall for a spoonful of contribution. But when a poor man conjects heartily to any pious use, his faith is proved, as well as his charity is exercised; for it is a sign that he believes that God will sustein him, though he have emptied himself of all his substance in a small Oblation. There are three things says Gregory that are most holy Sacrifices, castitas in juventute, sobrietas in ubertate, liberalitas in paupertate, liberality in poverty, chastity in youth, moderation in plenty. And St. Chrysostom infers it from the readi∣ness of the Disciples to part with all their homely Viands, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, maunder not that you are scanted, and have but little, he that hath any thing hath somewhat to spare to lend to the needy. When the poor Widow had conferr'd two Mites, no less than all her living, unto the godly uses of the Temple, Christ avouched it in her praise, it was more than all the rich ones had bestowed: That is, not by absolute, but by proportionable quantity, as Aquinas states it: not measuring the magnitude of the Gift, but the sincereness of the Charity. Non per∣pendit quantum, sed ex quanto proferatur, says Bede. God doth not estimate how much was given, but out of how much it was taken. It was more for her to give two mites, than for Zacheus to give a talent: So it was more for these Disciples to sur∣render up their five loaves and two fishes, than for another to keep open house for all the poor in Jerusalem. And these shall be the limits of the first point, our Savi∣ours bodily preparation to the ensuing Miracle, accepit, he took the loaves.
Page 916And what more beside accepit? For the Miracle came not off without another preparation, and that is Ghostly, Postquam gratias egisset, after he had given thanks. Best take it with the full allowance as the other Evangelists have enlarged it, that beside giving thanks he looked up to heaven and blessed. So then before he brought the sign to pass he glorified his Father three ways; with his Eye, he looked up to heaven: with his Tongue, he gave thanks: and with his Spirit, he blessed. If you will scan the value of an action by the rarity of it in holy Scripture, and by the incidency upon none but great occasions, then both these do concur in this, that Christ looked up to heaven. I call it to mind that it hapned three times, (that is not often) now at this instant, when he was about the miracle of the Loaves: Once again when he raised Lazarus to life, Joh. xi. 41. And once more when he began his Prayer to his Father, but a few minutes before he was apprehended to be crucified, Joh. xvii. 1. And the Tradition is of long continuance, that he lifted up his eyes to heaven the fourth time, when he consecrated the Elements at his Last Supper. The Liturgies ascribed to St. James, and St. Mark do remember it, and upon the credulity of the example the Canon of the Mass in the Church of Rome commands it. At all times, you may observe, they were high attempts when the Son of God did use this Cere∣mony to look up to heaven. It came from a good principle, it tended to a good end, and very good use is to be made of it. The first good principle or impulsive cause is mercy: He saw a great Multitude in want, and destitute of sustenance, and that was the provocation to make him fix his eyes upon the heavens to call down relief. Our Evangelist in the fifth verse of this Chapter notes that he lift up his eyes, meaning that he did affectionately behold a multitude of People all be∣scanted of food, and that was the preparative to make him look higher, to look up to heaven. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is his own word in St. Mark, My bowels yearn to provide for this people in their extremity of hunger. These entrals of compassion make us bold to look up to God, compassion is that Optique Nerve that draws up the eye lid, and encourageth us to seek for grace, because our eyes send forth the visual rays of Charity. Better it is to want Eyes, and Legs, and Arms, than to lack these entrals of Pity. You may carve the proportion of a man in Stone, or cast it in Brass, a fair Figure it shall be, but it hath no Bowels: So he is no better than a Lump of Brass or Stone that hath not the Affections of Clemency, an Idol that hath Ears and hears not, that hath Eyes and sees not: but he that hath the tender heart-strings of mercy in his bosom, he may have confidence to look up to heaven. Secondly, It is Devotion which draws up our looks to God. It is a sign that the in∣teriour contemplation is directed thither, when the exteriour glances fly aloft. The Eye cannot refrain to fix it self upon that object which the mind doth passionately desire. Therefore it is become an act of Latria, or religious veneration to advance the eyes to heaven in the fervour of Prayer, Ʋnto thee lift I up mine eyes O thou that dwellest in the heavens, Psal. cxxiii. And to look up to Idols is all one as to worship Idols in the Phrase of Ezekiel. Cast your eyes therefore to the Throne of God, when you ad∣dress your self to Prayer, that Love and Zeal may be struck out of the fire of the Eye. I do not press it as inseparable Ceremony, for the humble Publican did well, when he thought so abjectly of himself, that he durst not lift up his eyes to heaven, says St. Chrysostom like an Orator, lest he should find the Catalogue of his sins writ∣ten in the Firmament to accuse him. Yet a perpetual affectation of winking, or co∣vering the face in Prayer seems not to me so laudable; for why should we debar our selves to praise God with our most heavenly sense?
Next of all it carries us along with it to know what end Christ had in working this Miracle. The root of all was above, and he work'd downward, he set his Fa∣thers glory before his eyes, and he directed this, and all his actions to the propaga∣tion of it. To feed such a scattered Rout so liberally, so unexpectedly, you may be sure it would spread his renown far and wide, they would cry him up for a boun∣tiful Lord in all places. This was the fashion of the rising men in Rome, about the time that Christ lived, to fill the People with congiaries, and Feasts, and win their applause by cramming their belly: But our Saviours conceit was above this earth, he had none but coelestial intentions. And therefore when the People out of admi∣ration would have prosecuted it to a most honourable issue, and have made him a King, he shifted away into a Mountain, that he might not be found, at the fif∣teenth verse of this Chapter. He neither began this work for temporal glory, nor would let it end in temporal glory, for he looked up to heaven. Whether it be in sustaining the poor, or in any other Christian work that flows from charity, do it Page 917 that ye may have honour of God, and beware of the leaven of Ambition, that you have no flat sinister thoughts in it, or humane policies. Popularity is like a thief in a Candle, it makes it blaze much, but it quickly wastes it. He that doth good, and looks up stedfastly to heaven makes God his Debtor: he that looks asquint to the praise of men shall be paid with ignominy.
You know now out of what Principles Christ did this, you are sure for what end he did it. From both we have this Lesson, Let our eyes look unto the eyes of our Master. When he looks upward, let not us look downward, but let us mind hea∣venly things. The frame of our bodies heaves us thither, Erectos ad sidera tollere vultus, it bids us look to God; and that way should our soul turn, it came from thence, and thither it should draw again. The composition of Nature therefore would not have us to be Moales rooting into the earth, but grace goes further, and would have us to be Eagles flying above the Clouds. Aquila nidum sibi in arduis construit; Job xxxix. 27. The Eagle builds his nest on high. It is the Emblem of a Christian, whose Spirit is so transported with the meditation of a better life, that he walks as it were among the Stars. The soul is not where it lives, but where it loves. Therefore St. Paul said, that his whole Negotiation was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a conversation which was in heaven. Here is hunger and thirst, there is indeficient sa∣tiety: Here are Envyings and Seditions, there are sweet Hymns and Halelujah's: Here are Worms and Corruption, there are Angels and Immortality. And what a joyous thing is it to have a pledge of this happiness by looking towards it before the time be come about that we should possess it? Most willingly therefore will I send up mine eyes as Harbingers before me, to make room for the whole man, both soul and body. Laertius says of Empedocles, that he answered one that asked him what was the end of his life, Ʋt coelum aspiciam, to view the heavens. What could be the meaning of this Philosopher? To pore upon it like a Star-gazer? I cannot but imagine more acuteness in him, that he discerned the felicity of man was laid up in those supernal places. God is every where; We circumscribe him not in hea∣ven when we look up thither. It is not the Throne of his Presence, but of his Glo∣ry: But because we should have narrow and gross cogitations, if we sought him only in these fading things: Therefore for our Hope sake, for our Consolation sake, especially for the elevation of our mind, we turn our eyes towards him in that place where there is no mixture of mutability. Exalt your Spirit, that you live as fellow Citizens with the Saints, and of the houshold of God, Eph. ii. 19. Ascend up on high as belonging to that Church, which hath the Moon under her feet, Rev. xii. 1. Fix your nest in the top of the Rocks with the Eagle; if you make your nest on the ground, the foot of man and beast will tread on it. If you contrive it within the reach of the arm it is easily plucked down: If within the boughs of a large tree it will be pelted. Build high enough, as the Eagle doth, and then you are safe from wracks and injuries. In all the whirle and revolutions of fortune this is our magnetical reduction, look up to heaven.
And give thanks together, as it follows to be handled. From hence we have all that belongs to the being, and to the well-being of Nature. Whatsoever we want, whatsoever we dread and fear it comes from above. Frost and Snow, Rain and fruitful seasons; food for the body, grace for the soul, heaven supplies us with all these, with more than we can ask or think. How properly therefore doth this holy Office as it were take up the train of the former, and come after it? First, he looked up to heaven, and then 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. he gave thanks. In one of us I confess they piece well together, in the person of a mortal man that lives by pension and allow∣ance from the Lord, in the person of David, as it is Psal. viii. When I consider the hea∣vens, &c. What is man that thou art mindful of him? Or the Son of man that thou visitest him? But it is a strange word in the mouth of Christ. He give thanks? Who hath obliged him by any favour? Or to whose benignity is he beholding? All his works praise him, and his Saints give thanks unto him: but he is engaged to none, there must be one first cause that communicates it self to all things, and receives of nothing, and that is God of God, very God of very God, the King of glory, Jesus Christ. To take off this Objection with reason, first, Beneficium accepit in humanâ naturâ; He took the form of a servant upon him, and in that exinanition he was capable of a benefit to be done unto him. Therefore he thank'd his Father that he would bring that to pass by his Omnipotency, which he was purposed to effect by his Humane Nature. Nay, he did not divide himself from his Father in this giving of thanks: But Page 918 the Son of Mary, that was flesh of our flesh, gave thanks unto himself, as he was God Eternal. It is so through an ineffable Dispensation. An Eternal Decree was ratified that Christ being made man should be glorified in working this Mira∣cle, for which Decree he gives thanks unto the Godhead, for so it was decreed that Thanksgiving should precede before the Decree was executed. And yet note it further, because the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in the Manhood bodily, Christ did not go about his work precario, he did not pray that power might be given him to multiply the five Loaves into five thousand portions; that was not to be craved now which was inherent in him from the beginning, but being certain to effect that which he undertook, he gave thanks before the effect was produced.
Secondly, Beneficium accepit in membris. It was a gracious Donative which was now about to be bestowed upon the People that were gathered together, and out of a fellow-feeling to those that were his own, our Saviour gave thanks for the kindness shewn to his Members. And well I may say he made this grateful ac∣knowledgment to his Father for their sakes that pertained to his body: for there is not that tender-hearted man that comforts a poor Christian in his necessities but he will say as much to him;*In as much as ye have done it to one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me. The Prophet David hath spoken of his love after the same manner, whereby he united himself unto us, Psal. lxviii. 18. Thou hast led captivity captive; Dona accepisti in hominibus, so the Vulgar Latine; and it is so verbatim in the Original, thou hast received gifts in men. He gives all, and he takes all; for he takes that to himself which is distributed unto all. As it was the foundation of the Spartan Commonwealth, Ne scirent privatim vivere; To live rather for the ad∣vancement of the publick than of the private Weale: So it is a corner stone of Christian Brotherhood, Ne scirent homines privatim gratias agere; Not to pinch up their gratitude into that narrowness, as to bless the name of God for no mercies but such as are conferred upon themselves. Quomodo idiota dicet amen? Let me apply that of St. Paul in a Parody, he that is all for himself is that Idiot, that when publick Thanksgiving is made knows not how to say Amen. But as Christ gave thanks for the Members, so must the Members one for another: For in the Union of Faith, and in the Bond of Charity all blessings diffused far and wide upon our brethren are our proper benefits.
Thirdly, All Writers that handle my Text strike upon this Key, that we are taught from hence to make some holy Preface, to say Grace, as we call it, before we feed our body. When we sit down to meat, Quasi ad beneficentiae Dei concionem accedi∣mus; we are presented as it were with a Sermon of Gods benignity, not in word, but in deed, and therefore it is Decorum that we should begin with a Prayer. So did the Jews yery anciently, the young Maidens, whom Saul met told him so much, that the People would not eat till Samuel came, because he doth bless the Sacrifice, and afterward they that be bidden eat.* We Christians have sufficient from St. Paul to make us diligent observers of this Ceremony. Says he, Every Creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the Word of God, and Prayer, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5. It is not sufficient, says Theodoret upon it, that the Creature of God is good, but it must be sanctified also before we eat it. That which was good by nature the name of God invoked upon it makes it wholsom and holy. Either our body may fall into some distemper, or our soul into some fearful sin, un∣less we begin and end our refection in the name of the Lord. But the Apostle chargeth us ex abundanti, that the Word of God and Prayer be conjoyned to it, that is, says Vatablus, to attend to the reading of sacred Scripture beside the ordinary Bene∣diction. So it is in use to this day with them that lead a Regular and a Scholasti∣cal strictness: and was not omitted of the very Heathen, that had a grain of Phi∣losophy in their disposition; So Cornelius Nepos commends Pomponius Atticus, Nun∣quam sine aliquâ lectione apud eum coenatum est; He never supped but somewhat was read out of a learned Author before him. His mind did ruminate upon Knowledge, while his teeth did chew his bread, lest like an horse his head should be only in the Manger. And those natural men began from Religion whensoever they feasted, for before they tasted any thing they did offer or sequester a first fruits to their Gods,* as Plutarch says in his Symposiacks. But as for Christians, though it were no Feast, though their Fare were most course and slender, yet says Tertullian, Non prius discumbitur quàm oratio ad Deum praegustetur, aequè oratio convivium dirimit. And Gregory tells us, (it is in his Dialogues indeed) that a man that eat but a few herbs, Page 919 and blest not God before the eating, was possessed with a Devil. I will not say up∣on so poor a Repast, but where there is a full Table, I will say it with Origen,* that there is a kind of bewitching in meats and drinks, a kind of luxurious devil that dances in the Dish: Which made holy Job offer Sacrifice for his Sons and Daugh∣ters, when they had spent some days in liberal entertainments. For though I may charitably suppose that the Children of so Venerable a man were educated in So∣briety, yet it is an hard thing to be confined within an unblameable temperance.*Quis est qui non aliquantulùm rapitur extrametas necessitatis? Says St. Austin in his Con∣fessions, and yet a man of admirable abstinence. Who is it that doth not pam∣per himself with more than that which is barely necessary? And therefore all men had need to protect themselves with Prayer against excess and superfluity. If Christ thought it meet when five thousand were to be fed with five Loaves and two Fishes, what need have we to be munitioned against Luxury? Where Quails and Manna are but homely fare in respect of our condited delicates; Seria, ludicra,*verba, jocos trina superna regat pietas, says a sacred Poet. You may be serious, you may be frolick at Table, and mirth is more beseeming than sadness at that season, yet begin all in the name of God, that seriousness may not turn into melancholy, nor mirth into scurrility. Fie on their corrupt ears, that love to be tickled with lascivious Ballads while they are pampering their belly. Penelopes Suitors were great Gluttons, and Minstrils they had meal by meal, but blind Homer says any new Song would please them, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, yet these were nebulones Alcinoique. Now a days it must be obscene, or it is nothing. O these that abuse both the sustenance of the Body, and the sweet delight of the Spirit, they are neither worthy of Meat nor Musick, but are reserved for howling and gnashing of teeth.
Now I shall come to an end for this time. For I have done with that word of sacred and ghostly preparation which St. John useth, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, he gave thanks, the other Evangelists use the term 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, be blessed. That you may learn that to bless and to give thanks are words convertible, says St. Cyril, that signifie the same thing, he makes no more of it. And it is true that at some times they are Sy∣nonyma, as 1 Cor. xiv. 16. When thou shalt bless with the Spirit, how shall he that supplies the place of the unlearned say Amen at the giving of thanks? There they must be the same, but here they must be divers, for Christ gave thanks unto his Father, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, says St. Luke, he blessed the bread. To give thanks was the Piety of his Hu∣mane Nature, but this blessing came from the vertue of his Divine Nature. He did infuse a new miraculous quality into the Loaves, and imparted a seminal power unto them of increase and multiplication. I know not what ailes some In∣terpreters, I think they are afraid of Magick, that they do so avoid this word, and turn it from the right signification when our Saviour is said to bless any out∣ward matter that was before him. But saving their Criticisms, wherein they are most laboriously impertinent to confound it with Prayer and giving of thanks, I find a threefold blessing of the Creature in the Gospel, Communis, Miraculosa, Sa∣cramentalis. First, at a common Supper, (for so I conceive it) Luk. xxiv. 30. Our Sa∣viour blessed bread. Not as if there were any impurity in the Creature, especially there could be none to him. Deo artifici tam mundus est porcus quam agnus,* says St. Au∣stin. But it teacheth us to invocate Gods goodness, that those things which we use may be salutiferous unto us. And herein I cannot deride them, that have a Cere∣mony to bless their Honey and Eggs on Easter day, their Pastures on St. Stephens day, their Wine on St. Johns day, their Orchards and Gardens on the Assumption, as they stile it, of the blessed Virgin. There is no vanity in these common Benedictions. Secondly, There is a blessing of the Creature with a mighty hand when a Miracle is wrought. So these Barly Loaves were blessed, exalted to an enlargement above their nature, and this is to be adored, and not to be imitated. If you would have it inquired into, whether this blessing was executed with any outward Ceremony, I have no resolute answer for it: Whether Christ did use some set form of Prayers or words, or used the imposition of his hands, or the gesture of his body in some re∣markable Figure I cannot tell. One of these are not unlikely, because the Passen∣gers that went to Emaus knew him by his blessing and breaking of bread. It may be they had been at the spending of these five Loaves in the Wilderness, and knew the form of his customary Benediction. Cajetan puts it off with a trifling conjecture, that he was used to break bread with that evenness, as if it had been Page 920 cut with a Knife, and that discovered him. It is more likely, I take it, that he was known by a decent and outward Ceremony of Benediction. Lastly, There is a Sacrament al Benediction of the outward Elements: So the water of Baptism is sanctified to be the Pool of Regeneration. So our Saviour did not only give thanks, but he blessed and consecrated both the Bread and the Cup which he divi∣ded among his Disciples. No doubt in the beginning of the Supper, before they fed of the Lamb, he had blessed the Table. That he did as the Son of man: But afterward he began an eximious and singular Benediction for a new work as the Son of God, he exalted them thereby to be the lively Sacrament of his body and bloud, Et non sunt quod natura formavit, sed quod benedictio consecravit, says St. Ambrose; They are no more that which Nature hath made them, but that for which then Christ, and since we in our Priestly Benediction do consecrate them. The hand of Jesus is with us in our work, and the blessing, &c.