<< Exodus 16: Manna >>
" And when the children of Israel saw it. they said one to another, It is Manna : for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." — Ex. xvi 15.
In the discourses which have preceded this, we have shown the Divine Wisdom as it was conveyed in the allegorical language of those early people who lived before the times of history. With Abraham, a race of another genius, arose. The Jews were a people with no taste for spiritual things. The veil was upon their eyes and their hearts, and they walked in the oldness of the letter. To them, then Divine Wisdom shrouded itself in facts which transpired before their eyes, and in real history ; so ordered, nevertheless, as to be a shadow of good things to come. The history of Abraham was real, and yet it was an allegory (Gal. iv. 24). All things, with the Israelites, were outwardly seen as they are described, and outwardly done, yet were they figures of the true (Heb. xi. 24). Divine Providence arranged the affairs of ancient Israel, so as to contain lessons of highest wisdom ; for the new Israel, the church of God, in every age. This is so manifestly taught in the New Testament as to be commonly admitted by Christians as a general fact. Our aim is now to illustrate that great principle, and bring out of the storehouse of the Divine Word — the treasury of heavenly wisdom — some of those spiritual lessons which it contains alike in every part, whether parable, history, or prophecy, and which constitute its peculiar divine character as God's Book, — a work infinitely above all human compositions. The journey of the Israelites was a series of types portraying the regenerate life of the Christian. With all its incidents, its changes, its trials, and deliverances, the events in our religious experience are foreshadowed. Egypt, with its science and its slavery; was the symbol of that carnal, worldly condition of the soul in which it is by nature. Distinguished it may be for talent, for learning, for philosophy, for accomplishments, for gifts of manifold excellency, but all subject to a false and self-seeking worldliness that dreams but of early glory, sensual pleasures, and temporal gratifications, — which has no ends in heaven, but whatever be the projects it pursues,
'' The trail of the serpent is over them all.”
Such was Jerusalem when there the Lord was rejected. Hence it is written : "The great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." — Rev. xi. 8. Science and worldliness combined, with every good principle which our heavenly Father may have implanted in the soul held captive, sighing for deliverance, are represented by Egypt, when Israel was in bondage there
The boastful pretensions of Egypt, as referred to often in the Holy Scriptures, are accurately descriptive of the vanity of the learned, but selfish man. " Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself" — Ezek. zxix. 3. When the Pharaoh to whom Moses was sent disdainfully asked, ''Who is the Lord, that I should serve him?" he did but what, in his secret soul, is done by every unregenerate man. ''The fool hath said in his heart. There is no God" (Ps. xiv. 1), and when the messages of heaven reach him, there is ever, secretly or openly, the defiant resistance involved in these insolent words. The removal of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, as portrayed in the Divine Volume, is the history of the spirit's change from a carnal state to a heavenly one — from one in which holy principles are bound, to one in which divine truth has made them free and blessed. All who come into free obedience to the commandments of the Lord must have forsaken the Egyptian state, and this gives us the reason why, in the first commandment, though addressed rightly to Christians and to all men, (for our Lord says, If we would enter into life we must keep the commandments,) the Divine Being speaks to us as the Lord our God, who brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. We have all then, this journey to make, if we would arrive at the Canaan state on earth, and the heavenly Canaan above.
An attentive study of this journey is then, to every spiritually-minded person, fall of interest and importance. Every incident is a lesson. Every battle is the picture of a struggle in the soul. The leading, the support, the defence, vouchsafed by the Almighty from time to time, is descriptive of the protection awarded to the Christian in his spiritual pilgrimage. And of these pilgrims of the spirit, in every age, the apostle says, " They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly : where God id not ashamed to be called their God : for he hath prepared them a city." — Heb. xi. 16.
One of the chief incidents in the Israelitish journey was the miraculous supply of food, given direct, day by day, with the exception of the Sabbath, for forty years, until they arrived in Canaan, and could obtain the natural supply from the promised land.
They had left Egypt and its food behind, they had the barren wilderness to traverse, and no natural source of sustenance during the journey, and they had not arrived at the country where their wants would be supplied in the regular course of of things.
Is there anything in Christian experience in analogy with this ? A little consideration will enable us to discover that there is. When one who has determined to live for heaven has left the pleasures of wickedness behind him, he has forsaken the fleshpots of Egypt. He will no more indulge in the delights of sin. His resolution is blessed by heaven ; he goes forth triumphantly. He passes the Red Sea of all the false principles which would hinder his journey. He sings, as Israel did, the song of victory. He goes on rejoicing. He supposes the work is done, and heaven will assuredly be his. He imagines he is ready to enter, and almost longs for the pearly gates to unfold. He has a very vague idea of the nature of regeneration. He supposes it will be sudden and short, whereas it is ever painful and slow. To change man's thoughts or his fancies, is not difficult, often, and may speedily take place ; but to change the affections which form the very man, is a work of a most gradual character. The fallen soul is like a world in ruins : to restore it to an image of heaven in every department, is an immense work, and must be gradual. That state of the human affections which is to be a source of happiness, a channel, or rather a collection of innumerable channels, through which the adorable fountain of ail good will for ever pour peace and every blessing can only be given slowly. The old state of sinful is the food of Egypt, the new angelic state of holy blessedness is the regular food of Canaan, — the " wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, and oil-olive, and honey” (Deut. viii. 8) of the blessed land. Between the leaving of the one kind of pleasure, and the full possession of the other, there is a great interval, in which trials to be endured, assaults have to be received, painful duties and self-renunciations to be performed, heavy sorrows to be borne, self in myriad forms, to be subdued : all this is the labour to be done in the wilderness ; and during this time we cannot enter into the enjoyment of the pleasures of that heaven within which does exist in the soul, but which cannot yet be opened to us, of which with its joys, we have not yet come into the possession. We have left the food of evil, we have not yet got angel's food. We cannot subsist without food. How then is it to be obtained ? The mode of the soul's supply is described by this miracle of giving the Manna.
That it was intended to bear this spiritual significance we may learn, first, from the fact that all food for the body is emblematical of food for the soul ; and so used in the Word. Solid food is the symbol of goodness, which supplies the will with strength and blessing ; and liquid food symbolizes truth, which refreshes the thirsty understanding. In this sense the Lord Jesus speaks, when He says, . " Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." — Matt. vi. 6. Again, " Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you." — John vi. 27. "I have meat to eat which ye know not of.” — John iv. 32. " My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." — Ver. 34.
That food which is eaten corresponds to goodness which is to be received into the will, is manifestly indicated in many portions of the Word. There is a very clear evidence of this in Psalm cvii. 8, 9 : " Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men I For he satisfieth the longing (or thirsty) soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness." The prophet Isaiah gives a similar instance : " Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." — Isa. lv. 2. How strikingly the Divine Speaker by the prophet contrasts the empty pleasures of time and sense, for which so many toil, and the solid blessings of everlasting goodness. The glittering dreams of ambition are not bread, but bubbles which are never caught or burst the moment they are seized. The sordid gains of avarice are not bread, but " dust which is the serpent's meat," and leaves the cravings of the soul unsatisfied. The filthy pleasures of the sensualist are not bread but husks which the swine do feed upon. And yet men, immortal beings, toil, and struggle, and labour, and fight, all the day of human life, for these unsatisfying, deceptive, and delusive enjoyments, and neglect that reception of heavenly goodness, which alone imparts undying peace. The prophet Jeremiah speaks by the same rule, because from the same divine inspiration, in the thirty-first chapter: " And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall he satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord.'' — Ver. 14.
Not only is solid food in general the emblem of heavenly goodness, but Manna is especially selected in the New Testament, and used to represent this blessed meat for the soul. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it"— Rev. ii. 17.
Here the hidden manna and the white stone are mentioned, to denote the celestial blessings of interior goodness and truth. The hidden manna, the secret joy and peace which follow conquered sin ; the white stone, the clear confidence and assurance which his faith gives, by whom truth is loved and carried into practice. No man knows the worth nor the peculiar nature of those blessings but those who have enjoyed them. They are ever " meat to eat which the world knows not of."
We would here call attention to what seems somewhat remarkable in the phraseology of the verse we have selected as a text. The Israelites said one to another,- " It is manna, for they wist not what it was." No doubt things are usually called by names which designate some qualities which are known. It seems a singular reason for calling this new substance manna, because they knew not what it was. Our difficulty on this point will vanish when we know that in Hebrew, manna or man-hu means what is it ? or what is this ? " The people came out of their tents, they saw a new and unknown substance lying around, and they said one to another. What is it? — Man-hu." This expression, therefore, became its name, to all future generations.
In the spiritual journey of the Christian, a circumstance of a precisely similar character takes place. The pleasures of mere sense have been left, the pilgrimage of the soul has been begun. No longer can the hollow delights of the selfish and the insincere charm the servant of a new law, and a new master. The duties of the Christian life are undertaken and at first with alacrity; but after a time a sense of want comes, the pleasures of the old life are remembered with a sigh, and the heart yearns somewhat for the enjoyments once so dear. Now is the time of triaL Duty, faith, heaven say, Still forward. The appetites of the old man allure the tempted one to go back. He struggles painfully, and would fall, but for the Divine Law, and the doctrine which explains and applies it ; these are the Moses and Aaron who lead us spiritually, and these point to the only source of help and blessing, and say, '' Come near unto the Lord, for He hath heard your murmurings." The struggle is now near its end, a sense of the Divine Presence has come. " And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.'' — Ex. xvi. 10. The Israelites had come up from Elim unto the wilderness which lay between Elim and Sinai ; to look to the wilderness was then to look forward. And thus before them appeared the cloud, with the glory of the Lord resplendent in it ; a figure of the letter of the Word, with the glory of its Divine Spirit shining through it. So appears the Word when the soul is recovering from the struggle of temptation, and the trial is well over. The promises of heaven brighten over the spirit's path. We feel conscious of our experience similar to that which dictated the beautiful lines. —
“Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head."
Already the darkness of the cloud is being fringed and permeated with the glory of heavenly light. We are conscious that the Saviour is with us, and soon all will be well.
The Lord gives man to see that his struggle and distress have not been unobserved, but have prepared him for higher states of blessing. " I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel : speak unto them, saying. At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread ; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp : and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar-frost upon the ground." — Ex, xvi. 12 — 14.
The bird here called a quail was a sea-bird (see Num. xi. 31), and its flesh which was to be given in the evening, corresponds to the satisfaction felt by the Christian. that his danger is over. He is conscious of this while it is evening, whilst he is yet in an obscure state. It is not the reception of inward divine goodness, like what is represented by eating the flesh of the divine Saviour. It is only like eating the flesh of a sea bird. Yet to feel safe : to be no longer harassed by a fear of approaching ruin : to have comfort over the mind, like the quails covering the camp : this is much, but it is only preparatory to what is to follow.
Evening preceded the morning in the days of creation ; and so it does in the present case. Throughout the regenerate career of man, he rises from shade to light, from cold to warmth. After the evening that ends his temptation, comes the morning of a new state. Dew is mentioned first as lying round about the host, and then the manna was found.
Dew corresponds to that inward truth which descends into the soul from the Lord, when all is peaceful and happy within. The truth of peace fills the Christian with confidence in his heavenly Father, with an assurance of his love, and a firm reliance on his providential care. When in a spiritual morning, this dew has descended upon him, fear is unfelt, solicitude no longer disturbs him ; he relies with a child's confiding trust on the Giver of all good, and feels a freshness and vigour like those of heaven's own morning over the soul. This cheering, inward, blessed sensation is often in the Word described by dew. Thus in Isaiah, " For so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest." — chap, xviii. 4. “I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.'' — Hosea xiv. 5. " And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." — Micah v. 7.
The sense of rest, of confidence, of peace, of future progress, which is expressed in this passage, and which comes from the assurance of nearness to, and communion with the Lord, is with exquisite appropriateness expressed by dew. When, on a summer's morning, we walk forth in a beautiful country, the red light of the early dawn tinging the whole eastern horizon with golden splendour, a holy quiet reigning around, not broken, but charmed and enriched with the thrilling songs of the birds, while every leaf, blade, hedgerow, and flower, are gemmed with pearly dew, glittering like diamonds in the sun's new beams, there is an image of the soul— calmed, illuminated, and blessed, with the truth of peace.
But after the dew, we come to the manna — the substantial food which gave so much pleasure, and so much support. We are informed it was a small round thing, like hoar-frost, white as snow, and sweet as wafers, or thin cakes, made with honey (ver. 31).
When it is seen that solid food in divine language corresponds to goodness, which supplies the will of every one who is living for heaven, with energy and delight, and remember that this manna was given to supply food to the Israelites, while they were in the transition period between living in Egypt and living in Canaan, we shall easily perceive that it is the symbol of that heavenly goodness which the Lord can impart to the soul of man, while it is in the transition state, labouring to become regenerate, following the truth, fighting against its evils as they from time to time present themselves, but not yet entered into that phase of the spiritual life, in which he feels at home in heavenly things. He has the spirit of truth with him, but not yet in him (John xiv. 17). He, like the apostle, is striving to attain the resurrection from the dead, but has not yet attained. He is reaching forward to those things which are before (Phil. iii. 11 — 13). Such is the ordinary state of earnest, spiritually-minded Christians, for the greater portion of their lives. Hence the manna describes the goodness and the delight which the Divine Mercy imparts to man while labouring to become regenerate. It is small, because, as compared with true angelic joy, it is of little account. It is round, because roundness expresses the smoothness, and also the completeness, of goodness, as compared with truth : — truth is ever sharp and piercing. It is white to denote its purity, and sweet to express its deliciousness. It is like a thin cake, or wafer, to mark its inferiority, its shallowness, so to speak, when compared with true celestial joy. Yet feeble as it is, so far does it transcend all merely human and external joy, that when it is first truly awakened in the soul, all other delights in the estimation of the possessor become as nothing, and he cries out in the spirit. What is this ; for he knows not what it is.
It is a state of peace, of richness, of sweetness, that passeth all understanding. It may be felt, but cannot be described. It is as if every fibre of the soul breathed joy. It is blessedness unspeakable. All other delights seem now unutterably poor. They are as the lights of earth, in the presence of the sun. And the soul entranced by this amazing rapture cries out. What is it ?
" To take a glimpse within the veil,
To know the Lord is mine.
Are springs of Joy that never fail,
These are the Joys that satisfy
And sanctify the mind.
Which make the spirit mount on high
And leave the world behind."
Such is the experience intimated in the spiritual sense of the exclamation, What is it I and the additional intimation, '' for they knew not what it was." How strange and how sad it is, that so many of us should prefer to this exalted good and its delight, the low and fleeting dreams of earth. Though universal experience has taught to be true what the Divine Word declares, “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. The wicked is like a troubled sea, that casts up mire and dirt" Though the delights of the evil are but like the smiling vineyards which cover a volcano, bearing the fires in their bosom which are secretly devouring their supports, and will one day pour their lava-tides over all the enchanting scenes which form the lovely covering of the hidden curse, and leave all blackened and bare, we linger near the danger instead of deciding at once to fly. Oh, may it be our wisdom to take our cross, to resolve to quit at whatever expense, the low delights of sensual life, and live for heaven. Thus may we come under the protection of the Most High, and on our spiritual journey eat of his hidden manna.
We must, however, notice some additional circumstances connected with the descent of manna, which are alike interesting and instructive.
It was to be gathered daily, — what each man needed for each day's use. None was to be kept for the morrow, except on the sixth day, when enough was to be gathered for itself, and for the Sabbath also, on which day, no manna would descend, there should be entire rest.
By receiving each day the food for the day, and no more, the important lesson is conveyed, that we should ever be guided in our wish to receive heavenly blessings, not by the desire of selfish gratification, but by the love of use. So much as we need for our work, so much should we desire to receive. The petition in the Lord's Prayer, " Give us this day our daily bread," is in harmony with the same great truth. Seek food for use, and delight will be given in. Seek it also for the duties of today. The only way to make any advance in heavenly things is to do our duty now. The good not used now will vanish when the sun of selfishness becomes vigorous within us. If we attempt to save it for the future, and to flatter ourselves with the good we will some day do, it will breed the worms of vain conceits, flattering and false. It may become polluted by hypocrisy, abhorrent in the sight of God and angels, but can never be saving good.
The lesson involved in the corruption of the manna in the hands of those who gathered to hoard and not to use, is of inestimable value. To be a miser, is bad in earthly things, but far worse in heavenly. And it is to be feared that spiritual hoarding is even more prevalent than natural. How many sermons do we hear with delight, but whose influence goes no further than to stock our memories! How many good books do we read, whose pages unfold to us exalted lessons, and truths of sterling worth! We hear, we read, and we admire, but our hearts remain as cold, heedless, and unpractical, as before. We are no better, we admit ; but we do not suspect what is the real truth — that we are worse. The manna we are hoping to preserve for future use, is becoming corrupted and defiled. We are gliding into states of self-dependency, self-complacency, self-flattery. We are supposing we are righteous, or, at least, in no danger, because we know righteous things, while, with every effort we make, we are strengthening our inherent evils, our hereditary tendencies. We are not searching out our frailties and opposing them, but indulging them, and salving them over with our religious knowledge and pious observances. The richest substances become, when corrupted, the most loathsome ; and nothing is so abhorrent in the divine sight as a religion unused for good, pandering only to self-gratulation and deceit. In the unfoldings of the soul, which take place in the eternal world — for the books will be opened — many a fair pretence, many a specious covering, many a settled sanctimoniousness in a soul which has avoided justice and active usefulness, when unveiled, will be found abhorrent to celestial beings ; it will be far, far from possessing the odour of sanctity, and will be registered as unclean, both by God and heaven. And, he who is filthy, will, alas! be for ever filthy still. The polluted manna also bred worms. And when we hear the false pretences which spring from mock religion, the conceits of our own excellence, the fancies engendered by the love of procrastination, the dream that our religion being that of the respectable world, must be all-sufficient, that we do as other people do, and certainly are not as loose as many are. That we will bring all the excellent things we hear and read into practice some day, when we have less to do with the world. And, probably, we shall not be judged so strictly in relation to our lives, because we are so rigid in our faith. We certainly will have nothing to say, but scorn and condemnation, to those who differ in creed from us. Alas, thus drone, and dream, and destroy themselves, those who love darkness rather than light. So swarm the wicked with conceits, vile as they are false. So maunder on in folly and falsehood for ever, those whose worm never dies. And what a lot is this. For ever deceiving ourselves. Plunging down and down, a bottomless pit of error. One fallacy exposed and exploded, only left for another. Everlastingly striving to delude others, and in effect everlastingly deluding ourselves. Instead of the living beauty and health of the spiritual body of an angel, our appearance in the sight of truth must be that of a carcase breeding worms, painful to us, and disgusting to others.
Oh! may we, beloved brethren, be delivered, by active living hunger after righteousness, from the delay which thus pollutes the heart, and the worms which thus destroy the mind.
Our whole progress depends on eating to-day, what God gives to-day. To-morrow, is the day, that with the sinner never comes. Present strength is given for present duty. To-day's duty done, provides us with an appetite for new food, and He who cared for and supplied us to-day, will give us all that is needful and happy, for each succeeding one. In this sense the Lord Jesus said, “ Take no thought for the morrow, let the morrow take thought for itself, sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”
Oh! what a relief from the anxieties of life would it be if this grand lesson were admitted and practised! What a load of cares and fears would fall away.
“Far would fly each care and sorrow,
God provldeth for the morrow.”
The same lesson would teach us also the duty of doing, as it comes, the work of each successive stage of our business of life, and the reception of its proper and present blessing. “Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man. Let no man leave of it until the morning." — Ex. xvi. 16, 19.
One exception to this rule, however, there was. It is thus stated : “See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days ; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." — Ver. 29. Days for the soul, are states. The six days of labour represent the states of the soul, in which it is striving to obey a truth, although as yet it is laborious to do so, in consequence of oppositions within and without. The sixth day, is the end of this struggle, when the soul has succeeded in realizing, not only the truth of a duty, or a principle, but also the good, the blessedness, of it. Two omers are then received, the bread of two days.
In the early periods of our regenerate life, we are only able to attend to one thing at a time, to acquire knowledge first, next to reduce that knowledge to practice, by opposing the evils we discover in our minds contrary to the truth, then to resist the temptation to fall back again, steadily. Such is our work at the commencement and through the middle of the week, but near its termination we are permitted to be tempted more deeply than before. We come to the verge of despair. We see, that of ourselves we are weak and helpless, only, by divine mercy we are preserved. We have been led to the brink of ruin, and have seen the divine hand outstretched to deliver us. We have learned by our own experience, the truth of those divine words, "Without me ye can do nothing." At the same time, however, we have learned that when we truly seek it, divine help is ever near. When we passed through the valley of the shadow of death, we suffered no evil ; the Lord was present with us ; His rod and His staff comforted us. He has made a table before us in the presence of our enemies. He has anointed our heads with oil, our cups run over. We are now fully prepared in all our ways to acknowledge Him. We gather now, not only the good of truth, but also the good of love. Enough of good to aid in serving our fellow-creatures, and enough to enable us, with gratitude, to serve and adore the Lord. We feel that it is by divine mercy alone we are what we are, and from our hearts we can join the angelic hosts in saying, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."
The Sabbath, which follows, represents the soul's conjunction and communion, with the Lord. This is done within the soul, when it is thus prepared, by the Lord Jesus alone. Hence, He is Lord of the Sabbath-day, and man ceases to work. Man enjoys a hallowed time, a holy state of calm and peace. Such is the Sabbath of the soul. This was represented by the cessation of manna, on the day of the Sabbath.
One more incident we would notice. The manna was gathered by an omer [5to6 pints] full at once, and no otherwise ; and we are informed at the conclusion of the narrative, '' Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah." — Ver. 36.
There were three chief measures for dry articles, each ten times larger than the other. The omer, the ephah, and the homer (Ezekę xlv. 11). These three measures, like the three kinds of bread of the tabernacle — the loaf, the cake and the wafer--we may readily conceive, have relation to the reception of heavenly good, by the three grand classes of Christians, who form afterwards the three heavens of the Lord. (2 Cor. xii. 2). The good which they receive who have entered fully into love to the Lord as the supreme source of all their operations, is of the largest measure, the homer. The good of those who glory rather in the light than the love of heaven, though they are true to the light, and sons of the light, is of the second measure, the ephah. The good of those who are not even intellectual Christians, but still steadily obey what they see to be enjoined in the Word, is the lowest measure, the omer, which is the tenth part of the ephah. And this is the measure by which we all receive heavenly good, in our spiritual journey. Our law of duty, is, to obey the ten commandments. Each commandment obeyed, brings its omer of blessing.
One of the most grievous errors in Christian experience, is to stand proposing to ourselves to do something large, to defer the simple duties of daily life, promising ourselves to do some astonishing work, some day. In this, there is much self-deception. We should ever remember destruction may be great and sudden, but all growth and erection are slow and gradual. Vegetation rises almost imperceptibly ; buildings rise brick by brick, stone by stone; rains come in drops ; the body is renewed and strengthened by daily food ; so is it with religion, — it is " first the blade, then the ear, and after that, the full corn in the ear." — Mark iv. 28. We must gather the heavenly manna, then, by the omer ; the measure in which we obey the laws of duty will be the measure according to which the blessings of heaven will be imparted.
Once more, my beloved hearers, let me remind you of the fact, that regeneration is a journey. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it." — Matt. vii. 14. Few there be, indeed, that really try to find it. Yet it is a way that must be trodden, if we are to be prepared for heaven. Heaven can only be formed of the heavenly-minded. That is evident. Selfish and worldly-minded men can never make a heaven, place them where we will. The cruel, the haters, the scorners, the polluted, can never be formed into a blessed company of everlastingly happy ones, but by the journey of regeneration. We must be born again. We must leave the Egypt of mere outward learning, outward talent, and outward pleasures; and seek a state in which the love of what is good, for its own sake, — the love of what is true, for goodness' sake ; and the love of obeying God in all things will form the constant habits of the soul. These make the Canaan within. Before this state is attained, we have many changes to undergo. Our march is through a wilderness ; and it is a march. Step by step only can we reach it. There is no avoiding the journey, — no short cut. Onward we must go, determined to sacrifice whatever principle, temper, habit, practice, or interest, stands in the way. Thus are the soldiers of salvation formed. The road is chequered. Sometimes it is in a deep, dark glen ; sometimes over a glorious mountain : now we come to wilds, where furious beasts howl, and now to pastoral plains where sheep and lambs graze and lie down. To-day, the weather is bitter, and storms rage around : tomorrow, all is calm, serene and lovely. We must take these variations as they come ; and we have no provisions sufficient for the journey ; nor shall we able to raise any by our own labor, until we have reached the Promised Land. Forlorn enough would be our prospect, but happily we have an all-sufficient source of help. '' The Eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and he shall thrust out the enemy from before us ; and say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone : the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also, his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, Israel : who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency I and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places."
This glorious God and Saviour will provide us with food by the way. Though we have no delight proper to ourselves, in heavenly purposes and principles, he will give us delight. Day by day, he will feed us, comfort us, cheer us, bless us. No good thing shall we want. The Lord will provide.
Can we, then, hesitate in entering upon this important journey. Have we not been slaves in Egypt too long ? Too long been content with the anxieties, the cares, the turmoils, and the miseries of a life quite unworthy of heirs of immortality, the children of the Heavenly King ?
Let us at once rise, trusting in the call of heaven, and confidently relying that bread will be given us, our waters will be sure. Manna, so rich and delightful, will descend; and, entranced with its exceeding sweetness, we shall exclaim, " What is it?" What is it, Lord Jesus, which thy mercy has provided ? It must be angels' food. We had hoped only to be pardoned for our rebellion, our negligence, our waste of thy former gifts, but here is the bread of heaven ! What is It ? All our former joys have had some alloy in them, have been hollow and short-lived, superficial and vain. But this is interior, pure, deep, lasting, sweet beyond expression, — a foretaste of heaven. And if such is the foretaste, what must the blessedness of heaven itself be ? may our hearts, encouraged by this bliss vouchsafed to us in the wilderness, faithfully follow out our calling. Never suffering ourselves to be turned aside, but heeding constantly the voice of God which says, " This is the way, walk thou in it."
"While here below we walk with God,
With heaven our Journey's end in view ;
Supported by his staff and rod.
We find his mercies ever new.
This wilderness affords no food ;
But he for our support prepares ;
Our God provides all needful good :
His bounteous hand no blessing spares."
Nor must we, lastly, forget that all our manna has one divine source — the Lord Jesus Christ. How strikingly He taught this in the Gospel. " I am that bread of life.'' Again, " As the Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven : not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead : he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." He is goodness itself. From His divine love, or the Father within Him, the divine good, the bread of life, was brought down into the humanity He assumed, to be imparted to the world. From His glorified humanity it is now given to angels, and offered to all who begin the pilgrimage of regeneration. Alas, that all mankind are not included in this list. The service of the world and sin is hard, — the food, poor, — the end, ruin. " Let us arise, for this is not our rest, the whole land is polluted." Let us fly from Egyptian bondage, and commence a career on which angels will be our assistants and companions, the divine truth will lead us by day, the divine love will console us by night, we shall be nourished with the bread of heaven, and men will eat angels' food, our contests will be certain victory, and our end be heaven. Let us begin this journey, if it has yet to be commenced, and trust our divine Saviour for the needful strength to persevere, assured that we shall never lack it, while we look up to Him with the language of his disciples, " Lord, evermore give us this bread."
The bread of life! What a beautiful name, and how suggestive! It is said of the Lord's disciples of old on one occasion, " They had forgotten to take bread." How often is it the case now. We feel feeble and weak on our spiritual journey. We are too apt to be infirm for good, we are easily deterred from pursuing, from carrying out, purposes of kindness, and objects of blessing for others. We are even becoming impatient, and easily offended. How is it our spiritual life is so weak? We have forgotten to take bread. We have been delighted with the truth and doctrine of religion, we have seen and acknowledged its beauty and worth, and have set out upon our journey ; but soon we become fatigued, weary, and worn, for we have forgotten to take bread. Happily the Lord is near, and has compassion upon us. If in devotion and humility we go to Him, He will not cast us away. He will give us the bread of life. He will strengthen us, cheer us, animate us, with holy goodness, and we shall be truly satisfied. Our life will be enriched, and our listlessness removed. But we must have bread. Truth alone, however plenteous, will not suffice, any more than faith alone will satisfy as a doctrine. We must have the bread that strengtheneth man's heart (Ps. civ. 15). In every state, and in every undertaking, let us seek this blessed nourishment in the spirit and language of the Lord's prayer : " Give us this day, our daily bread." Nor, must we on the other hand, fall into the supposition that truth is of slight importance, and goodness is everything. " Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." — Matt. iv. 4. The Christian must know the truth, cultivate the truth, become enlightened by truth, and the truth shall make him free. Good to strengthen, and truth to direct ; good to animate, and truth to illumine ; good to bless, and truth to confirm, — these constitute the twin essentials for the mind, and when these are so embraced as to flow into the virtues of a just and holy life, and works testify to the presence of heaven within, we shall assuredly realize the sacred declaration, " Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)