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as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it.” These different texts seem to countenance the idea, that Jesus blessed, or consecrated, material substances, such as bread, fish, wine, &c. Such a notion is not at all supported by the language of the original. It was not the loaves, the fishes, or the wine, which Jesus blessed, but the God who bestowed them; in a word, he blessed not the gifts, but the Giver. In the miracle before us, where Matthew, Mark, and Luke say, that the Master blessed, John says, that he gave thanks; and, in the institution of the Supper, where Matthew and Mark say he blessed, Luke, in his Gospel, and Paul, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, say he gave thanks. From these circumstances, it is fair to conclude, that “ blessing" and “giving thanks” are convertible terms—that they both possess the same meaning. Indeed, it is not easy to discover any difference of signification between “ blessing" God for his mercies, and “giving him thanks” for his mercies. Thanks are not given to the bread; and, in the same manner, blessings are not 'bestowed on the bread. Both are acts of grateful adoration; the object of both is the same: it is God who is thanked; it is God also who is blessed. When Jesus is made to say, in our translation, that Jesus took the loaves and fishes, and blessed them; there is no word answering to them in the original, though, strange to say, it is printed in our Bibles in the ordinary Roman character. (See Luke ix. 16.) The Greek simply tells us: " Jesus took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, bę blessed” if we would insert any word to complete the sense, it would not be “them,” but “God;" he “ took the loaves and fishes, and blessed God." In like manner, when Matthew is made to say, that, at the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus “ took the bread, and blessed it;" there is no word answering to it in the Greek, as our translators have indeed in this case informed us, by printing the word it not in Roman, but in Italic characters. As before, we would insert the word “God”:-“ And, as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed God.” Moreover, it was not the custom among the Jews to bless the food, but the God who gave it. We even know their form of blessing. Before meat, they said:
:-“ Blessed art thou, our God, King of the universe, who bringest bread out of the earth.” Their chief repast always terminated with a cup of wine, called the cup of blessing, or the cup of benediction; hence, after meat, their grace was:-“Blessed be our God, the King of the universe, the Creator of the fruit of the vine.” Jesus was a native Jew, educated in all the customs and usages of his countrymen; it is probable, then, that he adopted even their very language in his short thanksgivings at each repast. Let no one imagine that these remarks are unimportant. There can be little doubt, but that a misconception of the conduct of Jesus in this particular, may have prepared the way for the blessing or consecrating of the elements in the Communion; and hence for the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation, It is easy for an unlettered mind to believe, that the nature of a substance is changed, and some supernatural virtues imparted to it, by the act of consecration. When once such a practice is introduced, we know not where it will terminate. Hence, among some Christians, we have blessed or consecrated water. What change has been effected in it by the ceremony? If we taste it, we can discern no difference from that wbich is unholy. If we apply it to purposes of cleanliness or cooking, .it discharges its offices no better than that from the pump or river. If we analyze it, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbonic acid gas, exist in it in the same proportions as in common water. Hence, in some parts of the empire, the place of burial is blessed or consecrated. No change has thereby been effected in it, so far as we can perceive. It would have given as good a crop of grain before the ceremony; and it is as productive of weeds since it was made holy. It has no effect on the bodies that are deposited in its bosom; they are decomposed as speedily there as elsewhere. Hence, moreover, churches are blessed or consecrated. Yet they fall into decay and dilapidation as speedily as the humbler fabrics of Dissent; time spares them not because of their imagined holiness; and prayers arise with equal acceptance to the throne of grace from the clay cottage of the husbandman. These practices, which prevail even in some Protestant churches, are opposed to reason, and unwarranted by revelation. No one portion of God's earth is more holy than another. At the morning of creation, Jehovah himself pronounced it to be “very good," and that divine approval was its consecratien.
Neither man, nor the son of man, however exalted in dignity, in wisdom, or in virtue, can mend the perfect work of God, or make a single particle of His universe holier than when it proceeded from the band of the Creator. Jesus never blessed material things,-things that have neither life, nor sense, nor reason; he reserved his blessings for “the poor in spirit,” for “them that mourn,” for “the meek," for such as “ do hunger and thirst after righteousness," for the “merciful,” for the “pure in heart,” for “the peace-makers,” for “the persecuted,” for all “ little children," and for the great and good Being from whom all enjoyment and all the means of happiness do continually proceed.
Verse 20: “And they did all eat, and were filled; and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.” It was customary with many of the Jews
" baskets" with them at all times. In allusion to this, Jesus warns those disciples whom he sent out, two by two, into every city to proclaim the glad tidings, not to carry with them two scrips, or baskets. So common was this practice, that references are made to it by some of the Roman poets. Some conceive that the Jews carried these baskets in commemoration of their trials in Egypt, when they were accustomed to carry the clay and stubble to make bricks in baskets suspended round their necks. But the more probable reason is, that when they went into Gentile countries, or Gentile houses, they carried their own provisions with them, as they esteemed it a ceremonial pollution to partake of the meat of heathens. From the quantity of fragments here mentioned—“twelve baskets full”-it is probable that the twelve Apostles, who were in constant attendance on the Anointed, filled each his own basket.
After the fragments had been gleaned, Jesus commanded his followers to proceed in a boat before him to the other side of the sea of Tiberias, or lake of Gennesareth, and having dispersed the multitude, retired himself to engage in solitary devotion. One of those sudden
storms of wind, so common in inland seas, now overtook the passengers, and placed them in imminent peril. They seem to have beaten about in the opposing winds the greater part of the night; for it was “in the fourth watch of the night, that Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.” The Jews originally divided the night into three watches, each of four hours' duration. In the Old Testament, mention is made of a first, second, and third, but never of a fourth “watch of the night.” This new division the Romans introduced into Judea, with that of dividing the day into twelve hours. Of the four nightwatches, the first began at six o'clock in the evening, and continued until nine; the second included the hours from nine till twelve at night; the third, from twelve till three in the morning; and the fourth from three till six in the morning As it was in the “ fourth” watch that Jesus appeared to his disciples, they must have remained on the lake till between three and six in the morning. When Peter discovered from the boat his Master walking on the waves, with the boldness which forms so remarkable a feature of his character, he cried to him, “Lord, [or Sir] if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Jesus granted his request, and Peter also walked on the water towards his divine Teacher; but, terrified by the storm, he began to sink, and exclaimed,
Master, This is a remarkable narrative. How astonishing must be the power of God, who, when he pleases, can alter or suspend the order of nature and the course of the universe! It was His almighty arm which sustained his chosen one where others would have perished; it was He that gave his beloved the capability of sustaining others in seasons of like difficulty and danger. It was from Jehovah that Jesus derived his miraculous energy; for he has himself declared « The Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the work;" it was from Jehovah, also, that he derived the capability of bestowing something of the same supernatural power on others. His object in granting Peter's request was, that the Apostle might have striking evidence of the divinity of his Master's mission. As long as this conviction remained firm in Peter's mind, as long as he believed that God, through Jesus, would support him, he walked
But when his faith failed, when in spite of all he saw, and felt, and experienced, he began to doubt whether Jesus could effect what he had promised,—he also began to sink. This was a just reprehension of his want of confidence in a power of which he had witnessed so many extraordinary exercises. Jesus rescued his follower, and only uttered the mild expostulation,—so mild that it can scarcely be called a reproof,—"Othou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Verses 32, 33: “ And when they were
come into the ship, Cor rather boat, for only fishing-boats or passage-boats plied on the lake,] the wind ceased. Then they that were in the boat came and worshipped him, [made obeisance unto him. See on chap. viii. 2,] saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” It is not likely that these words were used by his Apostles; for after all the wonderful works which he had performed in their presence, it would be strange indeed if they had only now discovered that he was the promised Messias. The title “the Son of God” is equivalent to the title Messias; but the original Greek of this passage is, “thou art a Son of God." This was a common phrase among the Jews and neighbouring nations, and meant no more than that he to whom it was applied was a messenger from God. Hence it has been conjectured by many expositors of all denominations, that this exclamation was uttered by the sailors or passengers, who were heathens, to express their simple conviction that Jesus had power from on high. All men are “sons of God;" especially all virtuous men are “sons of God;" more properly still are all inspired men “sons of God;” but Jesus is « the Son," because he was most perfect, because God loved him best, because God gave him the Spirit without measure, and chiefly because God raised him from the dead.
Cheltenham CONGREGATION.- - The Seventh Anniversary of this Congregation was celebrated, April 9th, by a religious service in the morning, and tea-meeting in the evening,