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to receive what was administer'd to them. Now there was much Grafs in the Place, which made it the more easy and convenient for them •, so the Men sat down, in obedience to Christ's Command, tho they saw nothing prepar'd for them: they were in number about five thousand; St. Matthew adds, beside Women and Children, which increas'd the Number to many more. And then it follows, that Jefia took the Loaves, and when he had given Thanh, he distributed to the Dfciples; that is, when he had blessed the Bread and the Fishes, and had given God Thanks for them, and implor'd his Blessing upon them, he began his Distribution, in the first place, to his Disciples. Where two things are observable: 'i'
1. That Christ would neither take himself, or give to others any Sustenance, before he had thank'd God for it, and crav'd his Blessing upon it; which is a good Warrant and Direction for our faying Grace (as we call it) before and after Meat: Man liveth not by Bread alone (faith our Saviour) but by every Word that proceedeth out of the Mouth of God: The best Bread can afford no Nourishment without his Word to bless it; and unless he fay the Word, there is no Sap or Strength in it. All the nutritive Virtue that it hath, is deriv'd from, and entirely depends upon God's Blessing ; neither can Bread strengthen Man's Heart, unless he command it to do so. We often read in Scrip, ture of the Staff »f Bread, signifying it to be the Stay and Prop of our Lives; but the Word of God blessing it, and commanding it to feed us, is the Staff of that Staff, and sustains all that Virtue in it that sustains us: if God withhold his Blessing, this Staff will soon be broken, it can uphold us no longer, and we shall sink as much with Bread as without it. Tn the Prophet's Phrase, We may eat much, and mt have enough, and drink our Fill, and not be fiffd; Hag. I. 6. which may teach us, by Christ's Example, to implore the Blessing of God upon the Creatures provided for our Food and Nourishment. Again,
2. We may observe, that when our Saviour had given Thanks, he distributed first to his Disciples: his' Kindness began with his more immediate Friends and Attendants, shewing that our Goodness and Charity is first and principally to be extended to our nearest Friends and Relations. This, Nature as well as Reason and Religion teach us, that our natural and spiritual Relations be first consider'd in all Acts of Bounty; for he that prowdtth vox for ihose of his
own own House and Family, hath deny'd the Faith, and is worse than an Infidel , and tho we are to do good to all Men, yet especially and principally to the Houfbold os Faith.
But to proceed in the Miracle - , when he had distributed to his Disciples, the Disciples distributed to them that were fat down : and this perhaps gave the occasion to that antient Practice in the Holy Sacrament, of distributing the Bread and Wine, first to the Priests there present, and they* 1 after to assist in distributing to all the other Guests. But however that be, 'tis certain that Christ here, as Master of the Feast, gave the several Proportions, in the first place, to his Disciplesand then they, as Waiters, distributed to all the rest, to every Man his Portion of Bread, and likewise of the Fishes, as much as they would. And it follows in the next Verse, they were all fill'd, and their Hunger well latisfy'd. By which we fee, that a very small Pittance, with God's Blessing, can furnish out a Meal for many Thoufands; and a little hard and homely Fare, if fanctify'd with God's Word, shall go farther, and fill better, than far more and greater Provisions without it. A little Cake and Cruse of Water, mall giye Eliah Nourishment enough to walk in the strength of it forty Days and forty Nights', 1 Kings 19.6,8. A little Pulse and Water fed Daniel and his Servants, and made their Countenances look fairer,
Dainties, Dan. 1. 12, 15- And here a few Barley-Loaves and two small Fishes mnltiply'd, to the fatisfying of above five thoufand Persons, and gave them to eat all their Fill. God can make a Feast of a Crumb of Bread, and furnish a Banquet from a small Fish, that shall give better Content and Nourishment, than the richer Fare and Luxury of the Epicure. Better is a Dinner of Herbs (faith Solomon) with the Love and Favour of God, than a st all'd Ox and Hatred therewith: Prov. 15.17. The Light of God's Countenance shining thro the Creatures he gives us, will afford better Entertainment to our Bodies, and put more Joy and Gladness into our Hearts, than the greatest Increase of Corn, and Wive, and Oil; Pfal. 4.6,7.
By all which we see, that Jtis the' Blessing of God that gives all the Strength and Sweetness to our Provisions, and enables them to nourish us: a very little, with that, will serve and suffice a great Multitude ; but a great deal without it, will yield no Savour or Satisfaction. Hence it comes to pass, that xhe Wicked are in straits in the midst of their
Abundance, and, like Pharaoh's lean Kine, devour the fat, and yet are never the fatter: whereas the good Man finds Comfort in a little, and fits easy and contented under the smaller shadow of his own Vine;
But .to go on, When they were fill'd, he said unto his Disciples, Gather up the Fragments that remain, that nothing he lost. Gather up the Fragments! Why, what Fragments could remain of a few Loaves and two little Fishes, after more than five thoufand had eaten of them, and were fill'd? One would wonder how so small a matter should hold out for so great a Multitude, or indeed feed half the Number. Sure none could fancy there should be any thing left of so slender a Pittance, after so many Bellies were fill'd, or fear that any thing should be lost, where there could be nothing to lose: And yet our Saviour put his Disciples tfpon gathering up the Fragments or broken Meat that remain'd, which one would think should be no hard Task, and that nothing should be found after so many had divided the Spoil.
But what happen'd, or how did the Disciples find it? Why, that the next Verse tells us, Therefore they gather d them together, and fill'd twelve Baskets with the Fragments of the five Barley-Loaves, which remain d over and above w to them that had eaten. Strange! when all the Meat they had would not near fill one Basket, that after so great a number had eaten and were fill'd, they mould take up and fill twelve Baskets with the Fragments that were left. Their Provisions it seems increas'd by eating, and, like the Widow's Cruse of Oil, multiply'd by being consum'd j and when all were fully fatisfy'd, there remain'd above ten times more than was at first set before them.
This the People faw, and found by their own Experience, and were all amaz'd at it. But what follow'd upon it? Why, those Men, when they had seen the Miracle thatjesns did, saidy Ttois is of a truth that Prophet that stiould come into the World. They had heard much of a great Prophet that was to come, and that he should come with Miracles, and doing many mighty Works: This they had learnt from the Prophecies of the Old Testament, and were then in an earnest Expectation of him: And here beholding with their Eye_s this great Miracle, they all concluded with one Voice, that this for certain was the Prophet that was promis'd, and whom they had been long looking for. Their Judgment herein was sound enough, and their Conclusion well grounded. But these taking him for the promis'd Mefiias, began to expect great things from him, that he should deliver them from the Roman Yoke, and restore again the 'Kingdom to Israel, and thereby advance them to Power and. Preferments in the World: To which end they sought :to make him a King, and to set him up as their General, to fight their Battels for them against their Enemies. And no .wonder that an oppress'd People should seek to make him their King, who'could raise an Army by a Word's speaking, and feed them too W Miracles, without Taxes and Contributions. But Jesus perceiving the Carnality of their Minds, and knowing his Kingdom not to be of this World, departed again' to a Mountain himself alone, and return'd to his former Privacy and Prayers, from whence he withdrew over the Sea again to Capernaum': But those People, who had eaten of the Bread after that, the. Lord had given Thanks, miffing him and his Dtftiples, took Shipping also, and went to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus; and finding him there, faid to him, Rabbi, when earnest thou hither? hearing that he went not in the Ship with his Disciples, but walk'd thither on the Sea. But Jesus giving them no Answer as to the Time or Manner of his Coming, faid untcr them, Verily, verily, I fay unto you, ye seek me, not bepause ye saw the Miracles, but because ye did eat os the .Loaves, and were JiU'd ; ver. 26. meaning, that they consulted only their own'Interest, and follow'd him more for ,the Loaves and their worldly Advantage, than for any Love to his Person or Doctrine: and therefore to wean their Minds from all such vain Expectations from him, he seeks to divert them from these earthly to more heavenly Matters, faying, in the next Verse, Labour not for tht As eat that perisheth, but for that which endwtth to everlasting Life, which the Son of Man shall give you, for him hath God the Father feal'd: that is, set not your Heart* on corporal Food, nor dream of any earthly Greatness or Victories from me, for that is none of my Business; but raise your Minds to that spiritual Food, that can alone feed your Souls to eternal Life. This is the Food that the Mefsias is to give you, who is a King of the Father's making, and not of your chusing and is to be install'd in his spiritual* Kingdom by God, and not by you. This is the Use that Christ would have made of this Miracle, and not that carnal one, which the Jews and others may fondly expect from it. These are the Circumstances that went before, and Vol.IV. Part2. LI that thatfollow'd after this Miracle, which is the Subject of the Gospel, and of our Meditations for this Day. From whence ■ we may infer the following Lessons; as,
1. From Christ's feeding so great a Multitude with such small Provisions, we may learn to depend upon God's Providence in the greatest Extremities; for we fee he is both able and willing to help us, either by giving much, or blessing a little : The Lions may lack and suffer Hunger (faith David) but they that fear the Lord shall want nothing that is good; for God will give Grace and Glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that lead a Godly Life. He that hath given us his Son (faith the Apostle) how fijallhenot with him freely give us all things f 'Twere endless as well as needless to recount the many Promises extant in Holy Scripture to this purpose, which for our Encouragement are back'd too with many Examples to confirm them. The Israelites were fed with Quails and Manna from Heaven in the Wilderness, where ordinary Provisions fail'd them: Elijah was fed in the Defart by Ravens, who brought him Bread and Flesh every day •, and the Widow of Sareptha, with a handful of Meal in a Barrel, which wasted not, and a little Oil in a Cruse, which fail'd not till the Day that God sent Rain upon the Earth; 1 Kings 17. And here a few Loaves and two little Fishes serv'd to feed and fill above five thoufand Men, beside Women and Children; which may teach us that Lesson of the Apostle, Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer and Supplication, let your Requests be made known unto God : Phil. 4. 6. which our Saviour inculcated by many Arguments in his Sermon oR the Mount, willing us to seek first the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto us; Mat. 6.
2. From Christ's giving of Thanks before he distributed the Provisions, we may learn always to crave a Blessing before Meat, and to return Thanks after it. This was our Saviour's Practice here, and upon all Occasions of this kind;
. and the Apostles have taught us the fame: Every Creature of God is good (faith St. Paul) if it be receiv'd with Thanks, giving; 1 Tim. 4.4. As if all the Goodness of them to us depended upon our giving of Thanks, which gives them all their Virtue and Nourishment. To the fame purpose speaketh he in another place, that all things are santtiJy'd by the Word of God and Prayer, which give them all their Blessing, and without it they cannot do us any good: