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priety in his introducing the supposed doctrine that he himself was a pre-existent being. On the contrary, here, as in his other discourses, he keeps himself individually out of view. He is to be obeyed, not because he is a being in his own nature far superior to man, but because he is the minister of God. He speaks of no authority derived from what he was in himself, but of the authority conferred on him by God.
Nor does it appear that even the Jews so mistook or perverted his meaning as to put a literal sense upon his words. When he told them that he was "the true bread from heaven," "the bread of life," "the bread of God which was descending from heaven and giving life to the world," it was impossible for the Jews or any other hearers not to recognize that all these expressions were figurative, and especially, that by "descending from heaven,” as used concerning the bread of God, could be meant nothing more than "coming from God." The turns of expression here employed are metaphors borrowed from the account given in the Psalms of the manna, as bread rained from heaven (the visible heavens) to preserve the lives of the Israelites. (See Psalm lxxviii. 23-25.) We cannot reasonably suppose that the Jews imagined our Lord to affirm that he had descended from the visible heavens in a bodily shape, or thought of his claiming to be a pre-existent spirit, coming from those abodes of the blessed which we call heaven.
As has already been remarked, the expressions "to come from God" and "to descend from heaven" are synonymous. (See John iii. 2, 13, 31.) They both denote the appearing among men as a minister of God miraculously authorized by him. "To go to heaven" and "to go to God" are at the present day perfectly familiar expressions, but equally figurative with those on which we are remarking. They mean, to pass from this life to a higher state of existence, in which God will confer new happiness on the good.
In speaking of himself as having descended from heaven, the meaning of our Lord is the same as when in this discourse he repeatedly designates himself as "him whom God has sent." "I have descended from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." (Verse 38; compare vv. 29, 39, 40, 44, 46, 57.)
Thus far, in explaining the metaphor by which Jesus represents himself as the bread descending from heaven, we find nothing which is not analogous to our own forms of expression. But in the words particularly under consideration a figure occurs, which, though it is used by writers of the Old and New Testament, and other ancient writers, Christian and Jewish, has not found a place among our modes of speech. It is connected with less philosophical conceptions of God than those which Christianity has taught us to entertain. In the use of this figure, events and persons and states
of being, which it is intended to refer in the strongest manner to the appointment of God, and to represent him as having especially predestined, are spoken of as having a proper existence while yet existing only in his foreknowledge and purpose. I have elsewhere explained the design of this figure, and given many examples of it. See the notes on John xvii. 5 and viii. 58.* It is one which occurs repeatedly in the language of our Lord, as his language is reported by John; as when he says, "And now, Father! glorify me with thyself, giving me that glory which I had with thee before the world was." "Thou didst love me before the foundation of the world." (Ch. xvii. 5, 24.) In like manner, his being and office being predetermined by God before the world was, he here speaks of himself as having existed with God before his appearance on earth.
[See before, pp. 235-246.]
(See p. 284.)
ON THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE APOSTLES CONCERNING THE VISIBLE RETURN OF THEIR MASTER TO EARTH.
THE language of our Saviour respecting his future coming was, I believe, more or less misunderstood by some or all of the Apostles, during a part or the whole of their ministry. They looked forward, with more or less confidence, to a personal and visible return of Christ to earth at no distant period. The first coming of the Messiah had been so wholly unlike what their countrymen had universally anticipated, that, when he spoke of a future coming while the existing generation was still living, they transferred to this some of the expectations which had been long entertained respecting his appearance and kingdom. It is necessary to attend to this fact in connection with the explanation which has been given of the language of Christ. The evidence of it may appear from what follows.
In the last chapter of John's Gospel we have the following narrative:* "Peter, turning round, cast
* John xxi. 20-23.
his eyes on the disciple whom Jesus loved, who was in the company, the same who at the supper was lying at the breast of Jesus, and said to him, Master, who is he that will betray you? Peter, seeing this disciple, said to Jesus, Master, and how will it be with him? Jesus answered him, If it be my will that he remain till I come, what does it concern you? Be you my follower. Hence spread that report among the brothers, that this disciple was not to die; though Jesus did not say to him that he would not die; but, If it be my will that he remain till I come, what does it concern you?"
It was a belief among the Jews, as we have good reason to suppose, that the lives of those saints who might be on earth when the Messiah should appear would be prolonged through his reign to the termination of all things. This expectation, it would seem from the passage quoted, was now entertained by the disciples concerning the future coming of Christ.
One of the most cherished hopes of the Jews was, that the Messiah would restore the kingdom to Israel; that he would raise the nation to even far greater power and splendor than they believed it to have enjoyed during the days of David and Solomon. Similar expectations were entertained by the disciples of Christ till after his death. The two who journeyed with him to Emmaus after his resurrection said, "We were hoping that it was he
* See Pocock's Notæ Miscellaneæ in Maimon. Portam Mosis. Works, I. 177, 178.