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two small fishes to dispose of. He himself sets no great store by his intelligence; a single loaf to a thousand men appeared to him a mere nothing, an aggravation rather than an alleviation of the distress: "but what," says he despondingly, "are they among so many?" The case is thus brought to an extreme point. Five thousand men, besides a multitude of women and children, probably to an equal, if not a greater number, feel the pressure of hunger, and of no one of our natural appetites are we more acutely sensible than of this; every one of this myriad, therefore, down to the youngest child, was a distinct and a competent witness upon the occasion, of the individual and of the general calamity, and of the total want of an adequate supply. Providence thus frequently per mits things to come to the very verge of wo, that man may feel his own weakness and insufficiency, feel his entire dependance, and learn to acknowledge and to adore the seasonable interposition of heaven; that God may be seen as "our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.”

As if every preparation of human sagacity had been made, Jesus, with dignified composure, commands, saying, "Make the men sit down." The attention and sympathy of Christ are observable in minute circumstances. His guests had passed a day of uncommon fatigue; they were now overtaken with two great infirmities, want of food and want of rest. A standing meal, weary as they were, would have been an unspeakable benefit; or to have stretched out their exhausted limbs to repose, even with a slender provision, for "the sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much." He who careth for oxen, who feedeth the raven, who sustaineth the sparrow on the wing, "shall he not much more" hear the cry of human wretchedness? Both the precious gifts of bread and rest are bestowed at once, and both unho

ped for, both unasked. "Make the men sit down :" and it is remarked, "Now there was much grass in the place." What a delicious assemblage of natural and interesting beauties! It was the still evening of a day in spring; the fragrant fertile earth had spread an ample carpet, at once delightful to behold, pleasant to the smell, and softened to the pressure of the faint. Twenty thousand eyes are turned in silent expectation to their common friend and benefactor. The very order of their arrangement embellishes the scene, and the subdivisions and straight lines of art set off the majestic irregularity of nature: a hundred rows of fifty men each. What, compared to this, was the royal "feast which the king Ahasuerus made unto all his princes, and his servants: the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces !" What, compared to this, was the great, but impious feast, which "Belshazzar the king made to a thousand of his lords!" These noisy and profane revels were quickly disturbed, and issued in sorrow. What a different spectacle did the mountain in the desert of Bethsaida present! All is calmness and harmony, all is peace and joy. The great master of the feast surveys his vast family with complacency and delight! they behold in him their condescending teacher, their merciful physician, their liberal provider, their almighty Lord, in whom all fulness was pleased to dwell.

"And Jesus took the loaves." He miraculously supported his own body for forty days in the wilderness, without eating or drinking; and the same divine ,power could undoubtedly have refreshed and sustained this great multitude, for a night, without bread, as easily as by supernatural multiplication of it. But this would have been less sensible and convincing; and natural vigour of constitution might have been supposed equal to the load. In the method of relief which our Lord was pleased to employ, every man

had the witness within himself, and could bear a clear testimony concerning all around him, that not the powers of nature, but the God of grace had ministered to their common necessities. "And, when he had given thanks :" two different words are employed by the evangelists to describe this action of our Saviour. The first three say, "he blessed" the loaves, pronounced upon them a solemn and powerful benediction, in virtue of which they became prolific, and multiplied far beyond the extent of the demand. Our evangelist represents him as "giving thanks," ascribing to God his heavenly Father the glory of every gift of an indulgent Providence, whether bestowed in the order of natural increase, or produced by an extraordinary interposition. The form of words, employed by Christ on this occasion, most probably blended both ideas, as indeed they cannot be easily separated. To give thanks for what God has given is a devout acknowledgment of dependance upon him, a tacit expression of hope in his goodness for the time to come, and the most likely means of increasing our store. He acted as the great pattern of his disciples, teaching them in difficulty to look up to heaven for direction and assistance, to improve the blessings of Providence by referring them to their great Author, and to cast every future care on him who hath helped hitherto. Man cannot pronounce a benediction capable of communicating efficacious virtue, but, what is equivalent to it, he can "in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let his request be made known unto God:" and time employed in devotion is not loss, but unspeakably great gain.

"He distributed to the disciples and the disciples to them that were set down and likewise of the fishes as much as they would." The fare was ordinary, barley bread and dried fish. "The full soul loatheth

a honey-comb; but to the hungry every bitter thing is sweet." Mark, the quality of the food is not

changed, the quantity only is increased, for the object of the miracle was not to pamper luxury, but to satisfy hunger. The disciples had nothing to give but what they first received. And what must have been their astonishment, their satisfaction, as they walked from rank to rank, to behold the food not diminish, but multiply to the mouth of the eater! No murmuring could arise on account of a partial distribution, for all had enough, and to spare. No doubt could arise respecting the fountain of supply, for every ear heard the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; every eye beheld his face lifted up to heaven, and his hands extended to diffuse plenty. The body and the mind were refreshed together, with food convenient for them. Thus seasonable, thus suitable, thus satisfying are the good and perfect gifts which come down immediately from the Father of lights. The self-same miracle, my friends, is repeated day by day, through a different process, and we observe it not, we feel it not. An unseen hand "causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man:" it bringeth forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." "O that man would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

"When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost." There is a criminal forethought about to-morrow which the gospel condemns, because it implies distrust of the care, wisdom and goodness of Providence, and because it mars the enjoyment, and encroaches upon the duties of to-day. But there is likewise a prudent and pious forethought, which both reason and religion highly approve and powerfully recommend, because it is the co-operation of human sagacity with the benignity of Providence; and the hap

piest and most honourable condition of man is exertion, as if no supernatural aid were to be expected, and reliance on God, as if human efforts amounted to nothing. "Gather up the fragments:" was the command of him who had the power of multiplying with out end, but who would lay himself under no obligation to exert an extent of miraculous energy to repair the profusion, or supply the negligence of thoughtless man. What occasions the present dearth of every necessary of life? Not the unkindness of heaven, for the earth has yielded her increase, and our garners are full; but cruel oppression on the one hand, and abominable waste on the other. The precious fruits of the ground are, contrary to nature, hoarded up in expectation of glutting avarice with a higher return, till they corrupt; or they are vilely cast away by the minions of opulence and grandeur, who care not what they destroy, because the master's fortune is able to support the expenditure. It is one, and not the least of the evils of war, that of the provision necessary to the maintenance of fleets and armies, one half at least goes to loss, through dishonesty, carelessness, and wilful prodigality. This profusion is often found in company with a hard and stony heart. It appears to have constituted great part of the criminality of the rich man in the Gospel. He "was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day." But this was not in itself sinful, nor is it charged upon him as guilt. The offal of his table was not wisely used. While detestable luxury reigned within doors, the cry of misery at the gate was disregarded. The beggar Lazarus desired, but desired in vain, " to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table." It is in every man's power to reduce the price of provisions. Let him purchase no more than what is needful, and let him be careful to look after the fragments which remain. The opulent man is responsible for the inhumanity, the extravagance, the criminal neglect 2 X

VOL. IV.

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