Opere mini non cibo qui perit, sed cibo illi qui permanet in vitam æternam, quem filius hominis, &c.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: etc.
After the four points of accusation, before handled, now follow two or more for direction, First, That we must seek for the bread of life that endureth, rather then for that which perisheth. Secondly, That we must seek for it of the sonne of Man, whom God the father hath therefore sealed, that he should give us the bread of life.
In the first part we have two parts to observe.
First,That we must labour for this meat: Secondly, We must labour for it more than for the other. When Christ saith labour, he means not that they should only desire it: It is a good thing to desire the bread of life as they desire it, Da nobis sempter panem hunc, John the sixt[h] chapter and the thirty fourth verse. Those sodain flashings that arise are not to be despised, for they are the seed of greater virtues: God begins with a little seed of Godlinesse, and proceeds till he have wrought men to some perfection. Zacheus at the first did but only desire to see Christ; but from this little seed proceeded great fruit of Justice and mercie towards the poor, so that he not only restored, but gave to the poor, Luke the nineteenth chapter. Therefore the seed of [533/534] repentance and faith, if it be never so little, is not to be rejected, if it be but as the grain of mustard seed; He that doth not quench the smoaking flax, though it doe not flame, Matthew the twelfth chapter, will not despise the least desire of Gods grace: but that we should not content our selves only to desire the bread of life, he wills us not only to desire, but to labour for it: It is not enough to long and desire for the bread of life, but we must labour and take pains for it: The desire of the sloathfull shall slay him, Proverbs, the twenty fourth chapter: The sloathfull would fain have bread to sustain life, but he saith There is a lyon in the way, Proverbs the twenty second chapter, he is afraid of labour and danger; but we must not refuse to take any pains, nor fear any danger, to obtein the bread that endureth for ever. In other things of this life we doe not only desire that which seemeth good to us, but we seek for it till we have it. So the Prophet speaks, Cupiunt & rapiunt, Michah the second chapter and the second verse: So we must not only desire the Kingdome of God, but must violently seek after it; for The Kingdome of God suffereth violence, Matthew the eleventh chapter.
Secondly, this word labor is opposed to seeking: for Christ saith here, Matthew, the sixth chapter, Seek the Kingdome of God, but labor for the meat that endureth; this labor is that work of God which is ascribed to faith, John the sixt[h] chapter, by which we labour for the bread of life, we must use an excessive kinde of labor, in this work of God, for that to labor for the bread of life, is no bodily labor, and therefore we must work for it earnestly: for cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord negligently, Jeremiah the fourty eight chapter, Therefore when Christ pronounceth them blessed that hunger and thirst after righteousnesse, he commands us not only to seek and desire in our hearts, but to hunger for it as we doe for the food of our bodies, Matthew the fifth chapter, and as he commands us to doe so, so he hath left us his example, for as it becomes him to fulfill all righteousnesse so he protesteth, that it was his meat and drink, to doe the will of him that sent him, John the fourth chapter; so did Mary earnestly labor for the meat that perisheth not, when she was sitting at the feet of Jesus: for though her sister called upon her to help her, yet nothing could draw her from spirituall labor, Luke the tenth chapter and the fourty second verse: So did the people labour that pressed to hear Christ, Luke the eight[h] chapter, they laid violence to the Kingdome of God: as also they that hearing Paul preach, would needs have him preach the same thing again to them: and for that end came together in great companies to hear the next Sabbath, Acts the thirteenth chapter: If we thus seek the bread of life, striving and wrastling with God in our praiers, as Jacob did with the Angell, then we doe indeed labor for it, as Christ willeth us to doe.
The second sense of laboring is, that we must labor for this bread more than for the other, and not at all for the other, in comparison of this. All grant that we must labour for the bread of life, but not for it more than for that which nourisheth this life: we must observe in [534/535] what manner we ought to labour, as well as that are to labour: for the excessive desire of this life, make us defective in the desire of the life to come. The desire of this life is not opposite, but subordinate to the desires of the life to come: But we must desire this life, so farre as it may further us to the other life. Some doe make this life the end of all their desires, and doe heap up wrath to themselves, against the day of wrath, Romans the second chapter. But the care and indeavor of the Saints of God is, that in this life, they may lay up for themselves a good foundation for the life to come; the first epistle to Timothie the sixt[h] chapter. Men are bound to be carefull to make honest provision for this life, and not to be idle and burdensome to the earth: For when Christ willeth us not to be carefull for this life, yet from the example of birds we may learn, that we must not be negligent, for they are made to flie, as it is in the Proverbs: And so we are by Gods appointment to provide for our maintenance in this life, Matthew the sixt[h] chapter. When Christ saith, We shall give account for every idle word, he means we shall be called to account, That we have not spoken the good words that we ought, Matthew, the twelfth chapter. The Apostle wills him that stole, to steal no more, but to labour, Ephesians the fourth chapter and the twenty eight verse; The reason is, that for want of labouring in some honest calling for our outward maintenance, we shall fall to poverty, and Poverty will make us steal and use unlawfull means, Proverbs the thirty chapter. Though a man were able to live without labouring, yet remembring Gods sentence, that we must eat in the sweat of our faces, we shall say, Portabimus iram Domini, Michah the seventh chapter and the ninth verse. And that made the Apostle say, That if any will not labor, let him not eate, the second epistle to the Thessalonians and the third chapter: And the blessed man shall eate of the labour of his hands, Psalme one hundred twenty eighth.
Thus we are to provide for this life. But if comparison be made, we are to labour more for the life to come, and for the food that belongeth to the maintenance of it. It were a thing hard enough for us, if Christ should command us to labour for the heavenly food, as we doe for the earthly; but yet it is necessary, that as the soul is more excellent than the body; so we should be more carefull to maintain the life of the soul, than of the body. The excellency of the soul made the learned Philosophers to abstain from many bodily pleasure, which otherwise they could not have forborn, but that they knew the life and felicity of the soul is farre better than all the profits and pleasures of this life. Of the good things of this life Christ saith, What shall it profit a man to win the whole world and lose his soul? Matthew the sixteenth chapter. So we are to seek the good of the next life, rather than of this: Touching our defence from bodily miseries, Christ saith, Feare not him that can kill the body, and not the soul; but he that can kill both body and soul, Matthew the tenth chapter, that is, If he that hath not a due care to provide for the soul rather than for the body: Some use the soul as if 535/536 it were to serve the body, whereas the body ought to serve it: But seeing our body is Corpus mortis, Romans the seventh chapter; because either it shall be destroyed by death, or while it liveth, is under the dominion of death, Romans the sixt[h] chapter: Therefore whatsoever care is bestowed upon the body, shall perish with it; for they that sow to the flesh, as it is corruptible, shall reap corruption; but as the spirit is immortal, so they that sow to it shall reap immortality and life everlasting, Galatians the sixth chapter: The good estate of the body will not make the soul the better, but rather the worse; but the souls estate being provided for, the body shall be farre the better. If we seek Gods Kingdom first, then that care will cause all other things to be added, Matthew the sixt[h] chapter: If our conversation be in Heaven, it shall cause our bodies that are corruptible, to become glorious, Philippians the third chapter and the twenty first verse. If in this life, we keep ourselves from the filthinesse and pollution of worldly and carnal lusts, our bodies shall be glorious after death; therefore we are to be more careful for the soul than for the body. Of this life Job saith, It is but short, Job the fourteenth chapter; It is like a vapour that suddenly ariseth, and vanisheth away, James the fourth chapter. It is as grasse, the first epistle of Peter and the first chapter; and it standeth not in the aboundnance of riches that man hath, Luke the twelfth chapter: Man walks in a shadow and disquiets himself in vain, Psalm the thirty ninth. He is every moment subject to death; and howsoever death it looks a young man in the face, as it doth old men; yet it is as neer to him while it stands close to the other; Therefore the Wise man saith, All the cares of this life are but vanity and vexation of spirit. And howsoever while we are in our joyes, drunk with the pleasure of the world, as Naball, the first epistle of Samuel and the twenty fifth chapter; So that though we be wounded we feel it not, like the drunkard, Proverbs the twenty third chapter: Though we have not grace to say, Quid prodest totum mundum lucrai? Matthew the sixteenth chapter; yet when it is too late, we shall say, What hath it profited us to have enjoyed the pleasures of this life, Sapi.5 The life to come is void of all misery and torment, There is the fulnesse of joy and pleasure for evermore, Psalme the sixteenth: But all the pleasure and profits of this life, if it were possible to possesse them all, are not answerable to the joyes of the life to come: With which present pleasures are joyned many griefs and torments; If a man be never so rich or humble, & diseased, or afflicted, it will marre all his joyes; But all the afflictions of this life, are not comparable to the future glory, Romans the eighth, that shall be revealed, which swallows up all our troubles that we suffer here, because it is hard to root out of mens hearts the care of this life; and Christ doth not forbid them altogether to be carelesse here, But first seek the kingdom of God, and all things else shall be cast upon you, Matthew the sixt[h] chapter. If ye neglect earthly things for heavenly, you shall not only obtain heavenly things, but earthly things withall: If we only seek bodily things, and not heavenly, we shall want both: But if we seek for the soul, we shall have things necessary [536/537] for the body; for the Lord hath said, I will not forsake thee, Hebrews the thirteenth chapter: And David assureth himself, that because the Lord is his Shepheard he shall want nothing, Psalm the twenty third: If Salomon ask not riches, nor honouor, but wisdome; he shall have not only wisdome, but riches, honour, and all other things, the first book of Kings the third chapter: the seeking of things pertaining to this life exiles the care of the life to come; but the seeking of God's kingdom, includes the care of all other things.
The next point is, that it is Christ, the Sonne of man, that gives us this bread of life: Material bread, is the effect of Creatures; but the bread of life is the effect of redemption: But seeing all things were made by Christ, John the first chapter, therefore is Christ that gives us both earthly and heavenly bread: Christ made the materiall bread of nothing, but this bread he maketh of himself: the one he made verbo oris, but the other cost him the shedding of his blood: His flesh simply, is not bread, but his flesh crucified for us; car nihil podest, John sixth chapter, the bread that perisheth, and all the works of the Creation he performed in six dayes, but the bread of life was not made, but during the whole space of his life upon earth.
The sixt[h] point is, where the bread is to be found, touching which he saith, say not with thy heart, who shall goe up to heaven to fetch this bread, nor goe down to hell, Romans the tenth chapter and the sixth verse; it is the Sonne of man that gives it, for God the Father hath sealed him for this end. In which words we have, First a Direction: Secondly, an Affirmation. The direction hath a Correction; for we think we deserve it by seeking and labouring for it. For Christ tells us, it is not to be had, except the Sonne of man give it. Christ gives us the bread of life three wayes, First, When he gives his flesh to be crucified for us in his passion; for in death only it receiveth power to quicken us into eternal life, as the Apostle witnesseth, By death he did destroy him that had power of death, Hebrews the second chapter: In thy favour is life, Psalme the thirtieth: But we are brought into Gods favour no otherwise, but by death of his Sonne, Romans the fift[h] chapter: So that by his death we obtain life; By the sacrifice of Himself he hath done away our sinnes, Hebrews the ninth chapter. Secondly, he gives us the bread of life in the sacrament, his flesh is made bread for us in his passion, when he dyed, but is given and applyed to us in the Supper: The expiation for sinnes was once performed upon the Crosse; By one sacrifice hath he perfected for ever, Hebrews the tenth chapter and the twelfth verse: But this sacrifice is often applyed to us in the sacrament. Thirdly, whereas there are two sorts of giving, offert and confers, he gives us this bread when he doth not only offer it unto us, but makes us receive it. If we lay hold of the bread by faith, which is the work of God, and beleeve that he is the food of our souls, then he will give us it and make us partakers of it, as Christ saith, This is the condemnation, That light came into the world, and ye loved darknesse rather than light, John the third chapter. So it [537/538] shall be our condemnation, if God doe only offer us the bread of life, and doe not withall give us it, and make us to receive it. All bodily meats being a power nutritive, but profit not, except they be a power digestive: So though the body of Christ crucified have a power to give life and nourishment, yet except we digest it with faith, it shall doe us no good.
For our assurance hereof Christ saith of the Sonne of man, that God the Father hath sealed him, that is, he hath power and authority to be the bread of life, and to conserve life to them that feed on him. He hath sealed him, First with his nature, being the very Sonne of God, He is the similitude and ingraven form of his person, Hebrews the first chapter and the third verse. We need not to doubt of the remission of our sinnes; for Christ as he is God, giveth power to forgive sinnes. Secondly, as he is sealed with Gods nature, so with his name, He is wonderfull Counsellor, the mighty God, the Prince of Peace, Isaiah the ninth chapter. Thirdly, With his miracles, For he raiseth the dead, and quickneth whom he will, no lesse than the Father, John the fift[h] chapter and the twenty first verse. Fourthly, Because exception was taken against his miracles, For they said that he did them by Belzebub, Matthew the twelfth chapter, therefore he further sealed, with a voice from Heaven saying, This is he in whom I am well pleased, heare ye him, Matthew the seventeenth chapter: not only whom he commands, but where he promiseth, to refresh them that come to him, Matthew the eleventh chapter. Fifthly, He hath sealed him with the spirit. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, Luke the fourth chapter; And what not only rests (John the third chapter the three and thirtieth and four and thirtieth verses) content with receiving the Spirit for himself, but with a power to give it to his: So that by his intercession with God the Father, He sent down the spirit upon the Apostles, Acts the second chapter. Being thus sealed by God, he is able to nourish us by his flesh crucified for us, unto eternall life, if he give us grace to lay hold of it by faith.