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rocure them in the desert; and not considering his
Master's power to supply them by extraordinary means, replied, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not suf..fcient for them, that every one of them may take a little. Our blessed Lord might justly on this, as on a future occasion, have replied, Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known me, Philip ! But he did not reproach his disciples with their inattention to his former character and conduct, but commanded them to give the multitude to eat. The disciples, not yet understanding the design of their Master, repeated the objection of Philip, and proposed to go and buy a quantity of provisions: but this was not their Lord's intention, who, without making them a direct answer, asked them how many loaves they had. It does not appear that they had any bread in possession; for after the disciples had made a diligent inquiry, Andrew came and informed his Master, that there was a lad amongst the multitude, that had five barley loaves, and two small fishes, a quantity so inconsiderable, that they were ashamed to mention it: What are they, said the disciples, amongst so many ” And what, indeed, would they have been among such multitudes of people, if they had not been distributed by the all-creating hand of the Son of God.
JEsus, notwithstanding the smallness of the number of loaves, and scantiness of the provision, ordered them to be brought to him; and at the same time commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and ordered his disciples to arrange them in companies at convenient distances, that their number might be ascertained, and that they might be regularly served. In obedience to his command, the people sat down as they were ordered, no doubt wondering what would be the consequence of such an arrangement, and what benevolent action our great Redeemer was about to perform.
The multitude thus seated in order, our Lord in open view, took the five loaves and two small fishes in his hands, and the whole multitude had an opportunity of beholding what a small quantity of provivions, in the hands of the Creator of all things, were sufficient to provide a repast for such a number of persons as were then assembled. The great master of the feast then looked up to heaven, and returned thanks to his heavenly Father, for his all-preserving and all-supporting goodness, manifested at all times to his creatures, but particularly for his paternal care, in providing for their present refreshment; he praised his Almighty Father, for the miracles which he had been enabled to perform for the benefit of mankind, and par. ticularly for that which he was now going to perform, for the refreshment of the multitude, who had left their habitations with desires to see his mighty works, and hear his words, and followed him into the desert, where they were weary and faint for want of provisions. After which, our great Redeemer blessed the bread, and his divine blessing had so wonderful an effect, that the five small barley loaves and two dry fishes, were multiplied to a quantity sufficient to satisfy the craving appetites of ten thousand persons; for the III CIn WerC o thousand, and it is very probable the women and "children might not be less. The great Master of the feast distributed to his disciples, and they served the multitude as they sat on the grass ; and so plentiful were the provisions, that every one was satisfied, and such fullness crowned our great Redeemer's board, that, when all the people had eat and were satisfied, there were twelve baskets filled with the broken meat.
Thus, the great Son of God, provided a feast in the desert, for the people who followed him; and though they had no canopy but the azure sky, notable but the verdant grass, no better fare than barley-bread and dried fish, and no drink but the clear spring ; yet they were more honored by the presence of the illustrious
founder of the feast, than ever was a royal banquet,
which was given by the Assyrian or Persian kings: and doubtless there was more heart-felt joy, and solid satisfaction at this feast, than ever was at the noble banquet of the gorgeous Ahasuerus, or the splendid entertainments of the imperious Belshazzar.
Have we not reason to wonder at the obstinacy and perverseness of the heads of the Jewish nation, that such a manifest display of divine power would not convince them. The account of this miracle, as recorded by the several evangelists, is very plain and circumstantial; and, it may be observed, that the particular circumstances of time and place, tended to make it more wonderful, more conspicuous, and less liable to objections and cavils. The place was a desert, where no bread could be procured, and therefore it is manifest, beyond contradiction, that it must be produced by a miracle. Had this repast been given to the surrounding multitude, at one of the towns or villages, it might have been objected, that bread had been secretly supplied; but neither the pharisees of those days, nor the infidels of ours, can tell us, how it was possible for any deception of that kind to be practised in the desert. And it may be further obseryed, that this mighty work was performed in the evening, when the people had been fasting all day, and, with the fatigue of travelling were, doubtless weary and very hungry. Had this repast been given in the morning, the miracle might have been depreciated, by supposing, that the people did not stand in need of refreshment, and this treat might have been represented as unnecessary: but the particular circumstances attending this wonderful work, cut off every shadow of an objection, and abund
antly proved, that God can furnish a table in the wilderness. *
The consideration of the wonderful power of the Son of God, thus manifested in procuring bread in the wilderness for so many thousands of people, ought to relieve the cares, and quiet the minds of his people concerning their daily bread. With what joy and 'satisfaction of soul, ought we to consider, that we are under the immediate care of our heavenly Father, whose paternal goodness provides subsistence for all his creatures; and, who openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. It is the beloved Son of the eternal Father, that showers down such a wide profusion of blessings on a thankless world; and according to the beautiful language of the Psalmist, “ visiteth the earth, and blesseth it; who maketh it very plentecus, who watereth her furrows, and sendeth rain into the little vallies thereof; who maketh it soft with showers, and blesseth the increase thereof; who crowneth the year with his goodness, while his clouds drop fatness, making the vallies stand so thick with corn, that they laugh and sing.” With what thankfulness and praise ought we to behold the constant effects of that heavenly goodness, which supplies the whole creation with food: ought we not to rely on the paternal care of the great Parent of nature, who manifests his goodness, and displays his bounty to an undeserving world, by giving them rain and fruitful seasons, and filling their hearts with food and gladness *
Nor along we be unmindful of the manifest exertion of divine power, in the constant supplies which are provided for a world of creatures, and in the abundant provision which is made for the daily supply of all mankind. Is it any less a miracle, that the supreme Lord of universal nature, should, every day, support and feed the whole race of mankind, and all the brute creation, than that he should feed ten thousand persons in the wilderness, with five loaves and two small fishes What proportion does ten thousand persons bear to all the myriads of men on the face of the earth, who are daily fed by its fruits 2 And is not the increase of those fruits as great a miracle, and as manifest an exertion of divine power, as the increase of the bread by the blessing of our great Redeemer.
• If we had hearts to consider the works of God with
attention and care, we should perceive the manifest exertions of his power, in the secret operations of Nature, and as clear proofs of his divinity in her regular productions, as in the most extraordinary and miraculous events. The marks of divine power are equally seen in the wine, which arises from the moisture of the earth, through the tubes of vegetation, and is received from the branches of the vine; as in that instantaneously made from water at the marriage at Cana. Nor ought they less to be regarded in the corn, gradually ripened, and made into bread for the support of all mankind; than in the bread miraculously blessed to the support of the multitude in the wilderness: but we are very prone to overlook the common operations of creative wisdom and power, without considering, that, if we are unaffected with the divine munificence and bounty, so manifestly and richly displayed in the works of nature and providence, there is much reason to conclude, that outward miracles would not awaken us to a sense of our duty, nor effectually mend our hearts: we are, however, very apt to deceive ourselves in this particular, and often led to conclude, that had we been present at so stupendous a miracle, as that we are now considering, we o: adored the divine hand that wrought it, and never have forsaken the Lord of life. But, alas, if all the display of divine wisdom and goodness in the works of creation; if all the evidences of the omnipotence of the Son of God, in the constant supplies which he provides for his numerous creatures; if the constant manifestations of his goodness to ourselves, in providing for us, and feeding us the whole course of our lives; will not elevate our hearts, and raise them to himself in gratitude and joy, there is the highest reason to conclude, that, had we seen the blessed Jesus feed ten thousand men, women, and children, with five loaves and two fishes; yea, had we been partakers ourselves of this miraculous repast, we should have been like many, who really enjoyed these privileges, yet, afterwards took offence at some of his words, which theycalled hard sayings, and walked no more with him.