“I am the living bread, which came down from heaven:
If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (John 6:51).
Economy of the Covenants
Vol. 2, pp. 306-310.
XLVIII. Now let us consider the mystery of the manna. Paul teacheth us, that this food was sacramental, 1 Cor. 10:3, where he calls it spiritual meat; but it was so, not in its own nature, for it was appointed for the support of the animal life, but in signification, wherein it answers to our mystical supper. Angustine on Ps. 77:1, says, “it was spiritual, that is, it signified something spiritual.” And Christ declares, John. 6:32, himself was that true bread which came down from heaven, and was prefigured by the manna. The Jews however, blind, promise to themselves a new manna by the Messiah. For thus in Midras Cohelet, fol. lxxxvi. col. 4, “The first redeemer caused the manna to descend, so also the latter redeemer will make the manna to descend; as it is written, And there shall be an handful of corn in the earth, Ps. 72:16.” Though their expectations were really carnal and corrupt, yet they are the remains of ancient and spiritual instruction. So likewise in Midras cantici, fol. xvi. c. 4: “The last redeemer shall be revealed to them. And whither will he lead them? some say, to the wilderness of Judah: others, to the wilderness of Sihon, and Og: and he will cause the manna to descend to them.” But it is to be observed, that Christ frequently fed the multitude in the deserts of Judea, and in the wilderness of Og, with the food of his word, which is more excellent than any manna; and, when there was occasion for it, stayed the hunger of the body with bread, which he multiplied no less miraculously than the manna formerly was. See other testimonies of the Jews in Viega on Rev. 2:17. But, according to the method prescribed, let us come to particulars.
XLIX. Manna denotes that food which was appointed, prepared by God, and given to the Israelites, for their portion, in order to the support of life. So Christ is the gift of God, John 4:10. That excellent gift, foreordained by God, 1 Pet. 1:20, and by his unspeakable goodness bestowed on the true Israel, for their portion, Pet. 10:16, by which they should live: thus Jesus himself declares, John 6:51. “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven: If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” The manna was given to the Israelites, when they were least concerned about the blessings of God, and put a greater value on the good things of Egypt, and had again tempted God. Christ came into the world when it was most corrupted, and offered his spiritual blessings, at a time when the very best could scarce ascend above earthly and carnal things.—Israel did not know the manna when it was first given, though promised by Moses. Though Christ was so often promised by Moses and all the holy prophets, and described to the life, yet when he came into the world, the world knew him not, John 1:10.
L. Though the origin of the manna was from heaven, yet the vapours or exhalations from which it was congealed together, were raised from the earth by the efficacy of the sun. Christ several times repeats it, that he came down from heaven, to give life to the world, John 6. He, who is the day-spring from on high, Luke 1:78, is also the fruit of the earth, Isa. 4:2.—We have already observed, that angels were employed about the descending manna. A great multitude of the heavenly host sung the birth-day song, when Christ first came into the world, Luke 2:13.—Moses, indeed, could not give the manna, yet he promised it, and explained the nature of it. So neither was he the author of true salvation, but testified of Christ, and taught that the life of the soul consists in communion with him, John 5:46.
LI. The manna was, in its form and figure, small and minute, promising nothing great at first sight: thus also Christ, when he was seen only with the eyes of flesh, had neither form nor comeliness, that we should desire him, Isa. 53:2.—Yet the white colour of the manna, and usually that of pearls too, represented the most excellent purity of the Lord Jesus, and the glory of the divine majesty shining forth in the assumed form of a servant. The taste of the manna that was so very sweet, like honey, and the most excellent oil, signifies the unspeakable delights of that grace we obtain by Christ, whose sweetness none understand but they who taste it, Ps. 34:8. In order to be a more proper food for Israel, it was ground in mills, or pounded with pestles, or baked in pans, Numb. 11:8. Christ was also prepared by various sufferings, that he might be most sweet and wholesome food to our soul.
LII. The manna was rained down in the wilderness, and Christ came into the world, and to the people of Israel, when, like a wilderness, it was overgrown with thistles and thorns, and most barren of good fruit: and by his coming “comforted all the waste places of Zion, and made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert, like the garden of Jehovah,” Isa. 51:3. It was then that the Israelites obtained the manna, when all that they had brought out of Egypt was spent, and they saw they must inevitably perish by famine, unless they were relieved by the unexpected favour of heaven. Christ bestows his grace only on those who, sensible of their want, and rejecting every worldly comfort, choose to owe their salvation to him alone, Luke 1:53, “he filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.” Nor can any one hope for the consolations of divine grace, unless he first quit the Egypt of this world, and the prison of sin, and passing through the red sea of sorrowful repentance, give himself up to be led and directed by the Holy Spirit, in the way to the heavenly Canaan, Isa. 32:16, 17.
LIII. The manna came down every day, and whenever the morning dawned, presented itself fresh to the Israelites. Thus also, the grace and tender mercies of the Lord are new every morning, Lam. 3:23. Yet this bread was in such manner given, for six days, as none of it was to be seen on the seventh. This seems to signify, that Christ would, in his appointed time, appear among the Israelites, and converse daily with them; but afterwards would neither be seen, nor sought for, anywhere on earth, nor be imagined to be either in this or in the other place. But because that day was the seventh of the week, this set forth, he should cease to be seen by men on the seventh; but on the first day of the week, when he returned from the grave, he would present himself to the view of his people, almost as early as the sun.—When the Israelites were come into Canaan, the manna ceased; every thing which regards the state of the church, wandering in the wilderness of this world, consequently every healing grace, and every thing which flows to us from Christ, as mediator, and supposes any defect shall cease after the last day, when God himself shall be all in all to his church, when introduced into the heavenly country, 1 Cor. 15:28.
LIV. The manna was not bestowed on the Israelites as the effect of their sowing or culture, or of any human industry, but by the gratuitous gift of the divine goodness and bounty alone; the only thing required of them was to receive, to gather, and make use of, that gift of God. Thus, in like manner, the life and salvation we have in Christ the Lord, “is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,” Rom. 9:16. And his grace is “as a dew from Jehovah, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men,” Mic. 5:7. It is however our duty by faith to receive and apply to ourselves the offered grace. And this was what our Saviour meant, when he said, John 9:27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.”—And this, indeed, was to be done early in the morning, not letting slip the opportunity, Isa. 55:6. “seek ye the Lord, while he is near;” Ps. 63:1. “O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee.”—The Israelites were to go without the camp, in order to have the manna. Whosoever labours to find Christ, must not indulge too much the ease of the flesh. When the spouse sought her beloved in her bed, she found him not, Cant. 3:1; but when she had gone a little further, she found him, (ver. 4).
LV. Though God gave the manna in a certain stinted measure, yet in a quantity sufficient for those of the largest appetite; Christ deals out a portion of his grace to each, in such a manner, as nothing may be wanting to their salvation, 2 Cor. 12:9. His grace however, is equally set before all the elect, that each may take of it to his full satisfaction, Cant. 5:9. If they open their mouths wide, they shall be filled with the goodness of the Lord, Ps. 81:20; Ps. 36:8, 9.—Our esteem and longing for the divine grace can, indeed, never be to excess; nor are we forbidden to strive after more; let each account it said to himself, 2 Cor. 12:32. “covet earnestly the best gifts.” But yet every one ought to be content with the most free and wise dispensation of our Father, humbly confessing ourselves unworthy even of the least. But if any, by the blessing of God, is found to have gathered more than others, his duty is to lay out his abundance for the common benefit, and supply the wants of others from the plenty of his gifts.
LVI. The manna that was kept to the following day, became tainted, and ceased any longer to be either the usual, much less the sacramental bread. Thus also the eucharistical bread, the antitype of the manna, after the time is over when it is distributed to be eaten, loses the virtue of a sacrament; and if it be kept, contrary to the command of God, instead of being a spiritual food, will be found tainted with the maggots of a base superstition.—A double quantity was gathered the day before the sabbath, for the use of that day of rest: on the same day of the week, the labour of Christ’s soul being redoubled, such an abundance of grace was purchased for the elect, even enough to satiate, and make them happy through an eternal sabbath.—Nor are we to apprehend the spiritual gifts, laid up for that day, can be tainted by any corruption.—In a word, the keeping the manna in a golden pot, and the laying it up in the tabernacle before Jehovah, and the testimony set forth, that he who came down from heaven, to be the bread of life to sinful man, should again be taken up into heaven, and continue in the sanctuary not made with hands, and in a state of uninterrupted life before God; whence also the communion with Christ in glory is called the “hidden manna,” Rev. 2:17.—Moreover, we are, above all things, to be on our guard, lest, with the ungrateful Israelites, we loathe the incomparable delights of the heavenly grace, and prefer the husks of this world before them, and so incur the justest vengeance of a despised Deity.