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to receive what was administer'd to them. Now there was much Grass in the Place, which made it the more easy and convenient for them ; so the Men sat down, in obedience to Christ's Command, tho they faw nothing prepar'd for them: they were in number about five thoufand; St. Matthew adds, beside Women and Children, which increas'd the Number to many more. And then it follows, that Jefus took the Loaves, and when he had given Thanks, be distributed to the Disciples; that is, when he had blessed the Bread and the Fishes, and had given God Thanks for them, and implor'd his Blessing upon them, he began his Distribution, in the first place, to his Disciples. Where two things are obser
1. That Christ would neither take himself, or give to others any Sustenance, before he had thank'd God for it, and crav'd his Blessing upon it; which is a good Warrant and Direction for our saying Grace (as we call it) before and after Meat: Man liveth not by Bredd alone (faith our Saviour) but by every Word that proceedeth out of the Mouth of God: The best Bread can afford no Nourishment without his Word to bless it; and unlefs he say the Word, there is no Sap or Strength in it. All the nutritive Virtue that it hath, is deriv'd from, and entirely depends upon God's Bleffing ; neither can Bread strengthen Man's Heart, unless he command it to do so. We often read in Scrip. ture of the Staff of Bread, signifying it to be the Stay and Prop of our Lives; but the Word of God blessing it, and conimanding it to feed us, is the staff of that Staff,' and sustains all that Virtue in it that sustains us : if God withhold his Blessing, this Staff will soon be broken, it can nphold us no longer, and we shall fink as much with Bread as without it. In the Prophet's Phrafe, We may eat much, and not have enough, and drink our Filly and not be filled; Hag. 1. 6. which may teach us, by Christ's Example, to implore the Blessing of God upon the Creatures provided for our Food and Nourishment. Again,
2. We may observe, that when our Saviour had given Thanks, he distributed first to his Disciples : his Kindnefs began with his more immediate Friends and Attendants, shewing that our Goodness and Charity is first and principally to be extended to our nearest Friends and Relations. This, Nature as well as Reason and Religion teach us, that our natural and spiritual Relations be first confider'd'in all Acts of Bounty; for he that provideth pas for abofe of his
omn House and Family, hath deny'd the Faith, and is worse than an Infidel; and tho we are to do good to all Men, yet especially and principally to the Houshold of Faith.
But to proceed in the Miracle; when he had distributed to his Disciples, the Disciples distributed to them that were fat down : and this perhaps gave the occasion to that antient Practice in the Holy Sacrament, of distributing the Bread and Wine, first to the Priests there present, and they after to affist in distributing to all the other Guests. But however that be, 'tis certain that Christ here, as Master of the Feaft, gave the several Proportions, in the first place, to his Disciples; and then they, as Waiters, distributed to all the rest, to every Man his Portion of Bread, and likewise of the Fishes, as much as they would. And it follows in the next Verse, they were all fill'd, and their Hunger well fatisfy'd. By which we see, that a very small Pittance, with God's Blessing, can furnish out a Meal for many Thoufands; and a little hard and homely Fare, if fan&tify'd with God's Word, shall go farther, and fill better, than far more and greater Provisions without it. A little Cake and Cruse of Water, shall give Eliah Nourishment enough to walk in the strength of it forty Days and forty Nights ; 1 Kings 19. 6, 8. A little Pulse and Water fed Daniel and his Servants, and made their Countenances look fairer, fresher and fatter than all they who fed upon the King's Dainties, Dan. I. 12, 15. And here a few Barley-Loaves and two small Fishes multiply'd, to the fatisfying of above five thousand Persons, and gave them to eat all their Fill. God can make a Feast of a Crumb of Bread, and furnish a Banquet from a small Fifh, that Phall give better Content and Nourishment, than the richer Fare and Luxury of the Epicure. Better is a Dinner of Herbs (faith Solomon) with the Love and Favour of God, than a ft alld Ox and Hatred therewith: Prov. 15.17. The Light of God's Countenance thining thro the Creatures he gives us, will afford better Entertainment to our Bodies, and put more Foy and Gladness into our Hearts, than the greatest Increase of Corn, and Wine, and Oil ; Pfal. 4.6, 7
By all which we fee, that 'tis the Blesling of God that gives all the Strength and Sweetness to our Provisions, and enables them to nourish us: a very little, with that, will serve and fuffice a great Multitude; but a great deal with. out it, will yield no Savour or Satisfaction. Hence it comes to pass, that the Wicked are in itraits in the midst of their
Abundance, and, like Pharaoh's lean Kine, devonr the fat, and yet are never the fatter : whereas the good Man finds Comfort in a little, and sits easy and contented under the smaller shadow of his own Vine.
But to go on, When they were filld; he said unto his Disciples, Gather up the Fragments that remain, that nothing be loft. Gather up the Fragments! Why, what Fragments could remain of a few Loaves and two little Fishes, after more than five thousand had eaten of them, and were filld ? One would wonder how so small a matter should hold out for so great a Multitude, or indeed feed half the Number. Sure none could fancy there should be any thing left of fo Nender a Pittance, after so many Bellies were fillid, or fear that any thing should be loft, where there could be nothing to lose : And yet our Saviour put his Disciples upon gathering up the Fragments or broken Meat that remain'd, which one would think should be no hard Task, and that nothing should be found after so many had divided the Spoil.
But what happen'd, or how did the Disciples find it? Why, that the next Verse tells us, Therefore they gather'd them together, and filld twelve Baskets with the Fragments of the five Barley-Loaves, which remain’d over and above unto them that had eaten. Strange! when all the Meat they had would not near fill one Basket, that after so great a number had eaten and were filld, they should take up and fill twelve Baskets with the Fragments that were left. Their Provisions it seems increas'd by eating, and, like the Widow's Cruse of Oil, multiply'd by being consum’d; and when all were fully satisfy'd, there remain'd above ten times more than was at first set before them.
This the People faw, and found by their own Experience, and were all amaz’d at it. But what follow'd upon it? Why, those Men, when they had seen the Miracle tbat Jesus did, said, Tnis is of a truth that Prophet that mould conie into the World. They had heard much of a great Prophet that was to come, and that he fhould come with Miracles, and doing many mighty Works: This they had learnt froni the Prophecies of the Old Testament, and were then in an earnest Expectation of him: And here beholding with their Eyes this great Miracle, they all concluded with one Voice, that this for certain was the Prophet that was promis’d, and whom they had been long looking for. Their Judgment herein was found enough, and their Conclusion
well groanded. But these taking him for the promis'd Mel-
fight their Battels for them against their Enemies. And no
that follow'd after this Miracle, which is the Subject of the Gospel, and of our Meditations for this Day. From whence • we may infer the following Lessons; as,
1. From Christ's feeding so great a Multitude with such small Provisions, we may learn to depend upon God's Providence in the greatest Extremities ; for we see he is both able and willing to help us, either by giving much, or blefsing a little : The Lions may lack and suffer Hunger (faith David) but they that fear the Lord mall want nothing that is good; for God will give Grace and Glory, and no good thing will be withhold from them that lead a Godly Life. He that hath given us his Son (faith the Apostle) how all be not with him freely give us all things? 'Twere endless as well as needless to recount the many Promises extant in Holy Scripture to this purpose, which for our Encouragement are back'd too with many Examples to confirm them. The Ifraelites were fed with Quails and Manna from Heaven in the Wilderness, where ordinary Provisions fail'd them : Elijah was fed in the Desart by Ravens, who brought him Bread and Flesh every day ; and the Widow of Sareptha, with a handful of Meal in a Barrel, which wasted not, and a little Oil in a Cruse, which fail'd not till the Day that God sent Rain upon the Earth ; 1 Kings 17. And here a few Loaves and two little Fishes serv'd to feed and fill above five thousand Men, beside Women and Children; which may teach us that Lesson of the Apostle, Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer and Supplication, let your Requests be made known unto God : Phil. 4. 6. which our Saviour inculcated by many Arguments in his Sermon on the Mount, willing us to seek first the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, and all these things hall be added unto w; Mat. 6.
2. From Christ's giving of Thanks before he distributed the Provisions, we may learn always to crave a Blessing before Meat, and to return Thanks after it. This was our Saviour's Practice here, and upon all Occasions of this kind; and the Apostles have taught us the same: Every Creature of God is good (faith St. Paul) if it be receiv'd with Thank'giving ; 1 Tim. 4.4. As if all the Goodness of theni to us depended upon our giving of Thanks, which gives them all their Virtue and Nourishment. To the same purpose speaketh he in another place, that all things are fanctify'd by the Word of God and Prayer, which give them all their Blessing, and without it they cannot do us any good :