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It is 'worthy of remark,' Milton indignantly observes in his Second Defence, 'that those who are the most unworthy of liberty are wont to behave most ungratefully towards their deliverers'.
Compare the further application of this passage by Milton in his tract on 'The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof, compared with the Inconveniences and Dangers of Readmitting Kingship in this Nation'. Towards the close of his remonstrance, he writes thus: 'If the people be so affected as to prostitute religion and liberty to the vain and groundless apprehension that nothing but kingship can restore trade... and that therefore we must forego and set to sale religion, liberty, honour, safety, all concernments Divine or human, to keep up trading: if, lastly, after all this light among us, the same reason shall pass for current, to put our necks again under kingship, as was made use of by the Jews to return back to Egypt and to the worship of their idol queen, because they falsely imagined that they then lived in more plenty and prosperity; our condition is not sound, but rotten, both in religion and all civil prudence.... But I trust I shall have spoken persuasion to abundance of sensible and ingenuous men; to some, perhaps, whom God may raise from these stones to become children of reviving liberty; and may reclaim, though they seem now choosing them a captain back for Egypt, to bethink themselves a little, and consider whence they are rushing; to exhort this torrent also of the people, not to be so impetuous, but to keep their one channel.' Contrast the character of the Duke of Wellington, as Coleridge in his Table-Talk (4 July, 1830) draws it: 'He seems to be unaccustomed to, and to despise, the inconsistencies, the weaknesses, the bursts of heroism followed by prostration and cowardice, which invariably characterize all popular efforts. He forgets that, after all, it is from such efforts that all the great and noble institutions of the world have come.'
St. John of the Cross notes on this text that the manna was not given to the Israelites until the corn they had brought from Egypt failed. 'This teaches us that we must first renounce all things, for this manna of the angels neither belongs nor is given to the palate which still relishes the food of men.' He quotes the words of Numbers 11:4 , 'Who shall give us flesh to eat?' 'They would not content themselves with that so simple manna, but desired and begged for manna of flesh. And our Lord was displeased because they wished to mix so low and coarse a food with one so high and pure: a manna which, simple as it was, contains within itself the savour of all foods.'
Obras, vol. 1. p. 19.
References. XVI. 4. J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 287. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2332. XVI. 4-12. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Exodus, etc., p. 65. XVI. 14, 15. R. E. Hutton, The Crown of Christ, vol. ii. p. 239.
Holy Communion: The Bread of Life
Our subject is the supply given by God to His people for one of their great needs. In the wilderness, where no food could grow or could be obtained, God gave His people bread from heaven to eat.
I. The Jews expected the Messiah to give them food from heaven. The manna they expected from their second Redeemer may not have been bodily food; it was, according to some interpreters, food for the soul. The second Redeemer brought with Him from heaven heavenly food. But, alas! the Jews did not recognize the heavenly food when it came.
II. We are travelling through the wilderness of our promised land, and that wilderness provides us with nothing which can supply the wants of our being. God gives us day by day our daily bread, but man cannot live by bread alone. So God gives us something more precious, something which can really sustain our life. He gives us that which is no product of earth, the true bread from heaven the living bread the only bread which can support us in our journeyings the only food which can deliver us from death, and that food is the Son of God Whom He sent to be the life of the world.
III. And how do we feed upon Him? We can feed upon Him at any time. We do feed upon Him when our faith goes forth from us and takes hold of Him as the source and stay of our life. But undoubtedly there is a special means provided for us by God that we may feed upon Him, namely, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
We need faith above all in our Communions. Faith to realize the Presence of the Saviour faith to feed upon His Body and Blood faith to assimilate the Divine life which flows to us from Him. Having deep repentance and true faith, we shall necessarily have fervent love, for we shall know and feel the greatness of God's love to us unworthy sinners. Having then all three Christian virtues, we shall nourish our souls to everlasting life by feeding on the manna in Christ's own way. And having the Divine life within us, we shall pass along our desert way, till Jordan being past, we shall no longer need to receive our heavenly gifts through earthly signs. Sacraments will cease when we see our Lord face to face, even as the manna ceased when the Israelites entered Canaan.
F. Watson, The Christian Life Here and Hereafter, p. 79.
Reference. XVI. 15. J. M. Neale, Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, p. 24.
The same hand that rained manna upon their tents could have rained it into their mouths or laps. God loves we should take pains for our spiritual food. Little would it have availed them, that the manna lay about their tents, if they had not gone forth and gathered it, beaten it, baked it. Let salvation be never so plentiful, if we bring it not home and make it ours by faith, we are no whit the better.
An Omer for Each Man
How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust, without particular law or prescription, wholly to the demeanour of every grown man, and therefore when He Himself tabled the Jews from heaven, that omer, which was every man's daily portion of manna, is computed to have been more than might have well sufficed the heartiest feeder thrice as many meals. For those actions which enter not into a man, rather than issue out of him, and therefore defile not, God trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser.
References. XVI. 29. R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxx. 1906, p. 1. XVI. 35. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 229. XVII. 1-7. K. Moody-Stuart, Light from the Holy Hills, p. 42.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 16". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26