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            There is no blessing apart from God’s Word

Now come we to the special point of Christ’s answer, It is written, Man liues not by bread onely, &c. Deut. 8. 3.

There is no better kind of reasoning, than that, when one grants all that has been said by his adversary, and proves it to make on his part; and upon a new conceit [idea, proposition] avoids all that his adversary said[1]. Here our Savior might confess all that the Devil objected; as that he is the Son of God: and admit the stones were made bread, and that bread were of absolute necessity, and that it were so to be come by (which is untrue,) were we then in good case?[2]

This indeed is the Devil’s position, wherewith he would persuade all those that have animam triticeam[3], (as the Fathers call it) that those external things are necessary to be had: and that if they have enough thereof, they are well enough; as we see it to be the mind of the rich man, Luke 12. 19.[4] This man having a wheaten soul, having corn enough, bad [said to] his soul, “Take rest, and live merrily for many years.” But Christ goes further, and says, “Though the stones be made bread, it will not avail [be useful] except it please GOD (by the blessing of his word) to give virtue [power, effect] and (as it were) life unto the bread, there is no difference between it and a stone.”[5]

It is not the plenty or quality of victuals [food], howsoever some dote upon such external means, as they did, which sacrificed to their net, & burnt incense to their yarn, Hab. 1. 16.[6] because by them their portion was fat, and their meats plenteous. For what says Jobcap. 31. ver. 25. If I reioyced because my substance was great, this had been an iniquity.[7] So that our life is not maintained by bread only, descended out of the mold of the earth [the ground].

The nature of bread & stones are not much unlike, they come both out of one belly: that is to say, the earth. Job 28. 5. 6. and of themselves, the one of them hath no more power than the other unto life: for we know that the Israelites died, even while the flesh of quails was in their mouth, Num. 11. 33[8] & Manna (heavenly fare) being far better than our bread.[9] It is the Devil’s crafty policy, to bury a man’s life under a loaf of bread: and (as it were) to fetter the grace of God to the outward means; whereas they of themselves are of no more efficacy, without the operation and grace of the word, than a hammer and a saw, without a hand able to employ them.[10]

David saith (Psalm. 104. 28.) The eyes of all things waite on God for theyr meate in due season, & thou fillest them:[11] With what? with bread? No, but with thy blessing and goodnesse. Our hearts must be stablished with grace, not with meats [food]. Hebr. cap. 13. verse 9.[12] It is God’s prerogative, that as all things had their beginnings from him, Coloss. cap. 1. vers. 17[13] so hee supporteth and sustains them, Hebr. cap. 1. ver. 3.[14]

This is a further point than all philosophy teachs us. For they having laid down the four elements, bare and simple essences[15], tanquam materiam,[16] by compounding or tempering of them, they bring forth a certain quintessence or balm full of virtue.[17] But Divinity leads us to a quintessence, without which, all the quintessences and balms in the world can do us no good.[18]

To the question that Jeremiah propounds, Is there no balme at Gilead?[19] Is there no Phisitian [physician] there? The answer may be, Mans health is not recovered by balm or phisicke [medicine] only, but by euerie word that proceedeth out of the mouth of GOD[20], if we weigh Christs’ argument aright: for we may see 2. Chron. 16. 12. Asa dyed for all his Phisitians [physicians] that were about him.[21]

So if it be asked, “Are there no horses nor chariots in Gilead? we may answer, warlike victory consists not in warlike furniture [weapons] only, but in remembering the name of our Lord GOD. Psalm. 20. 7. A horse is a vain thing to save, without the power of this word. And so, when a man thrives not or prospers not in his actions; it is not often for want of labor or care: Psalm. 127. 1. tells him, Except the Lord build the house, &c. Augustine advise his auditory [those listening to him], to believe it in time, least (by wofull experience) they find it to be true, when as they shall have such a consumption, that no meat shall doo them any good; or such a dropsy, that no drink shall avail them.[22]

The power and virtue of this word is called, The staffe of bread, Lev. 26. 26. and it is meant of a chief staff, such a one as is set in the midst, to bear up all the tent.[23]

The plainest similitude I can use, to make you understand the force thereof, is this: When we go to phisicke [physician] for any disease, we are bidden [instructed] seethe [wash] such herbs in running water, & then to drink the water; we know it is not the water which helps but the decoction of infusion.[24] So it is not the bread (considered barely in it elf) that nourishs vs, but the virtue and grace of the word infused into it. We are not therefore to stick to the means, like the glutton, Luc. 12. 19[25] but to pray for this blessing.

Notes

Andrews understands this temptation to consist in practical atheism. To be an atheist in practice, even if one still claims to believe in God. This is a very simple thing: It is to believe that food by its own power keeps us alive. To believe that medicine without God’s blessing will heal disease. To believe that effort alone will make rich; or that an army can guarantee the outcome of the battle. In worship it is to believe that communion is magic and works without faith.

He shows how often we trust in the material world without God. In doing this, we are living like those who deny God’s existence. The temptation to Jesus was to act and live as if he could truly live independently of God.

This does not mean that God does not permit food to keep us alive. But that is still a grace of God, even if we do not acknowledge that.

But we are not to do this. We are to specifically pray for blessing. Jesus shows it is not the bread alone which gives life. It is the Word of God which truly gives life.

This section should be a cause for serious reflection and repentance.


[1] The best sort of argument is one in which you can concede everything which your opponent has said and then avoid the trap you opponent has laid.

[2] It is true that Jesus is the Son of God, that can make stones into bread, and that food is a necessity for human life. But even with all that granted, you are still wrong.

[3] A soul of wheat: our life is dependent upon food. Trapp’s Commentary on Psalm 4:7 uses this phrase, which will help understand its use here: These indeed are the precious fruits of the earth, James 5:7 , but they seal not up special favour. A man may have together with them animam triticeam, as that rich fool had. Animas etiam incarnavimus, [Also, we are incarnated/in-fleshed souls] as a Father complaineth. These outward things are got within men, and have stolen away their warmest and liveliest affections from God. Not so in the saints; they must have God, or else they die.”

[4] Luke 12:19 (ESV) ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ It is interesting that Trapp draws these two ideas: a soul of wheat and the rich man together. Trapp is writing after Andrews, so he very likely was aware of these published sermons.

[5] The rich man thought that by having food enough, he had nothing to worry about. But he was wrong. God called him to judgment that very night. Jesus realizes that unless God give blessing to the food, it can’t protect you from anything. The wealthiest men in the world cannot keep off death. All kings will eventually die. Therefore, it is more important to seek after God than it is to get food.

[6] Habakkuk 1:14–16 (ESV)

                  14               You make mankind like the fish of the sea,

like crawling things that have no ruler.

                  15               He brings all of them up with a hook;

he drags them out with his net;

                                    he gathers them in his dragnet;

so he rejoices and is glad.

                  16               Therefore he sacrifices to his net

and makes offerings to his dragnet;

                                    for by them he lives in luxury,

and his food is rich.

[7] Job 31:24–28 (ESV)

                  24               “If I have made gold my trust

or called fine gold my confidence,

                  25               if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant

or because my hand had found much,

                  26               if I have looked at the sun when it shone,

or the moon moving in splendor,

                  27               and my heart has been secretly enticed,

and my mouth has kissed my hand,

                  28               this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,

for I would have been false to God above.

[8] The Israelites had complained that God was not providing meat for them to eat. God provided meat.

Numbers 11:31–33 (ESV)

31 Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague.

[9] Bread and stones both come out of the earth, but we can eat one and not the other. But without the blessing of God, neither will keep life. For example, when God gave Israel quail (he had given them Manna, and they were discontent with that), they died because it came without God’s blessing. Food alone is not the matter. Although not addressed here, this raises the issue of “common grace.” God does good to all people, even the wicked. That such common grace is abused, is a different issue. But the fact of the grace being common to all, is not a reason to doubt its truth. There is a sort of strange prejudice among some as to believe that the work of God can only be understood if something is unusual (a miracle) rather than common. Yet the very regularity of the universe is a reason to see the good hand of God.

[10] He repeats his argument but this time with a new application. God’s grace cannot be limited to some outward means: bread alone cannot keep one alive; and, God’s grace is what is needed for life, even without the bread. In a related manner, the sacraments are not efficacious just because they are performed. They will not benefit without the Word of God being added thereto. This is an allusion to the argument made by Calvin in the Institutes. First, there is the proposition which he seeks to refute, “What our opponents commonly say is this: a sacrament consists of the word and the outward sign. For we ought to understand the word not as one whispered without meaning and without faith, a mere noise, like a magic incantation, which has the force to consecrate the element. Rather, it should, when preached, make us understand what the visible sign means.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1279. He then explains it is the Word preached which begets faith which is critical, “Far different is the teaching of Augustine concerning the sacramental word: “Let the word be added to the element and it will become a sacrament. For whence comes this great power of water, that in touching the body it should cleanse the heart, unless the word makes it? Not because it is said, but because it is believed. In the word itself the fleeting sound is one thing; the power remaining, another. ‘This is the word of faith which we proclaim,’ says the apostle [Rom. 10:8]. Accordingly, in The Acts of the Apostles: ‘Cleansing their hearts by faith’ [Acts 15:9]. And the apostle Peter: ‘Thus baptism … saves us, not as a removal of filth from the flesh, but as an appeal … for a good conscience …’ [1 Peter 3:21 p.]. ‘This is the word of faith which we proclaim’ [Rom. 10:8], by which doubtless baptism, that it may be able to cleanse, is also consecrated.”You see how the sacrament requires preaching to beget faith.” (Ibid.)

[11] Psalm 104:27–28 (ESV)

                  27               These all look to you,

to give them their food in due season.

                  28               When you give it to them, they gather it up;

when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

[12] Hebrews 13:9 (ESV)  Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.”

[13]Colossians 1:15–17 (ESV) “15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

[14] Hebrews 1:1–3 (ESV) “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

[15] The world was ultimate constructed out of four elements, earth, water, air, fire. The objects we experience were thought to be combinations of these four elements.

[16] This would be something like “just matter” in the sense of plain matter.

[17] A proper combination of the elements can produce something which will be useful for health.

[18] The knowledge of God, proper theology, brings us to a knowledge without which no other thing can do us any good.

[19] Jeremiah 8:22 (ESV)

                  22               Is there no balm in Gilead?

Is there no physician there?

                                    Why then has the health of the daughter of my people

not been restored?

[20] By every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Nothing is any use, not even medicine, if God does not bestow his grace.

[21] 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV) “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.”

[22] Nothing will be successful if the Lord does not bless it. The best army will lose without God’s work. The most diligent work will not succeed without God’s blessing.

[23] At this point, he draws an interesting observation. The Geneva Bible (which he would have used) has the phrase “supply of bread” (ESV) translated as “staff of bread”.  The word “staff” is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Andrews then compares this staff to a tentpole. The context for the passage in Leviticus is the warning of God that if you reject the covenant, God will work against you and will break this “staff of bread.” Since the staff of bread is dependent upon the blessing of God, Andrews draws the two concepts together in his argument.  Such an observation would require serious mediation upon the subject.

[24] A medicine is created by steeping herbs in water. The water alone does not provide benefit, but the herbs diffused into the water.

[25] Luke 12:19 (ESV)  “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’”