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remaineth for him ; nor will he ever relax his labours, till he has attained it. In this he may be clearly distinguished from all other persons. Others are desirous of finding somewhat of a present portion : but “ he seeks one to come,” and makes it the one great business of his life to secure it.] This subject may be IMPROVED, 1. For our conviction
[If this be practical Christianity, how little have we lived like Christians! We have been ever ready to take up our rest in this world; and for the most part have sought for nothing beyond it. The things of time and sense have had as much effect upon our minds as if they had been of lasting continuance; whilst the things of eternity have been disregarded, as though they had been altogether transient. Were it not that we see this conduct all around us, we should scarcely conceive it possible that rational beings should act so irrational a part. Let us lay it to heart, and humble ourselves before God; and “set our affections henceforth on things above, and not on things below."] 2. For our consolation
[We may, in the course of our pilgrimage, be oppressed with many troubles : but they are all of short continuance: whereas, the happiness which we have in prospect will abide with us for ever. This consideration makes every affliction appear light and momentaryf; more especially when we reflect that “tribulation is the way to the kingdom ;” and that we are, like our blessed Lord himself, to be “made perfect through sufferings.") 3. For our direction
[Bear in mind the emptiness and vanity of earthly things, and learn to sit loose to them; “ letting your moderation be known unto all mens.” In the use of them, be temperate ; and, in the want of them, patient and resignedh. And set before you " the prize of your high calling,” as those did who contended in the Grecian games. Keep it ever in view; and stop not till you have fully attained it. Then shall you have the approbation of your Judge ; and ere long be received into the bosom of your God.]
e Heb. iv. 1, 11.
f 2 Cor. iv, 17, 18. b 1 Cor. vii. 29–31.
Heb. xii. 15, 16. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice
of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good, and to communicate, forget not : for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
THE Jewish yoke was very heavy; and the observance of the Mosaic rites was burthensome in the extreme. From that we are happily delivered. Yet have we an altar upon which we are to attend, and sacrifices which we are bound to offer. Our altar indeed is very different from that of the Jews : as the Apostle has said in the preceding context; “ We have an altar, of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernaclea.” Of their own altar they did partake; the greater part of all the sacrifices being allotted them for their support". But even under that dispensation, an intimation was given them, that, when the great offering, which their sacifices typified, should be presented, they could have no part in it. The offerings which were presented by them for the expiation of sin, were burned without the camp; no part of them being appropriated to the use of the priests. And such is the sacrifice which was offered by our Lord Jesus Christ for the sins of the whole world, when he suffered without the gates of Jerusalem; of which therefore they who continued under that dispensation could not participate. We alone, who renounce all dependence on the works of the law, and found all our hopes on the atonement which Christ has offered, can eat of this altar, and enjoy the benefits which by his meritorious death and passion he has purchased for us. Again, though of other sacrifices the priests might eat, they might on no account eat the blood : that must be poured out
a ver. 10.
Numb. xviii. 12, 13. c Lev. vi. 30. and xvi. 27.
even to the last dropd. But of our sacrifice, we both eat the flesh and drink the blood : and it is only by so doing that we can obtain eternal life. Indeed on that body and blood we are to feed continually: it is the daily feast of our souls: as our Lord has said, “My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeede.” Having been offered by our Lord Jesus Christ himself on the altar of his Deity, (for he is at once the Altar, the Sacrifice, and the Priest,) it is accepted for us : and it is both our duty and our privilege to eat of it. But whilst we thus partake of this altar, we must ourselves offer sacrifices upon it, even “our whole selves, as living sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." To present these is, I. Our duty
Two kinds of sacrifices we are to offer: those, 1. Of praise to God
[Praise is most justly due to Him from all his creatures; but more especially from those who have been favoured with a revelation of his will, and with the ordinances of his grace. The Jews, dark as their dispensation was, were infinitely indebted to God for it. But infinitely greater are our obligations to him for the fuller manifestations of his mercy to us in Christ Jesus, and for that better covenant of which Jesus is the Surety and the Mediator ----“We therefore should offer to our God the sacrifices of praise continually." We should do it, not only at the appointed seasons of morning and evening, which in a lax sense may be called “ continually h," but throughout the whole day: not indeed in the way of a formal service, but in the frame and habit of our minds: This by the prophet is called “the calves of our lips k," and, in our text, “ the fruit of our lips;" because, as calves and first-fruits of the earth were offered in sacrifice under the law, so are praises under the Gospel dispensation. Under both dispensations, the duty of acknowledging our obligations to God, and our dependence on him, is the same: and therefore, as the Jews confessed both the one and the other by their offerings, so are we to do in ours, “ giving thanks to his name?.”.
But it is by Christ only that our offerings can come up with
Rom. xii. 1.
d Deut. xii. 23—25 e John vi. 53–55. & Rom. iii. 2.
h Exod. xxix. 42. i 1 Thess. v. 16–18. k Hos. xiv, 2.
acceptance before God : for, as the Jews were not at liberty to offer sacrifice any where but upon the altar in Jerusalemm, so neither can we present to God any sacrifice but on this altar, the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can sanctify our gifts, and render them in any respect worthy of God's acceptancen. Of this it becomes us to have as distinct a conception as the Jews themselves had ; and never for a moment to approach our God without a deep conviction upon our minds, that in Christ only can either our persons or our services be ever pleasing in the sight of our Godo.] 2. Of beneficence to man
(This also is a duty incumbent on us. God has so ordered in his providence, that there shall always be some who shall stand in need of assistance, and others, who, as his almoners, shall be enabled to dispense the benefits which are requiredP; that by a free exercise of benevolent affections there may be such a measure of equality produced, as may best subserve the interests of the whole. Hence, “ to do good, and to commu. nicate,” is an employment in which we should be daily occupied, each of us according to our ability. The poorest, as well as the richest, should, as far as God has enabled him, find delight in this duty". Nor should we ever be so engaged in exercises of devotion, as to forget that we have duties to our fellowcreatures, which, in their place, are of equal importance with devotion itself. We may find it good to be on Mount Tabor: but we must not protract our stay there, when there is work to be done by us in the plains belows. The duties of the second table must not be overlooked, any more than those of the first: nor can any measure of delight in God ever justify us in neglecting the offices of love to man. Liberality to the poor, especially when offered upon this altar, the Lord Jesus Christ, is as pleasing to God as any other offering whatever. Such was St. Paul's view of the succours which he had received from the Christians at Philippi; which he represents as “ an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, and well-pleasing to Godt.” But this also must be offered only through the Lord Jesus Christ : if presented as in itself good and acceptable, it would be rejected of God with as much abhorrence as the bribe of Simon Magus was by the Apostle Peter". The direction given by God himself, and which must never in any case be forgotten, is this; “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed,
m Deut. xi. 13, 14.
n John xiv. 6. 0 1 Pet. ii. 5.
p Deut. xv. 11. 9 2 Cor. viii. 14, 15, with Exod. xvi. 16-18. r 2 Cor. viji. 2-4, 12.
Matt. xvii. 1-5. t Phil. iv, 18.
u Acts viii. 18—20.
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him ?."]
But that which in one view is our duty, in another view is, II. Our privilege
In this view the injunction in our text is introduced : “ We have an altar, of which the Jews, whilst so continuing, have no right to eat:" “ therefore" let us enjoy our high privileges, and offer our sacrifices continually upon this altar. And truly, to offer these sacrifices is a most inestimable privilege : for,
1. We may all present them in our own personn [This the Jews could not do: they must come to the priest, and put their sacrifices into his hands : and he alone could offer them upon the altar. But we who believe in Christ, are "a kingdom of priests:" amongst us there is “no distinction of male or female, bond or free, but we are all one in Christ Jesus y;" “we are all kings and priests unto our Goda :" “ the vail of the temple was rent in twain;" we all " have access unto God through Christa,”. “ even into the holiest of all, by that new and living way which he hath opened for usb."
Now let us only conceive what were the feelings of the Jews when they saw their high-priest on the day of annual expiation go within the vail into the presence of Jehovah, even to his mercy-seat, on which he dwelt in the Shechinah, the symbol of his more immediate presence: how highly privileged would they consider him! and how happy would they have accounted themselves, if that honour had been vouchsafed to them! But you, beloved, need not envy even the angels themselves : for through Christ you may go, every one of you for himself, “ unto God as your exceeding joy," and may “ lay hold of him," and commune with him, and hear his voice, and taste his love, and receive into your souls the communications of his grace and peace. It was not of himself alone, but of all the godly without exception, that St. John affirmed, “ Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
Learn then, brethren, to appreciate this privilege aright: and let the thought of it encourage you to draw nigh unto your God continually, and to present to him such sacrifices as the occasion may require.]
* Col. iii. 17. a Eph. ii. 18.
y Gal. iii. 28.
z Rev. i. 6. C1 John i. 3.