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as upon our own? Over one application of this principle we must be permitted to linger for a moment, that we may press it home more closely. There are young persons who are postponing the devotion of themselves to God's service, refusing yet to wear his yoke, though they mean one day to assume it. What is this, young friends, but to keep the best of life for self, and to give its refuse only to him ? Its young, fresh bloom and power you will spend for the world and sin ; its faded, dwindled energies you will award to God. Oh, put the base, ungrateful, impious thought away! We claim your first and best, the rich, ripe, golden first-fruits of your life for him, and your own conscience ratifies and sustains the claim. Has he not given his best to you ? He “spared not his own Son, but gave up
for us all.” And can you put him off with the paltry promise of the reversion of wasted life and powers, whose prime has been spent in resisting him ? He would be reckoned as offering an insult past all pardon who should drain the goblet himself, and hand the mere lees to his companion. And will you dare to present to God a gift which one worldling would scorn to receive at the hand of his fellow ! Beware lest the pitiful offering be spurned, and the impious offerer with it! No! give your best to him, for your best is all too poor to repay the love which freely gave its dearest and best for you.
3. Our ALL for God. How might we suppose two Israelites, the one only an outward observer of the commandment, the other a spiritual worshipper, to regard this injunction to offer the first-fruits to God ? How would each feel when the injunction had been obeyed? The former would think, “ There! now God has had his portion, his due, the rest is for myself. I may enjoy it freely, having satisfied this claim." The other would say in his heart, "Lord, I offer these first-fruits unto thee as an acknowledgment that all I have and am is thine; as a pledge of my desire to devote all to thy service and glory.” And surely there can be no doubt which of the two would understand the commandment most as God meant it. You know that when a man allows to his neighbour some use of his property-say a right of way across his field-he claims some payment as an acknowledgment that that field is really his and not the other man's, and that the right is held and exercised subject to his will. The payment may be very small, but it suffices to establish his ownership. Something like this, we think, is the principle on which God claimed these first-fruits for himself. It was the assertion of his proprietorship over the whole of that of which the first-fruits were a part. This portion was to be set apart for him, not as a substitute, but as a specimen of the rest; as a confession that all was given by him and belonged to him. Here, once more, we bave a principle susceptible of manifold practical application, and one, like those we have already enunciated, too much neglected by us in our daily religious life.
Take our Sundays for example. How do we regard these ? As specimens of what our whole life, in its object and spirit, ought to be ? or as substitutes for piety in common life, as days when we pay off our debt to God for another week, days which stand as proxies for all other days? We put the contrast strongly that we may more clearly indicate the tendency against which we desire to warn. It is well, it is needful, to have special seasons secluded and set apart for worship and holy exercises. Our Sundays are indispensable breakwaters against the ever encroaching tide of worldliness. The greedy world would swallow up all our time, the heartless world would harden all our feelings, if we did not thus fence off a portion of life from its intrusion. But we should do this, not that the world may be left in undisputed possession of the rest of our life, but rather in assertion of God's claim upon it all. We should hallow the Sunday, not that our other days may be more worldly, but less. The Sabbath should be a breathing time for recruiting the energies and motives of the spiritual life; a bath, if we may so speak, to cleanse our soul from the dust of earth ; a leverage by which we may lift all our life nearer to God. Formality regards the Sabbath
as a kind of penance or price paid to God for the right to devote other days to self; itine
“ Baoks its rigid Sabbath, 80 to speak,
Against the wicked remnant of the week." True piety accounts it rather as a standard to show wbat ought to be the essential character and tendency of all the life. Sunday is “the Lord's day,” as the pledge and confession that all our days are his.
The same thoughts are applicable to our daily seasons and acts of devotion. It is necessary to the health of the Christian's soul that these be regularly maintained. But it behoves us to beware lest, when we come forth from our closet, we leave our prayerfulness behind us there ; lest the remainder of the day be less prayerful because we deem that we have done our praying at the outset. Stated acts of prayer are meant, not to excuse us from, but to help us in, the duty of praying without ceasing."
All, ALL for God! All life, all thought, all work, all walking, in obedience to his will and with supreme reference to his glory, this is the claim which this law asserts. Our all is his by ancient, original, inalienable right. But he has added to this the further right of purchase. Ye are not your own, but bought with a price.” May we venture to enforce our lesson by a very homely illustration? The seller of corn meets the buyer in the market, with a sample in his hand, and asks and receives his price. But what if, when the transaction is complete, the seller sends home to the purchaser only the sample? Will not the reply be: “I paid for all, and I must have all ”p And so it will be of no avail to put forward at the judgment-seat the dishonest plea of punctual prayers and sanctimonious Sabbaths against the charge of having “robbed God” of the service of our daily life. He has paid for all with the precious blood of his own Son, and these are of worth only as samples of what that all should be.
But these lines may meet the eye of some who know in their hearts that they are giving none of their life to God, are squandering all on self and the world. We beseech such to "consider their ways.' Think who gave and who sustains your
and shall He have no thanks, no service in return? Think, yet more earnestly, what he has done to attest his love, to win your affectionate and obedient trust; and shall your hearts render no response to this ? Remember, too, that your life is his, and that however you may refuse to recognise the claim, you cannot annul it. That claim will be made good either by your willing obedience to his love, or your enforced submission to his justice. A life spent for self means an eternity far from God, means everlasting disappointment and despair.
But there is hope yet. Poor prodigals as you are, exiles from home, spend. thrifts of life's treasure, do you feel the pinching hunger of the land of banishment? Weary of the world's empty husks, do you yearn after the peace and plenty of your Father's house * Ărise and go to your Father.” In his holy name we assure you of acceptance. Read the story of the prodigal once more; you will find your case so described that none need mistake or think his condition too abject for recovery ; you will find such a welcome pledged as forbids the guiltiest to despair. Bring what of life is left; it is a pitiful offering indeed, one that man would refuse; but fear not that he will spurn it. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”
“Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
OFFENCE IN CHRIST.
REV. W. BEST, B.A. “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."'-Like vii. 23. To be offended in Christ! The expres- find occasion of offence in the lowliness of sion conveys with it a shock of profound his birth and condition, the apparent pain; and at those seasons when we are change is one to challenge our suspicion favoured by specially vivid perceptions of and scrutiny. the Saviour's grace, and when we recog.
Nothing is more common than that pronise the unbounded indebtedness of our fessed followers of the Saviour should be race to him, and when the solace of his dazzled by the glare of wealth and position; presence is imparting itself to our spirits, and this can never take place without We can hardly believe that even the worst a confusing and a falsifying of their moral of men can fall into such a condition of
estimates, and this again inevitably stamps sin. No! we might be tempted to say, their lives with a character of vacillation they may choose sin rather than holiness, and unfairness. The heart that, after and put aside the hand that would renovate Christian training, can yield itself to any their nature ; but surely they cannot but principle because it is in high favour and retain & secret admiration of Christ ; they surrounded by fascinations of power and must be impressed by his magnanimity and pomp, or that can desert any society or love; in him they do not, they cannot find principle through the influence of public the material of offence. And the rejectors disfavour and the lack of secondary advanof the grace of God may arrive from a tages, is one that has already yielded to the different starting-point to the same con- sia of those who found offence in Christ clusion. The persuasion that though for because he was lowly and poor. a period they may decline the blessings and But our Saviour is the Son of God. In privileges of religion, they do not foster the his most depressed human condition he was feelings of enmity against the Lord, is still, as ever, the Son of God. To the doubtless a prevalent one, and is largely humble followers whom he was training for employed to drug the conscience into apostleship the dignity of their Master was fatal repose. And therefore there is a su- known. They learned it by express revepreme necessity for an explicit declaration lation. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of of the truth upon the point, and that we the living God," was the confession of should bring ourselves to see clearly that Peter; and when he made it, “ Blessed art to reject the blessings which Christ has thou, Simon Barjona," was the Lord's died to bestow, involves a personal and response ; " for flesh and blood hath not contumelious rejection of the Saviour, and revealed it unto thee, but my Father which that to take offence at any part of his is in heaven.” What was taught in the teaching, and system, and operations, is to way of spiritual intuition to the disciples that extent to be offended in Christ.
was announced publicly. Our Lord proI How fearful then it is to notice, in the claimed himself the Son of God.
He first place, that the person of the Saviour declared that he and the Father were one. has been from the first, and continues to His words were plain and his meaning be, a source of offence to men.
understood. The Jews stoned him, as they His person united in itself the lowliest and said, for blasphemy, “because that thou, the loftiest, and in both respects it has been being a man, makest thyself God." Upon the occasion of bitter and relentless hate. this charge they demanded his crucifixion.
That a claim so comprehensive and They said to Pilate,“ We have a law, and grand as that of being the Saviour of the by our law he ought to die, because he world, should be put forth by one who was made himself the Son of God." He in the form of a servant, who was without claimed to be Divine in the strictest sense, comeliness, and in whom there was no one with the Father. So the Jews underbeauty that he should be desired, served stood him, and upon this understanding to awaken for the most part the derision they procured his death, and in vindication and hostility of society. And if in our of his claim so understood he died. His wan day the circumstance that he was a crucifixion, among other things, is his own carpenter's son seems to augment the attestation that he was the Son of God and glory of his name, and if none appear to one with the Father.
It is equally an attestation that in the moet with universal acceptance. But claim there is the material of offence. Many | though it embodies these recognised facts things excited the enmity of the Jew: this and principles, the form in which it roused him to a frenzy of hate.
is presented to man is humiliating and The servant form was the mode of repulsive. The sacrifice accomplished is the manifestation of God in the flesh. the sacrifice of Jesus himself. Human Jesus was the son of Mary and the offerings are utterly rejected. Sinners have Son of God. Blessed is he whosoever is brought the fruits of the earth, the beasts not offended in him; who finds human of the field, their captured enemies, their solace and sympathy in the man Christ own offspring, and offered them as oblaJesus; who rests his soul with its eternal tions : they have not refused themselves to interests upon the Divine Redeemer. become sacrificial victims. Nothing has
II. Our Saviour's public life was a scene been too costly if only they might bring it of strenuous and unceasing toil, of toil as their own. Such offerings do but concentrated upon the accomplishment of augment the sin they seek to expiate. The a distinct purpose; and in this he suffered one Divine sacrifice reveals at once the no failure through the malice of his foes. riches of God and the unspeakable poverty He finished the work that was given him
of man. Salvation is bestowed through to do. He made an atonement for sin. He the sacrifice of Christ. It is God's gift. brought salvation to men. Now that in Nothing that we possess can merit, nothing the work of the Saviour there is something purchase, nothing procure it. It is dis
, that gives offence, is too evident. From the pensed by the King freely, lovingly, and beginning “ Christ crucified was to the without respect to moral condition in the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks past, to all who now are willing so to foolishness." The Jews and the Greeks of receive it at his hand. that age have been reproduced in every The sanctity that accompanies salvation succeeding generation. The offence of the does not consist in the simple abandonment cross has never ceased.
of sinful habits and practices. It consists And in what way are we to explain the in a renewal of the heart and nature by a fact? Whence arises the offence? To the Divine operation. general principles involved in the offer of Thus the salvation of a soul is from its mercy through Christ, there is little resist- beginning to its consummation & Divine
work. It is wrought for man; it is wrought God is merciful. This is the ultimate in man; and though he is not passive in the basis upon which salvation rests; and there hands of God, his whole activity, is none that will dispute the statement, respects salvation, is the result of new and though many fatally pervert it.
supernatural power, of power Divinely Man is a sinner. Theories of sin are con- communicated. In these things troverted, but who will deny his own sinful- found the stumbling-block and the foolishness? It is in all cases conceded; and some ness. Our state is one of abject corruption even seem to imagine a kind of virtue in the aud of spiritual helplessness.
This we shameless confession of habitual vice. must realize, and in the bitterness of such
Salvation must be through sacrifice. It is knowledge sue for grace, and under a the avowed creed of humanity. Sacrifice is system built up and perfected apart from necessary to religion. It may be excluded our counsel and co-operation receive our from schemes of philosophy and from some pardon as a gift of infinite and uupurchakforms of perverted Christianity, but these able value. exceptional cases weigh little against the III. There is much also in the modes in voice of all ages.
which the work of Christ is rendered Salvation must be accompanied by a effectual among men that excites their renunciation of sin. There is no principle enmity and aversion. For the religion that more firmly ingrained into the convictions he has given to the world does not consist of men.
Let one avow himself to be merely of forms, nor of a system of truths, Christian, and he and his religion are but of both, with the addition of a Divine honoured by his actions being submitted to power, that turns the one into the sustea higher standard than would have been nance of the renewed heart, and the other previously employed.
into the mediums of communication between We might suppose, from a review God and his children. like this, that the work of Christ, the 1. And this porrer is in itself an offence. salvation offered through him, would A decorous form of religion is the require
80 far as
are to be
ment of many, their sole requirement. Let with God and he reserves to himself the doctrine and life never intrude to perturb authority by which it is directed. and arouse. Let them have religion as an Children at the sea-side dig their tiny opiate, and not as a quickening energy. Let trenches for the tidal wave; but when it the service of prayer be duly performed, and comes in its amplitude and sweep, how it lessons duly read, and a brief homily duly rolls over the little channels, silting them recited, and what more is needed? Here up, and spreading its waters far and wide is an orderly, quiet, respectable, and most
on every hand. tranquillizing religion. And how offensive 4. The power of the Gospel works withto such as rest in it are the word that out gard to the distinctions upon which comes with power, the alarm, the awaken- the world places so high a value. When ing, the prayer in earnest, the converting John the Baptist sent the question to our efficacy, the grace that transforms. We Lord, Art thou he that should come?" read of the prayer-machine of Thibet, one fact to which he referred as accrediting turned by crank and wheel, and we are his mission and Messiahship was, that filled with sorrow and shame. Religion at "the poor had the Gospel preached to home is made as irrational and as mechan- them.” Contrast with this the exclamaical by those who find offence in Christ as tion wrung from the sad heart of Jesus by the power of God unto salvation.
the conduct of the “certain ruler," who 2. Power and change are correlatives. had “great possessions : “ How bardly Where the efficacy of the Gospel is found, shall they that hare riches enter the kingchange, many changes ensue; in indi. dom of God.” Add to this that during vidual men first- in masses -in institu- the Saviour's ministry “all the publicans tions. All the forms of society are altering. and sinners drew near to him for to hear The stone cut out without hands became a him ;” and bear in mind his stern rebuke great mountain and filled the whole earth : of the respectable religionists of the day : everything was crushed to make way for it. "The publicans and harlots go into the There is material of deep offence here. kingdom of God before you.” The work Error and evil are sanctified in men's eyes of Christ was, and is, with sioners as by time. All things become venerable by sinners; and in whatever social and moral years. How easily may we fall into sin by degradation they lie, it matters not, bis clutching some medieval error, and seeking mercy will receive them : he came to to uphold it in its integrity and influence seek and to save the lost. The Church against the silent and majestic power that is not a coterie of blameless and cultiis transforming all things. But let us dis
vated men. It is the centre and gathertinguish between change Divinely wrought, ing-place of all who seek refuge in Jesus. and revolution. The latter overturns; the Let them come from wbat haunts of shame former builds up and renews.
The one and degradation they may, for each as destroys; the other creates anew. Under he comes there must be the hand of wel. the processes of religion the bud, the come and the word of love. fiower, and the fruit follow in ordered and cause of offence lies here; for intense at times beautiful sequence; and though each seems is the aversion of the cultured for the to pass away, there is nothing lost. In
coarse, of the rich for the poor, of the the higher growth the lower is absorbed. moral for those who have known the depths
3. The power of the Gospel refuses to of profligacy: operate within the conditions that man If, then, in the person of Christ, in his may prescribe. It overleaps his systems. work for men, and in the modes he emIt disregards his canons and regulations. ploys in disseminating the blessings of his And what can be more offensive to those Gospel, there is so much that is likely to swho have employed the subtlety and force give us offence, we need to maintain an of a trained logic in the forging of eccle- eager and a prayerful watch over ourselves. siastical systems, than to discover the vanity Conformity to Christ must be our aim. It of their labours ? “ The wind bloweth is realized only by those who are humble where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound and reverent, and willing to be taught. To thereof, but capst not tell whence it cometh be like Christ, to find in him all excellency and whither it goeth : so is every one that and perfection, is the highest form of life. is born of the Spirit.” The hand of synod, It secures even now an unspeakable satiscouncil, or pope cannot lay hold upon a faction. It inspires the sweetest expectapower like this, cannot compel it into sub- tions. “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not jection. It works-its law of working is be offended in me.”