Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess His name.
I. THE NATURE OF THE SACRIFICES WHICH ARE REQUIRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. Praise to God. "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his Name." The sacrifices which are obligatory upon us are not expiatory or atoning, but eucharistic. The great atoning sacrifice in all its perfection has been offered. To it nothing can be added. But we should confess the Name of God, and gratefully acknowledge his great goodness to us, and celebrate his infinite perfections. Two things show our obligation to offer this sacrifice.
(1) The number and preciousness of the blessings we receive from him. "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?... I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." "Bless the Lord, O my soul," etc. (Psalm 103:1-5).
(2) The perfection and glory of his own being and character. We ought to bless God because of what he is in himself. "For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?" etc. (Psalm 89:6, 7). "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," etc. (Isaiah 6:3).
2. Beneficence to man. "But to do good and to communicate forget not." God requires not only "the fruit of our lips," but the fruit of our lives. Our gratitude to him is to be expressed in kindness to our fellow-men. "Thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better." Dr. South has well said, "The measures that God marks out to thy charity are these: thy superfluities must give place to thy neighbor's great convenience; thy convenience must yield to thy neighbor's necessity; and thy very necessities must yield to thy neighbor's extremity."
II. THE MEDIUM THROUGH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED. "By him let us offer," etc. More correctly, "through him let us offer." Our sacrifices should be offered through the mediation of Jesus Christ. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me," or, "through me." "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." We offer our sacrifices through him because:
1. He represents God to us as accessible and attractive. "No man knoweth the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him." "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the besom of the Father, he hath declared him." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "The Father himself loveth you." Through this revelation we are encouraged to draw near to God with our thanksgiving and praise.
2. He represents us to God in his own humanity. "When he had made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." "Christ entered into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us." He is there still, bearing even in his glorified body the marks of the wounds which he endured for us. "A Lamb standing, as though it had been slain."
III. THE TIME WHEN THESE SACRIFICES SHOULD BE OFFERED.
1. The sacrifice of praise to God should be offered "continually. Daily praise should ascend from each of us to God, as the perfume of the daily sacrifice ascended in olden times; there must not be fewer sacrifices under the new dispensation than there were under the old; we are priests to offer up unto God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving." Praise should be not an occasional exercise, but an abiding disposition of the soul. We should cultivate a thankful, praiseful, adoring spirit. "In everything give thanks."
"Not thankful when it pleaseth me;
2. The sacrifices of beneficence to men should be offered according to our opportunities. "As we have opportunity, let us work that which is good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Let us not neglect any opportunity of kindness and beneficence; for all our opportunities may soon be ended, and that forever.
IV. THE FAVOUR WITH WHICH THESE SACRIFICES ARE REGARDED BY GOD. "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." He not only accepts them, but he is gratified by them. He is "well pleased" with them, because they are expressions of that spirit in which he delights. He is infinitely beneficent. He is "good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." "He is kind unto the unthankful, and to the evil." He loves to find the same disposition in his creatures. Moreover, our Lord regards our acts of beneficence as done to him (cf. Matthew 25:40). And not even the least of them escapes his notice, or will fail of its reward (cf. Matthew 10:42; Hebrews 6:10). - W.J.
Offer the sacrifice of praise.
I. First, then, concerning a believer, let me DESCRIBE HIS SACRIFICE. "By Him therefore."
1. See, at the very threshold of all offering of sacrifice to God, we begin with Christ. We cannot go a step without Jesus. Without a Mediator we can make no advance to God. He is that altar which sanctifies both gift and giver; by Him, therefore, let our sacrifices both of praise and of almsgiving be presented unto God.
2. Next, observe that this sacrifice is to be presented continually. Not only in this place or that place, but in every place, we are to praise the Lord our God. Not only when we are in a happy frame of mind, but when we are cast down and troubled. The perfumed smoke from the altar of incense is to rise towards heaven both day and night, from the beginning of the year to the year's end.
3. The apostle goes on to tell us what the sacrifice is — the sacrifice of praise. Praise, that is, heart-worship, or adoration. Adoration is the grandest form of earthly service. We ascribe unto Jehovah, the one living and true God, all honour and glory. Praise is heart-trust and heart-content with God. Trust is adoration applied to practical purposes. Praise is heart-enjoyment; the indulgence of gratitude and wonder. The Lord has done so much for me that I must praise Him, or feel as if I had a fire shut up within me.
4. The text evidently deals with spoken praise — "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name"; or, as the Revised Version has it, "the fruit of lips which make confession to His name." So, then, we are to utter the praises of God, and it is not sufficient to feel adoring emotions. "Well," saith one, "I cannot force myself to praise," I do not want you to force yourself to it: this praise is to be natural. It is called the fruit of the lips. Fruit is a natural product: it grows without force, the free outcome of the plant. So let praise grow out of your lips at its own sweet will. Let it be as natural to you, as regenerated men, to praise God as it seems to be natural to profane men to blaspheme the sacred name. This praise is to be sincere and real. The next verse tells us we are to do good and communicate, and joins this with praise to God. Many will give God a cataract of words, but scarce a drop of true gratitude in the form of substance consecrated. This practical praising of the Lord is the life-office of every true believer. See ye to it.
II. We will, secondly, EXAMINE THE SUBSTANCE OF THIS SACRIFICE. "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually."
1. To praise God continually will need a childlike faith in Him. You must believe His word, or you will not praise His name. Doubt snaps the harp-strings. Question mars all melody. Unbelief is the deadly enemy of praise.
2. Faith must lead you into personal communion with the Lord. It is to Him that the praise is offered, and not to our fellow-men.
3. You must have also an overflowing content, a real joy in Him. Be sure that you do not lose your joy Rejoice in the Lord, that you may praise Him.
4. There must also be a holy earnestness about this. Praise is called a sacrifice because it is a very sacred thing. When life is real, life is earnest: and it must be both real and earnest when it is spent to the praise of the great and ever-blessed God.
5. To praise God continually, you need to cultivate perpetual gratitude, and surely it cannot be hard to do that! Remember, every misery averted is a mercy bestowed; every sin forgiven is a favour granted; every duty performed is also a grace received. Let the stream leap up to heaven in bursts of enthusiasm; let it fall to earth again in showers of beneficence; let it fill the basin of your daily life, and run over into the lives of others, and thence again in a cataract of glittering joy let it still descend.
6. In order to this praise you will need a deep and ardent admiration of the Lord God. Admire the Father — think much of His love; acquaint yourself with His perfections. Admire the Son of God, the altogether lovely One; and as you mark His gentleness, self-denial, love, and grace, suffer your heart to be wholly enamoured of Him. Admire the patience and condescension of the Holy Ghost, that He should visit you, and dwell in you, and bear with you.
III. I want, in the third place, to COMMEND THIS BLESSED EXERCISE.
1. "Offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually," because in so doing you will answer the end of your being. Every creature is happiest when it is doing what it is made for. Christians are made to glorify God; and we are never in our element till we are praising Him. Do not degrade yourself by a less Divine employ.
2. Praise God again, because it is His due. Should Jehovah be left unpraised? Praise is the quit-rent which He asks of us for the enjoyment of all things; shall we be slow to pay?
3. Praise Him continually, for it will help you in everything else. A man full of praise is ready for all other holy exercises. The praises of God put wings upon pilgrims' heels, so that they not only run, but fly.
4. This will preserve us from many evils. When the heart is full of the praise of God, it has not time to find fault and grow proudly angry with its fellows. We cannot fear while we can praise. Neither can we be bribed by the world's favour, nor cowed by its frown. Praise makes men, yea, angels of us: let us abound in it.
5. Let us praise God because it will be a means of usefulness. I believe that a life spent in God's praise would in itself be a missionary life. A praiseful heart is eloquent for God.
6. Praise God, because this is what God loves. Notice how the next verse puts it: "With such sacrifices God is well pleased."
7. To close this commendation, remember that this will fit you for heaven. You can begin the music here — begin the hallelujahs of glory by praising God here below.
IV. LET US COMMENCE AT ONCE. What does the text say? It says, "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually." The apostle does not say, "By and by get to this work, when you are able to give up business, and have retired to the country, or when you are near to die"; but now, at once, he says, "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise." Let us stir one another up to praise. Let us spend to-day, and to-morrow, and all the rest of our days in praising God. If we catch one another a little grumbling, or coldly silent, let us, in kindness to each other, give the needful rebuke. It will not do; we must praise the Lord. Just as the leader of an orchestra taps his baton to call all to attention, and then to begin singing, so I bestir you to offer the sacrifice of praise unto the Lord. The apostle has put us rather in a fix: he compels us to offer sacrifice. Did you notice what he said in the tenth verse? He says, "We have an altar." Can we imagine that this altar is given us of the Lord to be never used? Is no sacrifice to be presented on the best of altars? If we have an altar, do not allow it to be neglected, deserted, unused. It is not for spiders to spin their webs upon; it is not meet that it should be smothered with the dust of neglect. "We have an altar." What then? "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually." Do you not see the force of the argument? Practically obey it. Beside the altar we have a High Priest. Shall He stand there, and have nothing to do? What would you think of our great High Priest waiting at the altar, with nothing to present which His redeemed had brought to God? No, "by Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually." Bring hither abundantly, ye people of God, your praises, your prayers, your thank-offerings, and present them to the Ever-blessed!
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. And the first prejudice which we may mention against applying the term sacrifice to our own acts of worship is the erroneous persuasion that blood was always shed in the sacrifices of old. But this is altogether a mistake, and betrays an ignorance of the Scriptures, as well as of the writings of heathen antiquity; for nothing is more certain than that the sacrifices both of Jews and Gentiles consisted, many of them, of the oblation not of slain animals, but of flour, cakes, wine, fruits, and other vegetable substances.
2. Having, then, shown that there were other sacrifices among the Jews than those of slain animals, I will notice a second objection that might be ignorantly urged against the term "sacrifice" being applied to Christian oblation, viz., that the sacrifices of old were always burnt upon the altar, whereas all burnt-offerings have ceased among Christians. But it is not true that all the Jewish sacrifices were burnt; for it is certain that the wave-loaves were not thus offered with fire: and again, it was distinctly enjoined that the scape-goat was to be presented alive before the Lord to make an atonement.
3. But perhaps a still more serious objection to our use of the word " sacrifice" is the fear entertained by many well-meaning persons lest this term should suggest the idea that our religious performances are intrinsically meritorious and propitiatory, and so detract from the all-sufficient merits of the great sacrifice which was once offered for the sins of the whole world. But this apprehension is also founded upon the mistaken notion that the sacrifices before the coming of Christ were really propitiatory; whereas, in truth, they had no real virtue apart from the merits of that prevailing sacrifice which they prefigured. Not one of the Jewish ceremonies and sacrificial rites could, in the least, avail to cleanse from sin, but as they were accepted by God for the sake of the offering of the body of Christ once for all. It does not, therefore, appear how the application of the term sacrifice to Christian oblations, and particularly to the Holy Eucharist, can encourage the supposition that they are intrinsically meritorious. But while it is freely admitted that none of these ceremonies, either before or after Christ, are in their own nature and by their own virtue meritorious, it may be safely maintained that, if they be done in and "by Him," our " Priest for ever," then they are, through the atonement of the Cross, availing to the quieting of our consciences, the reconciling to God, the imparting of grace, and the forgiveness of sin. And this surely is especially true of that sacrifice of praise which has been ordained by Christ Himself as the perpetual memorial of the sacrifice of His death, and of the benefits which we receive thereby. Observe: St. Paul, writing to the Hebrew converts, who of all people were most familiar with the import of the word " sacrifice," instead of avoiding the use of this term, as if all notion of the solemn offerings of the Mosaic law was to be carefully banished from their christianised minds as irreconcilable with the spirituality of the gospel, selects this very word to convey to them his idea of the character of Christian praise. Now, to the Jewish mind sacrifice was a solemn act surrounded with a ceremonial prescribed by God Himself. There was the trouble and expense of providing the oblation; then it was to be brought to the priest, who alone could present it with prayer to God and make it an acceptable sacrifice. We will conclude the subject with a few practical remarks suggested by the word "continually." The worship of the Church is a sacrifice. But not only this, it is a continual sacrifice. There was the daily, morning, and evening sacrifice among the Jews. There has ever been the same daily services in the Catholic Church of Christ; and our own Anglican branch of it asserts this duty, and claims this privilege. Has our gracious Lord taught the Church to cry continually, "Give us this day our daily bread"; and does this petition suggest individual and domestic wants only, and not those of the people and nation also? Is it lawful for man to pray daily for common blessings, and must it not be a duty and a privilege to unite in prayer, in God's own house of prayer, under the direction of His ministers? But besides this continual sacrifice, I would remind you of those more solemn days of fast and festival, upon which every devoted member of the Church Catholic (or at least some representative of his family) should present himself before the Lord, if he desires to be like, or fears to be very unlike, all Christians of bygone days. These levees of the King of kings will often be held on days inconvenient to the world. But we are not of the world, but subjects of another kingdom. But to realise this blessedness you must come to offer sacrifice. You must come in God's way, and in compliance with the laws of His Church. Do not think too much, or immediately of the benefit, spiritual or temporal, which you hope to receive; but think first and chiefly of rendering to God that homage which is His due. Nor make much of the trouble or inconvenience which such duties may occasion you; rather to the "fruit of your lips," add cheerfully the sacrifice of your time, your bodily strength, your worldly substance.
(C. Wray, M. A.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(J. A. Bengel.)
(J. W. Kirton.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
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