And do not neglect to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
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.
But to do good, and to communicate, forget not.I. WHAT THE EXPRESSIONS TO "DO GOOD "AND TO" COMMUNICATE" DENOTE.
1. To "do good" is to do whatever may tend to promote the good and happiness of our neighbour; to prevent any peril or misfortune he may be exposed to, or to deliver him out of any circumstances of adversity which he may be in. The goods or evils we are capable of in this world either respect our spiritual or our temporal state. If he requires our advice we ought to give it in the best manner we can; if our assistances we ought to discover a readiness to gratify him in any reasonable request.
2. To communicate, or distribute, is to set apart some proportion of those good things the providence of God has blessed us with to the benefit and relief of others.
II. WHY DOING GOOD AND COMMUNICATING ARE SACRIFICES ACCEPTABLE AND WELL-PLEASING TO GOD.
1. By beneficence and charitable actions we imitate God in one of the glorious and moral perfections of His nature. That perfection which He seems Himself to exalt above all His other attributes, and without which they would render Him rather an object of terror than love to us.
2. Hereby we do honour to the providence of God. For probably this, among other reasons, may be one why God has put so great a number of men under circumstances of want, that those who are in a better capacity may have constant occasions of exerting themselves in all the good offices of humanity and love, which are the brightest ornaments of human nature; and that others, seeing these their good works, may be more effectually excited to glorify God.
3. By acts of beneficence we discover the power which religion has over us, and the sincerity of our love to God. This is the most sensible argument that we can give to ourselves or others, that our hearts are right with God, and that religion has in truth some power over us. But in truth, though acts of charity may in many respects interfere with the maxims of self-love, and seem to cross the designs of avarice and worldly-mindedness; yet it will appear under my next and last particular.
4. That they are agreeable to one of the prime and essential inclinations of human nature. God has implanted in our very frame a compassionate sense of the sufferings of other people, which disposes us to contribute to their relief; so that when we see any of our fellow creatures in circumstances of distress we are naturally, I had almost said, mechanically, inclined to be helpful to them. One reason why God has given us these natural sentiments of compassion may be that man, of all other beings upon earth, stands in the greatest need of the help of his fellow creatures; for whereas Nature, when she brings other creatures in the world, puts them in a readier way of making some provision for themselves. Man is born more exposed, and even in his full strength he would at the best but pass his time very ill were it not for the many comforts and conveniences which he reaps from society. As God has made man a sociable creature, it was a very wise design of His providence to train him up in such a manner for society as might give him the strongest impressions of all the duties of humanity and respect, which he owes to it, anal wherein the peace and happiness of it principally consist.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
Christian World Pulpit.There is no good for man but to do good. To do good is in accordance with our highest reason, and commands universal approval; for, whatever may be the practice of the selfish and the churlish, even they are constrained, though in stinted phrase, to commend the generous. Whether we appeal to our personal consciousness, or the general judgment of mankind, the man who lives for others, and labours, even at a sacrifice, to assist and elevate them, receives the homage of the common heart. A parent, self-indulgent, neglectful, or failing to provide for the wants of those dependent upon him, or seeking to render the lives of his children subservient to his indolence or personal indulgence, is an object of contempt and reprobation. A prince who should squander the revenues of his kingdom on plans of personal aggrandisement, or schemes of wild ambition, is universally condemned, and men rise up in rebellion against him. h scholar who merely acquires knowledge for the delight it affords him, without seeking to apply it to the common good, is regarded with indifference or pity; even an angel would be neither the object of approval nor envy, who only lived to breathe in celestial joys, and was ready neither to wait nor to serve. God Himself is adored as the good, because He is the Giver of every good; nor can we conceive of Him as either indifferent to the happiness of His creatures, or regardless of their fate, without feeling that He would cease to command our reverence or cull forth our love, and would be like the fancied gods of the heathen, whose only vocation is to quaff their bowls of nectar and feast on ambrosia. The honoured dead, whose memories are cherished, and whose names are treasured as heirlooms of the race, are not those who, immured in palaces, have spent their lives in extravagant pleasures, but those who have endured hardship, and sacrificed ease, and even life, in conferring great boons on their generation. Not the rulers of the race, but its benefactors, are revered; not the high potentates, but the wise statesmen; not the ambitious warrior, but the devoted patriot, are held in loving remembrance; not he who has waded through the blood of others to the throne of a kingdom, but he who has shed his own blood to obtain or defend the liberties of a nation, will find a perennial monument in the grateful heart of posterity. To do good is not only in accordance with our highest reason, and the prompting of our best instincts, but it is the very genius of our common Christianity. If we are brought near to God by a true faith, we must become like Him in the exercise of a pure love. And how shall we do good? We live in a time of great opportunities and manifold facilities, of multiplied means of usefulness. Our capability is our only limit. But we should specially seek to do good by faithfully discharging all the duties of our vocation and sphere, by cheerfully responding to all the obligations which arise out of our relations to the home, the church, and the world; by honest work, true words, and daring deeds; and by using our influence directly and indirectly for the furtherance of any good work. We should do good by heartily sustaining, extending, and transmitting the gospel, and all its ordinances; in the erection of churches, the planting of missions, and the establishment of schools; by relieving the distressed, succouring the needy, and comforting the sorrow-stricken, both personally and through the agency of others, in connection with charitable societies and humane institutions; and by daily deeds of love and frequent gifts of affection and gratitude. To do good is the dictate of humanity, the demand of duty, the claim of justice, and the plea of interest; and each loving, feeling heart may readily find its appropriate work.
(Christian World Pulpit.)
(J. Baldwin Brown.)
(J. Hamilton, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(H. O. Mackey.)
(H. G. Salter.)
With such sacrifices God is well pleased.the surface of their spiritual being. Deeper natures, tortured by the scourge of conscience, seeing how useless it must be to give to God that which costs them nothing, feel impelled, since they will not give Him the pure life and the loving heart, to give Him something else of a costly kind. It is this feeling which led to the awful horror of human sacrifices. But all this externality of affliction, of suffering, is vain. God is no Moloch; He delights in innocent happiness, and not in self-chosen suffering. Bodily suffering has ever proved itself vain to expel spiritual sin, and God would fain deliver us from sin, which cannot be done by vain attempts to anticipate the penalty. With such sacrifices God is not well pleased. We can in the fullest sense offer no sacrifice to God that will save us. It cost more to redeem our souls, so that we must let that alone for ever. That has been done for us. But in a lower sense the word sacrifice is applied in this verse to that which we can offer to God. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." "But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." The type of all such passages is that magnificent question and answer in the prophet Micah (Micah 6:6-8). Do not let any of us pretend that we do not know what God requires of us. To communicate: What does it mean? It means unselfishness as regards what we possess, not to keep to ourselves what we have, to use our gifts in whatever way seems best for the good of the world, to remember that we are the stewards of what God gives us, and not the owners; to be cheerful givers; to learn the exquisite happiness of living for the good of all others, to have the heart at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathise: with such sacrifices God is well pleased. And to do good: it is not only to give; indeed, the indiscriminate, careless charity which gives to silence greedy demands or satisfy a conventional conscience; the reckless, foolish giving which only fosters the plague-spots of pauperism and imposture is worse than useless, it is a curse. Almsgiving, to be any use at all, must be thoughtful and discriminating. To do good: there you have the summary of a true life. We are on earth to give, and not to receive. We are not our own. Am I in this life of mine doing any real, unselfish good? Millions do positive harm. Like barren trees, they not only bring forth no fruit, but curse the ground with the blight of their bitter foliage and their unprofitable shadow. Millions, if they do no direct or positive harm, yet do absolutely no good. They sleep and feed and go through some sort of mechanical routine in their profession for themselves — no more. Their life is no true life; they die, but they have never lived. But among the millions who do deep harm, and the millions who do no real good, how many are there who can really be counted among the lovers of their fellow-men? These do see how often from efforts apparently infinitesimal and insignificant, lonely, inefficient, and as it seemed obscure, vast blessings come, and even when good men see no great positive result of their self-denial they feel within them the peace of a calm conscience and a blessed sense that their humble endeavours are accepted of their God.
(Archdeacon Farrar.)1. He is so, first, because He is pleased with the spirit of faith. Such charity arises out of that faith which the apostle describes as "the evidence of things not seen"; for you observe that when our Lord counsels His disciples not to lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven, He makes an appeal to their faith. When He says — "If thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, for they cannot recompense thee, for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just," He requires us to believe that we shall appear before the judgment-seat of God, to receive according to the things done in the body. When, then, in expectation of these things — these things not seen but believed, not possessed but hoped for — we expend what we do possess and see; when we resign the means of present gratification; when we part with what might please the natural inclination — satisfy "the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life" — we give a proof of faith of the same sort as that of Abraham, when at the call of God he gave up what is dear to every man — his country, and his kindred.
2. God approves the man who distributes and does good, because He sees in him a spirit of obedience. It is part of the arrangement by which the world is governed, that there should be a connection between the several classes of mankind — such mutual dependence as of servants on their employers, of children on their parents, of a people on their spiritual pastor, of the poor on those who are better endowed; and it is only while the links of the chain, constructed by God Himself, are sound and uninterrupted, that the balance of the whole is preserved, and the machine proceeds in conformity with its Maker's design. "The end of the commandment is charity." This is the purpose of God's revelation of Himself by His beloved Son — that when, through unfeigned faith in the atonement made for sin, the conscience is set at ease, and the heart sincerely converted to God, the result should be charity — love of man towards his fellow-men, springing from the love of God towards himself, and nourished by a constant sense of His mercy. When, therefore His Spirit has established this principle in this heart, then and not before the gospel has dominion there.
(Abp. Sumner.)The sacrifice of Christian beneficence: — We are not to offer on the altar of Christian charity the halt, blind, lame, the mere offal of our comforts which we deem below our notice; nor are we content with yielding up the surplus of our possessions which we do not want and cannot use. We must be prepared to make "sacrifices" Did the Son of God exhibit a species of compassion which cost Him nothing? Did He, without effort and humiliation merely give us, if I may so speak, the surplus of His riches, the redundance of His glory? Altogether the opposite: "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through His poverty, might become rich."
(J. A. James.)
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