Hebrews 13:16
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise, etc.

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;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart whose pulse may be
Thy praise."


(George Herbert.)

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.)

The man who fails to fulfil his mission to others, fails to find the end and meaning of his own life; cease to do good and you will soon cease to be good, and will make shipwreck of your personal hope. The Jews were God's witnesses of this. Instead of making all nations love them and seek to walk in the light of their life as a people, they managed to make all nations hate and persecute them — with a hatred, moreover, that deepened with the ages, and at length wrought their utter ruin. You may say that this was the inevitable result of the position of a godly people in the midst of a heathen world. At first it might be so, but not permanently. Christianity has won its way, first to toleration, then to honour — Judaism never did; and yet the peoples around were far from indisposed to receive its impressions. Joseph won his way at once at Memphis, Daniel at Babylon. And Joseph and Daniel had nothing but what Judaism had. They were Jews to the heart's core, and the history of their missionary work stands in everlasting record to shame their countrymen, and to justify the ways of God, when "the wind bound up the self-centred and exclusive people in her wings," and bore them into a far captivity, where, unless they were prepared to renounce their nationality, they must bear witness for God, whether they would or no.

(J. Baldwin Brown.)

When an oak, or any noble and useful tree, is uprooted, his removal creates a blank. For years after, when you look to the place which once knew him, you see that something is missing. The branches of adjacent trees have not yet supplied the void. They still hesitate to supply the place formerly filled by their powerful neighbour; and there is still a deep chasm in the ground — a rugged pit — which shows how far his giant roots once spread. But when a leafless pole, a wooden pin, is plucked up, it comes easy and clean away. There is no rending of the turf, no marring of the landscape, no vacuity created, no regret. It leaves no memento, and is never missed. Which are you? Are you cedars planted in the house of the Lord, casting a cool and grateful shadow on those around you? Are you palm-trees, fat and flourishing, yielding bounteous fruit, and making all who know you bless you? Are you so useful, that were you once away it would not be easy to fill your place again, but people, as they pointed to the void in the plantation, the pit in the ground, would say, "It was here that that old palm-tree diffused his familiar shadow, and showed his mellow clusters"? Or, are you a peg, a pin, a rootless, branchless, fruitless thing, that may be pulled up any day, and no one ever care to ask what has become of it? What are you doing? What are you contributing to the world's happiness, or the Church's glory? What is your business?

(J. Hamilton, D. D.)

The Rev. Spencer Compton, an evangelical minister at Boulogne, relates the following incident: "During a voyage to India, I sat one dark evening in my cabin feeling thoroughly unwell, as the sea was rising fast and I was but a poor sailor. Suddenly the cry of 'Man overboard!' made me spring to my feet. I heard a trampling overhead, but resolved not to go on deck lest I should interfere with the crew in their efforts to save the poor man. 'What can I do?' I asked myself, and instantly unhooking my lamp, I held it near the top of my cabin and close to my bull's-eye window, that its light might shine on the sea, and as near the ship as possible. In half-a-minute's time I heard the joyful cry, 'It's all right, he's safe,' upon which I put my lamp in its place. The next day, however, I was told that my little lamp was the sole means of saving the man's life; it was only by the timely light which shone upon him that the knotted rope could be thrown so as to reach him."

Keep in the way of your place and calling, and take not other men's works upon you, without a call, under any pretence of doing good. Magistrates must do good, in the place and work of magistrates; and ministers, in the place and work of ministers; and private men, in their private place and work; and not one man step into another's place, and take his work out of his hand, and say, "I can do it better"; ford if you should do it better, the disorder will do more harm than you did good by bettering his work. One judge must not step into another's court and seat, and say, "I will pass more righteous judgment." You must not go into another man's school, and say, "I can teach your scholars better"; nor into another's charge or pulpit, and say, "I can preach better." The servant may not rule the master because he can do it best, no more than you may take another man's wife, or house, or lands, or goods, because you can use them better than he. Do the good you are called to do.

(R. Baxter.)

"Exert your talents," said Dr. Samuel Johnson, "and distinguish yourself. Do not think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a man whom pride, or cowardice, or laziness drives into a corner, and who does nothing while there but sit and growl." Activity is the key to a useful Christian life. The key to activity is opening the doors o! our hearts, and letting the river of Christ's love constantly flow through. Our realisation of Christ's love prompts us to love our fellow-man, and strive to lighten his burden. Then, too, the best way to be active in God's service is to embrace every opportunity to do our fellow-man all the good we can, knowing that he that is faithful unto death shall be given a crown of life.

How can this be otherwise, when everything else that is beautiful is only a symbol of a deed? What are beautiful words but more or less imperfect signs for recording and perpetuating the actions which inspired them? No poem, no work of art, is beautiful unless it expresses some phase of action. The calmest landscape represents the play of light and shade, and perpetuates some instantaneous phase of motion; the marble statue represents the body in some form of actions; music is always the soul in motion; the deed gets expressed by symbols; but it is the deed which possesses the intrinsic beauty, and not the symbol. Therefore we should not think that we are incapable of apprehending and rendering the beautiful in life because we cannot write poems, or paint pictures, or carve statues. So long as we are capable of doing good and beautiful deeds, are we capable of rising to that intrinsic beauty of life which the mere art-form does nothing more than express. What if a woman cannot paint a Raphael's Madonna, when she can be herself a Madonna, a holy mother? What though a man cannot write a grand and beautiful poem, so be it he lives a grand and beautiful life? This was the spirit that was in Christ. He was the greatest of all artists because He lived the greatest and most beautiful of lives. What He did was even more beautiful than what He said. And in the essential beauty of the deed we are all capable of being like Him.

A Methodist labourer in Wesley's time, Captain Webb, when any one informed him of the conversion of a rich man, was in the habit of asking, "Is his purse converted?" He agreed with Dr. Adam Clarke, who used to say, he did not believe in the religion that cost a man nothing.

When wheat is growing it holds all its kernels tight in its own ear. But when it is ripe the kernels are scattered every whither, and it is only the straw that is left.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Rohese, the mother of Thomas a Becket, was a very devout woman in her day. It was her custom to weigh her boy every year on his birthday against money, clothes and provisions, which she gave to the poor.

(H. O. Mackey.)

During a discussion in a certain church, on the question of the duty of giving, a brother well known for his generous benefactions, was asked what part of his income he was in the habit of contributing to the Lord's treasury. "I do not know," said the brother; "I do very much as the woman did who was famous for the excellence of her rhubarb pies. She put in as much sugar as her conscience would allow, and then shut her eyes and put in a handful more. I give all my conscience approves, and then add a handful without counting it." We commend this plan to those who believe that "he that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully," and who wish to err upon the safe side. Many men seem afraid of giving too much; but among all the failures in business of which we have heard, we have never known an instance where a man has ruined himself by giving to the poor or to the cause of God.

We often read in the papers of " munificent bequests." To my mind it is a phrase that has no meaning at all. I see no munificence in bequeathing your property to charitable purposes when you are gone out of the world and have not the possibility of longer enjoying it. What I like are munificent donations.

(Lord Shaftesburg.)

It has been frequently wished by Christians that there were some rule laid down in the Bible fixing the proportion of their property which they ought to contribute to religious uses. This is as if a child should say, "Father, how many times in the day must I come to you with some testimonial of my love? how often will it be necessary to show my affection for you?" The father would of course reply, "Just as often as your feeling prompts you, my child, and no oftener." Just so Christ says to His people, "Look on Me, and see what I have done and suffered for you, and then give Me just what you think I deserve. I do not wish anything forced."

(H. G. Salter.)

With such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Thousands think that if they are outwardly decent, if they veneer their lives with a decorous respectability, they are very good Christians; and that, though they neither love God nor their neighbour, but are simply walking after their own heart's lusts. But it is not all men who are able thus to scarify 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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