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lively flame of piety burning in seclusion. But the ordinary traveller knows that the loss of the prayer meeting and the Sabbath day worship to which he has been accustomed, is the loss of a positive good which he cannot long sustain without detriment to his piety. He, then, who wilfully neglects such means of grace must fall into a state of spiritual decay. If he forsakes the assembly of the saints, so that he does not know his brethren "face to face," it may be questioned whether he knows Christ, and whether Christ will know him as one of his disciples in the last day.
The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of Christian communion, of fellowship in the commemoration of his death, as distinguished from the sacrifice of the mass, in which the priest officiates apart from the people.
Finally. This view of Christian communion suggests delightful anticipations of the blessedness of heaven.
Our joy here is not complete, because our circle is not com. plete. After a year's absence I see you face to face; but I see not all who once were here. The seats that were vacant when I left are vacant still, and others are vacant also; and a place in the heart is vacant because of these. My feet have trod the streets of Jerusalem; I have walked about Zion, and have counted her desolated towers, and have now returned to tell you, not of her glory, but of her degradation. But they who have gone to the New Jerusalem come not back to tell us of its glory. Once safely over this life's treacherous ocean, they essay it not again, not even to grasp the hand or soothe the bleeding heart of love. Rather, they come not again in the body--they are no longer visible to these mortal eyes. Yet may we still believe them present, and even to-day partakers in our joy.
"O soothe us, haunt us, night and day,
With whom we shared the cup of grace,
Oh! welcome the day when we shall again with them take up that strain within the heavenly city; when face to face with those we here have cherished, we shall recount the loves, the joys, the cares, the griefs, the toils and dangers of the way, until at length we lose all these and lose ourselves in the fulness of eternal joy.
Heaven is a family. We shall yet see all its members, and know them face to face. Who does not find in this prospect an added element of joy? I could not be content always to know the patriarchs and prophets as mere historic personages. It is
not enough that I have pitched my tent upon the plains of Mamre, and held invisible communion with the Father of the Faithful:-I must yet see Abraham, the Friend of God. It is not enough that I have pillowed my head at Bethel, where Jacob found his bed of stones transmuted into downy ether, tinged with gold; "I must climb the ladder that he saw, and see him who, by resolute, persistent prayer overcame Omnipotence. It is not enough that I have stood upon the top of Sinai, and have there read the law given to Moses; I must yet see the man who, on that mount, amid thunder, and lightning, and earthquake, and tempest, stood unmoved, and talked with Jehovah as friend with friend. It is not enough that I have followed the Shepherd king from Bethlehem to Hebron and from Hebron to Mount Zion, I must yet see the royal minstrel, whose harp has swayed my inmost soul. It is not enough that from the house-top of Joppa, I have looked as did Peter upon the vineyards and the olivegroves, and the deep blue sea, and that other overhanging sea that makes the Paradise of eastern climes, or that at Damascus I have sought out the scenes of Paul's conversion and instruction, I must yet see the apostles of the circumcision and the uncircumcision, whose conversation I would follow. More than all, most of all, it is not enough that I have walked in the very footsteps of Him who made Palestine the Holy Land, that from Bethlehem to Nazareth, from Nazareth to the Jordan, to the Lake of Tiberias, through all Galilee, and Jewry I have literally followed Christ; that I have lingered beside the brook Kedron, in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the Mount of Olives, till the cross and the crown became palpable realities;-I must yet see him face to face.
We see him now, here, in these speaking symbols; we grasp him by a living faith, till he becomes a personal presence; but this cannot satisfy. Oh, glorious anticipation of a nearer communion. Oh, blessed meeting, face to face! Oh, surpassing bliss, to see Him as he is. Then shall we also be like Him, and our joy shall be forever FULL.
BY REV. WM. M. BIRCHARD,
HONORING THE LORD WITH OUR SUBSTANCE.
"Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." -PROV. iii. 9, 10.
Under the old dispensation the divine directions respecting religious observances, and the use of property, were more precise and definite than they are under the new. To the Jews, their mode of worship, their festivals, their tithes, their ordinary and extraordinary sacrifices and offerings were all prescribed; and from the appointed course no departure was tolerated. Two lambs were required daily for a burnt offering; on the Sabbath, four; at the beginning of every month, two bullocks, one ram, seven lambs, and a kid; and in addition to these, animals were offered at the passover, on the day of pentecost, upon the new year, and on the great day of atonement. These, with the oblation of bread and wine which accompanied them, were for the temple service. Besides these offerings, the first fruits, both of animals and vegetables, were consecrated to the Lord; and, moreover, a tenth part of his income must be paid by the Israelite, for religious purposes. With him it was in no sense optional whether or not he should contribute to the maintenance of the institutions of religion, nor whether he should contribute little or much. The amount which God required of him was clearly defined, and payment was enforced, if necessary, by the magistrate.
But under the Christian dispensation, this class of duties is less accurately defined. We are not expressly commanded to devote such a portion of our substance to religious purposes, and threatened with temporal pains and penalties if we refuse compliance. Christ, we think, designed that his kingdom should be established and perpetuated without the aid of the civil power. His religion, we rejoice to believe, he meant should be sustained and diffused on the voluntary principle. And we have great reason for gratitude to God that here in our own land this principle is fully recognized, and that the Church is entirely disconnected from the State.
But the fact of our religious duties being unenforced by the civil law has doubtless the effect to destroy, or greatly weaken,
in many minds, the sense of obligation to perform them at all There are persons in every community who either refuse to contribute any thing for religious or charitable purposes, or who will bestow a mere pittance upon such objects; and that rather to escape importunity than because they recognize God's claims, and admit that his injunctions respecting the use of what he has entrusted to their keeping, have any binding force, so far as they are concerned. Such persons, practically at least, if not theoretically, regard human law as the source, rule, and measure of obligation. They acknowledge no higher law than that of man's enacting. But this surely is a gross perversion and abuse of the voluntary principle. God's requirements of us are altogether independent of human enactments. He has power to enforce his own laws, and vindicate his authority, without any aid from his creatures; and he will do it in his own time and way.
We greatly err if we imagine that we are under less obligation to serve God with our property than were his ancient covenant people. And I know not where we should find authority for affirming that he requires a less portion of our substance than he did of theirs. The New Testament lays down general principles for our guidance, rather than specific rules. It impresses upon our minds the truth that all we have in our possession is God's,-that we are merely his stewards,-and that we must at last render up, at his tribunal, an account of our stewardship. It directs us to possess the spirit and imitate the example of Him "who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." And it sets before us that exemplification of the gospel given in the lives of the primitive believers, "none of whom said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common." Surely these teachings reveal to us the will of God as clearly, and enforce obligation as strongly as could any specific rules, or definite commands.
But when duties are enjoined, whether in the Old or New Testament, we are incited to their performance by the promise of some reward, spiritual or temporal, near or remote. Of this, our text is an example. It contains a precept and a promise,— an injunction and a motive for complying with it. The precept is, "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase;" and the promise is, "So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." We will consider,
I. The duty here enjoined.
II. The encouragement presented for its performance.
I. What is it to honor the Lord with our substance? It is so to hold and use it as to manifest our supreme regard for his authority and will. It is to devote it to such purposes as he has prescribed in his word. It is so to employ it as to secure the
greatest amount of human happiness. It is to make such a disposition of it as to promote the highest welfare of ourselves, our families, and the world at large.
We honor the Lord with our substance when we sincerely dedicate it, with ourselves to his service, at the time of our conversion. We honor him with it, when we use it with a grateful and obedient spirit, to supply our physical wants, or to cultivate our minds, and enrich them with useful knowledge. We honor him with it, when, with disinterested motives, we devote it to some purpose whereby the public interest or convenience will be promoted. We may even honor him with it when we lay up in store a reasonable supply for the necessities of old age, or for the future subsistence of those who are dependent upon us.
But we do not honor the Lord with it when we use it for purposes of display, or of mere self-gratification,-when we employ it to pamper pride, vanity, ambition, or any of those lusts which war against the soul, nor when we use it for our maintenance while spending our months and years in idleness, nor when we hoard it up in needless profusion, either for ourselves or our children.
But the text has especial reference to that honoring of the Lord with our substance which results from devoting it to religious and charitable purposes. God is honored by us
1. When we relieve the physical wants of our fellow creatures. In his providence he makes great inequalities to exist in the condition of men. Some he subjects to pinching penury, and upon others he bestows a profusion of the good things of this life. The one class he tries with poverty, and the other he tries with wealth. The former is called upon to honor him, more especially, with a patient, submissive, contented mind; and the latter with a beneficent and liberal distribution of his superfluous possessions. To those that have, God has made it the duty to impart to those that have not. Opportunities for the display of beneficence are never wanting, for the poor we have always with us, and whensoever we will, we may do them good. No plea will excuse us from obligation to minister to the necessities of the suffering poor, if a kind Providence have furnished us with the means of doing it. We may indeed, and should be, discriminating in our charities. Some are more worthy of relief than others in the same circumstances. The virtuous poor have stronger claims upon us than the vicious. And some, it may be, by their incurable vices, and perversion of all gifts, may forfeit all claim to our beneficence. Still we must remember that we are more likely to err by withholding than by imparting too freely; and may, perhaps, with little danger, act upon the principle which Richard Baxter laid down for his guidance, who tells us that "in giving, he did not inquire whether the recipients were good or bad, if they asked relief; for the bad had' souls and bodies which needed charity most." It is, indeed, a truth