Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship.
BELIEVERS in Christ are consecrated to God. This is the first element in their relation to him ; the second being separation from the world. They are addressed as priests; called to execute a priestly office, -- to "present a sacrifice." And this implies consecration to God. In one view, it is a high calling. "Ye are a royal priesthood," is the testimony of the Apostle Peter. "Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood," is the new song of the saved, "and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." In another view, it is a humble position. A priest is ordained to minister and serve at the altar. In this passage, it is not so much the high dignity of the priestly office as its humble ministry, that is brought out. Still it is, in every view of it, a sacred position ; a position of consecration to God. Paul has been touching some of those deep, dread mysteries which shroud in impenetrable gloom the eternal throne and the eternal world; mysteries which only thicken into darker midnight the more we try to pierce them.
For the sovereignty of God, in its bearing on the ultimate issues of his providence, and on the final destinies of the creatures whom he has made intelligent and free, must ever be inscrutable. Paul, accordingly, closes the great argument which he has been maintaining for the Divine prerogative, with a solemn ejaculation, implying utter impotency and prostration: "0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !" (xi. 33). To silence, however, where he cannot satisfy, he appeals abruptly to any who would still raise questions. By what right, he asks, do you presume to judge or to interrogate the Supreme ? Have you been in his confidence from the first? Or must he advise with you? Or have you any such claim on him as to lay him under an obligation to give you satisfaction? "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (34, 35.) Are you the Lord s confidants? Are you the Lord's councillors? Are you the Lord's creditors? If not, how are you entitled to pry into those "secret things" which "belong to the Lord your God?" "The things which are revealed belong to you and to your children."
But as to the secret things which belong to him, he is not in any way bound to you; nor with reference to them can you demand that he should discover more of his plans to you than he sees fit; "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen." (36.) Your becoming attitude is that of the Psalmist: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and forever" (Psalm cxxxi.) We are then in our right place, when, instead of aspiring to master, as critics, the whole mind and will of God, we thankfully consent to learn, as children, what it is his pleasure to teach. He is not dependent on us: he is not indebted to us. The dependence and the debt of obligation are all on our side. We are not competent to dictate or give lessons to him. We are children and scholars under his training. And the training is for service. We are to be, not advisers or judges, but ministers, servants, priests. "I beseech you, therefore, brethren," instead of aspiring to be the confidants, or the councillors, or the creditors of the Lord, to assume the office and discharge the functions of the priesthood. For the priesthood is to be considered as a ministry and service. It was so to Him with whom we are associated in its exercise. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." So he came to do the business of his priesthood. So we are summoned to do the business of our priesthood. The business of his priesthood was to "give his life a ransom for many." The business of our priesthood is to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service."
From this general account of what Christians have to do, as consecrated to God, in the character of priests, the following particulars may be drawn out in detail: --
I. There is to be a sacrifice: "I beseech you, brethren, that ye present a sacrifice."
II. It must be a sacrifice that fulfils two conditions: it must be such as may righteously find acceptance in the sight of God, and such as may reasonably be required and expected at the hands of man: "I beseech you that ye present a sacrifice ;" such as shall, on the one hand, be "acceptable to God;" and such as shall, on the other hand, and on your part, be "a reasonable service."
III. If it is to fulfil these two conditions, the sacrifice must possess the two qualities of life and holiness: "I beseech you that ye present a living sacrifice, holy ;" -- for such a sacrifice alone can be acceptable to God; such a sacrifice alone can be your reasonable service.
IV. The substance or matter of the sacrifice is indicated; it is to consist of "your bodies," your persons, yourselves: "I beseech you that ye present your bodies."
V. The motive also is indicated which is to prompt the sacrifice: "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God."
Under these heads, the sacrifice which as Christians, bearing the character of priests, we have to present to God may be considered; and the connection and correspondence, as well as the difference, between it and the sacrifice of Christ may be traced. The connection and correspondence will be found, if we rightly apprehend the Spirit's teaching, to be very close.
I. -- THE SACRIFICE: ITS NATURE.
"I beseech you that ye present a sacrifice." -- ROM. xii. 1. There is to be a sacrifice. Priests are not to approach to God empty handed. "Bring an offering and come into his courts ;" so runs their summons. This law applies to the High Priest as well as to ordinary priests. It applies pre-eminently to the High Priest. "Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this one," our great High Priest, Christ, "have somewhat also to offer" (Heb. viii. 3). So far, Christians who are priests, and Christ who alone is the High Priest, have this in common, that they as well as he have to present a sacrifice. But there is a wide and essential distinction. Any sacrifice which we as priests can present, must be of an entirely different nature from what Christ, the High Priest, presents. His sacrifice is, in the strict and proper sense of the term, a sacrifice of atonement. His sacrifice alone can be so. Our sacrifice is a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise. This is a distinction recognised in the Levitical economy. in that economy, there were atoning sacrifices, designed to be effectual for the expiation of guilt and the reconciliation of offenders to God. Of this kind, in particular, were the sacrifices appointed for the great annual day of atonement, when the high priest entered within the veil with the blood of bulls and of goats, "which he offered for himself and for the errors of the people."
The sacrifice of Christ is represented in the New Testament as exactly of the same character with these sacrifices, only infinitely more efficacious. Thus the Apostle writing to the Hebrews reasons: "If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (ix. 13, 14.) In the offering of a sacrifice of this kind, Christ, our High Priest, stands alone. Into his ministry of atonement, his propitiatory work, we may not, as priests, intrude.
But there were sacrifices of another kind under the law; sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, offered in acknowledgment of the sovereignty and bounty of God, and as pledges of dependence and gratitude. These sacrifices had nothing to do with the cancelling of guilt and the restoration of the guilty party to favour. They did not make peace. They proceeded on the faith of peace being otherwise made, by a previous sacrifice of atonement. They were, in fact, expressions of thankfulness on that account. The sacrifice of Cain was a sacrifice of thanksgiving. And as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, it would have been legitimate and right, if it had been preceded by the ordained sacrifice of atonement. The sacrifice of Abel was a sacrifice of atonement. And undoubtedly, if his life had been spared, it would have been followed up by an appropriate sacrifice of praise. Having offered "of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof ;" and having evidence of the acceptance of his offering, in the "light of God s reconciled countenance lifted up upon him," and "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost being given to him ;" he would gladly and gratefully have "brought of the fruit of the ground an offering" of thanksgiving and praise "to the Lord."
And this now is our ministry as priests. This is all our ministry. The ministry of atonement is not ours, either for others or for ourselves. That ministry Christ alone exercises. "He treads the wine--press alone," in his work of bloody propitiation, as well as in his work of bloody judgment, "and of the people there is none with him." All the more may the ministry of thankoffering be ours. For our pardon and peace, our acceptance and justification, we have nothing to offer, we have nothing to give. The Apostle calls for no sacrifice at our hands for the purpose of cleansing us from sin and restoring us to favour. So far as that matter is concerned, he uniformly points our view exclusively to the one only sacrifice of the one only High Priest: "We are ambassadors for Christ as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. v. 20, 21).
But now, upon the supposition that we are reconciled, freely, effectually, thoroughly reconciled, through faith in the great Atonement, the Apostle calls for some suitable offering of praise. He tells us that the atoning ministry of the High Priest, thus available on our behalf opens the way for a graceful and grateful ministry of thanksgiving: "I beseech you, brethren, that ye present a sacrifice."
II. -- THE SACRIFICE: ITS CONDITIONS.
"I beseech you, brethren, that ye present a sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. " -- ROM. xii. 1. The nature of the sacrifice which, as priests, Christians are called to present, having been ascertained, the next point is to consider the general principles which ought to determine the character of the matter, or material, to he used in the sacrifice, or of which the sacrifice is to consist. If there is to be a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise, proceeding upon the faith of a sacrifice of atonement having been offered and accepted, let it be a suitable sacrifice. Let it be a sacrifice that fulfils these two indispensable conditions: let it be, as regards him to whom it is presented, "acceptable to God ;" let it also be, as regards you who present it, "your reasonable service."
Of the sacrifice of atonement which our great High Priest has to present, it may with equal justice be said that it must fulfil these two conditions. To that sacrifice also -- to that sacrifice primarily -- they apply, as conditions. When a ransom was to be found for sinful man, it was necessary on the one hand, that it should be such a ransom as it might be worthy of God to accept; and on the other hand, that it should be such a ransom as it might be reasonable to expect should be offered on behalf of reasonable creatures. The character and nature of the offended party, God, the holy lawgiver and righteous judge; the character and nature of the offending party, man, a free and intelligent being, made in the image of God; and the relation between the parties, implying just condemnation on the one side and guilty enmity on the other; all must be taken into account. The sacrifice must bear some adequate proportion, or suitable relation, to the majesty of violated law and the unforced responsibility of its violators, it must have in it worth and value enough to meet the case of God's sovereign authority having been outraged, and to meet also the case of man's conscience having become burdened and defiled. It must be sufficient to satisfy Divine justice; and sufficient also to assuage the anguish of genuine remorse and shame.
Tried by this test, it is easy to see how the blood of bulls and of goats can never take away sin. The substitution of a senseless, unconsenting animal, as a victim or ransom, in the room and stead of a race which has intelligently and wilfully sinned, is felt to be, upon every principle of common sense and reason, as well as of right religious feeling, an utterly inadequate atonement. There is no propriety or suitableness in the idea of the death of such a substitute being accepted as an equivalent for the execution of the sentence upon the guilty. The law cannot in that way be vindicated. The Lawgiver cannot on that ground be warranted in treating offenders as if they had never sinned; or as if they had themselves suffered the penalty, and come out from the suffering of it, pure and upright.
Nor can such a vicarious endurance of my punishment, by a bull, or goat, or ram, or a lamb, held to represent me, satisfy my own conviction of right and my own consciousness of wrong. Whatever may come of my controversy with my Maker, I instinctively feel that these animal sacrifices cannot avail for its settlement ; -- no; nor any formal observances I may be inclined to put in their place. "The blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin." "None can by any means redeem his brother," or ransom his own soul. The conditions which it was necessary that the High Priest's sacrifice of atonement should fulfil must be fulfilled also by the sacrifice of praise which believers, as priests, are to present. This sacrifice of theirs must be in accordance with what God is, and with what they are. In particular, it must be in accordance with what God is to them, and with what they are to God. Let it be remembered that we present our sacrifice of praise, as priests, on the footing of the High Priest's sacrifice of atonement being on our behalf offered and accepted; on the footing of our personal interest by faith in its efficacy and fruit.
Upon that footing, what is the idea which we are called to entertain of the God to whom we have to present our thank-offering? "God is a spirit ; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The Father seeketh such to worship him." He is weary and impatient of all other worship. "My son, give me thy heart," is his demand. That we may be in a condition, and may be made willing, to give him our heart, -- he redeems us to himself by the blood of Christ, and renews us by the power of the Holy Ghost. He, therefore, to whom we are to present our sacrifice is a spirit, requiring spiritual worship. And we, who are to present the sacrifice, are spiritual men. "Now he that is spiritual judgeth all things" (1 Cor. ii. 15). We can judge, therefore, what may be fairly regarded as our "reasonable service;" what is the sort of service that may be reasonably expected and required, as a sacrifice of praise, at our hands, if God is a spirit and we are spiritual men.
And this we may the rather do, when we consider the relation now subsisting -- the relation which ought to subsist -- between our God, who is a spirit, and ourselves who are spiritual men. Through that one sacrifice of propitiation presented by the High Priest on our behalf, there is peace, friendship, reconciliation. All our guilt is expiated: all our sin is purged. We are no longer treated as guilty criminals under a respite. We are accepted as righteous in the sight of God. We are adopted as children in his Son: we receive "the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. iv. 6).
Now it is as thus knowing God, who is a spirit; knowing thus, also, ourselves as spiritual men; and knowing, above all, the footing on which we stand with our God and Father ; -- that we are called, as priests, to present a sacrifice of praise. May we not decide and determine for ourselves, according to these considerations, what sort of sacrifice is suitable and appropriate? what is worthy of God? what is worthy of ourselves? What sort of sacrifice may God be expected to accept? What sort of sacrifice, in the full view of all the circumstances, may be regarded as our "reasonable service?" At all events, tried by such a test, how miserably will many a sacrifice and service that we are apt to present to God fail and be found wanting! Form, ceremony, routine; heartless prayers, however long; ostentatious alms, however large; bodily exercise, whether in the way of easy compliance with outward rites, or in the way of painful inward self-mortification ; enforced obedience; reluctant abstinence from pleasure ; the cold and cheerless performance of duty; all or any of these kinds of worship -- all similar methods of serving God -- we can bring to this criterion. Is it such a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that a reconciled God and Father should in fairness be asked to accept? Is it such a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that we, his reconciled children, may be reasonably asked to offer? Is it such a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that should signalize and seal so thorough a repairing of the breach caused by sin between our God and us, as that which the High Priest's sacrifice of atonement effects? Surely, if it is felt by the universal moral instinct of all men to be true, that the blood of bulls and of goats cannot take away sin, -- it must, be felt also by the universal spiritual instinct, of all those whose sins are taken away, by the blood of a better ransom, to be not less true, that formal worship, or obedience rendered in the spirit of bondage, is not the sacrifice which a redeeming God can worthily accept, and is not a "reasonable service" on the part of the people whom he redeems.
III. -- THE SACRIFICE: ITS QUALITIES.
"I beseech you that ye present a living sacrifice, holy." -- ROM. xii. 1. The sacrifice which Christians present, as priests, must possess two qualities which formal worship, or obedience rendered in the spirit of bondage, is sure to want. It must possess the qualities of life and holiness. Without these qualities it cannot fulfil the two indispensable conditions; it cannot be either an acceptable offering to God, or, on our part, a reasonable service. The sacrifice must be living and holy: "I beseech you that ye present a living sacrifice, holy."
It was necessary that the sacrifice of atonement which our High Priest was ordained to present should possess these two qualities. It must be living and holy. It must have in it life and holiness. Life must belong to it. And what life? Not merely animal life, the life that is common to all sentient and moving creatures; not merely, in addition to that, intelligent life, the life that characterizes all beings capable of thought and voluntary choice ; but spiritual life: life in the highest sense; the very life which those on whose behalf the sacrifice of atonement is presented lost, when they fell into that state which makes a sacrifice of atonement necessary. If a ransom is to be found, -- an adequate and suitable substitute for those who have ceased to live, as they were originally made and meant to live, in the favour and loving-kindness of God, and have become dead under his sentence of righteous condemnation, -- it must be a ransom, a substitute, having the life which they once had; exempt and free from the death which they have incurred. A living sacrifice of atonement alone can suffice; a sacrifice of atonement having the quality of life; of that life which consists in a right standing with God; in complete exemption from his condemnation, and the complete enjoyment of his favour and loving- kindness.
And the sacrifice must be holy also. As it must have life forfeited by no guilt, liable to no sentence of death; so it must have holiness tainted by no corruption. Let either guilt or corruption -- let either death or sin -- belong, by whatever tenure, hereditary or personal, to the ransom or victim that is to be the atoning sacrifice presented by the High Priest on behalf of guilty sinners; -- it is not such a sacrifice as God, the Lawgiver, can be justified in accepting as a compensation for the breaking of his law; it is not such a sacrifice as can be considered a reasonable service on behalf of the breakers of that law, -- if it is to exempt them from the penalty which they have incurred, through the vicarious endurance of that penalty by a worthy substitute in their stead. The dead and unholy cannot be ransomed or redeemed, if the only sacrifice provided for that end is itself involved in their death and unholiness. "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world," is a welcome call to sinners, and to me, the chief of sinners. But if that very Lamb of God that is to take away the sin of the world, is involved in that very sin of the world which is to be taken away, where, alas! is my hope?
Thus the sacrifice of atonement presented by the High Priest for us must be free alike from the condemnation and from the corruption, from the death and from the defilement, of our sin. It must be "a living sacrifice, holy."
And so, also, must be the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving which, as priests, we are to be always presenting; it must be "a living sacrifice, holy." It must partake of the character of the sacrifice of atonement, in immediate connection with which it is presented. It is by faith in the sacrifice of atonement that we present the sacrifice of praise. This last sacrifice is the fruit of the first; and indeed, in some sense, a continuation of it. We enter into the spirit, while we appropriate the efficacy, of our great High Priest's sacrifice of atonement, as a living sacrifice and holy. We become one, as priests, with him who, as High Priest, presents it. We become one with him in his presenting of it. And being one with him who is the High Priest, we go on, as priests, to present our sacrifice of praise. We cannot, in such circumstances, think of presenting any sacrifice of praise that is not in keeping and in harmony with the High Priest's sacrifice of atonement. We cannot ask God to accept, we cannot offer as our reasonable service, any tribute of gratitude, any sacrifice of thanksgiving, that does not possess the qualities which impart worth and efficacy to the High Priest's great propitiation. Ours, like his, must be a sacrifice, living and holy.
IV. -- THE SACRIFICE: ITS MATTER. "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a sacrifice." -- ROM. xli. 1. The nature of the sacrifice as a sacrifice of praise, as well as the indispensable conditions and qualities of it, having been considered, the next inquiry relates to the substance or matter of the sacrifice. What shall it be? Our bodies: "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a sacrifice."
The same phraseology is used when it is the High Priest's sacrifice of atonement that is in question. "We are sanctified," it is said, we are cleansed from the guilt of sin, "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. x. 10). It is the entire person of Christ that is there meant. He offered himself. That was his sacrifice of atonement. The offering of ourselves is our sacrifice of thanksgiving.
But how can there be any parallel or analogy here? How can there be any correspondence, in respect of life and holiness, between Christ s person, offered as a sacrifice of atonement, -- and mine, offered as a sacrifice of praise? That Christ, the High Priest, may offer his body, or present himself, as a sacrifice of atonement, living and holy, I can understand.
As to his life, I read what his beloved disciple records as part of his teaching in his humiliation: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father" (John x. i 7, 18). I read also what that same beloved disciple records as a voice from his beloved Master in his exaltation: "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen" (Rev. i. 18). He has life; life forfeited by no guilt, liable to no condemnation or death. When he offers, or presents, himself as a substitute for the dead, the guilty, the condemned, he offers, or presents, himself a living sacrifice. His life; his right to live, according to the highest idea of life; his prerogative of life in the favour of God, in the bosom of the Father;cannot be challenged or impugned. He is not under any sentence of condemnation, he is not doomed to die a penal death on his own account. No fault, therefore, can be found with him on that score, when he offers himself as willing to be the substitute of the guilty.
Nor can any objection be taken on the score of his being one of our race, as if that involved any compromise or surrender of his essential holiness, or any participation in our sin. His holiness is still as untarnished, as his life is unforfeited and uncondemned. It was needful that he should become one of us, that he should become one with us, if he was to present himself as a sacrifice of atonement in our stead. And, without a miracle, there might be difficulty in his taking our nature, without taking also our corruption and criminality ; -- which if he had taken, his offering of himself in our stead would have been in vain. But it is miraculously otherwise arranged. He is essentially the living one, the holy one, in respect of his divine nature. And even when he associates the human nature with that divine nature, so as to constitute one person, Emmanuel, God with us, -- the Word made flesh, -- Jesus, saving his people from their sins, -- he is still the living one and the holy one. A sacrifice of atonement is needed, a ransom to deliver from going down to the pit. The sacrifice or ransom, in order to fulfil the twofold condition of its being such as God may accept and such as may be a suitable and reasonable service of propitiation for man's sin, must be living and holy. It must possess the qualities of life and holiness; life in God's favour forfeited by no guilt; holiness unstained by any taint of pollution. Such a sacrifice of atonement is found in Christ. He is the living one. He "lays down his life of himself." He is "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." "He offers himself without spot to God" (John x. 1 8; Heb. vii. 26; ix. 1 4).
Now our sacrifice of praise must partake of the qualities of his sacrifice of atonement. It must be living and holy. But how may that be, if it is our bodies, our persons, ourselves, that we are to present as the sacrifice?
"Woe is me!" some poor soul may be heard to cry out, "I am asked to present a thank-offering and sacrifice of praise. It is a just demand; a gracious invitation. Fain would I comply with it. -- But the sacrifice, I am told, must be living and holy. -- Certainly, I answer, it is most right and fitting that it should be so. -- But I am further told that it must be myself; myself bodily; my very self. -- Alas! alas! are life and holiness in me, that I should furnish in my own person the material of this sacrifice! -- Life and holiness in me ! -- I am lost and dead in sin; I am carnal, sold under sin. In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing ; -- nothing but guilt weighing me down to utter destruction, and corruption defiling the whole inner man. For me, undone, unclean, to present myself a living and holy sacrifice ! -- it cannot be."
Nay but, my brother, it must be. It is thyself that thy God will have thee to present as a thank-offering. He will accept no other thank-offering at thy hands: it is not reasonable that he should. Say not that there is no life in thee. Is not Christ in thee? "Thou art crucified with Christ, nevertheless thou livest yet not thou; but Christ liveth in thee" (Gal. ii. 20). And for thine uncleanness "what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common or unclean" (Acts x. 15).
Believers in Christ, called to be priests, present yourselves a sacrifice, as the great High Priest presents himself a sacrice. Let your ministry and his be one. Are not you and he now one, -- intimately, inseparably one? When you present yourselves a sacrifice, are you not presenting him? Even as when he presents himself a sacrifice, is he not presenting you? He presents himself as crucified for you; he presents you as crucified with him. You now present yourselves; yet not yourselves; it is Christ in you that you present. The Spirit making you one with Christ by faith, makes you partakers of Christ's life; the life which he laid down that he might take it again, -- the life which he has as no more bearing guilt, but justified, accepted, raised and glorified. The same Spirit, making you one with Christ in nature, by the renewing of your mind, makes you partakers of Christ's holiness. The Spirit takes of what is Christ's, and shows it to you. And when, through the Spirit, you present yourselves a sacrifice, he takes of what is Christ's in you, and shows it to God. May not this be an acceptable thank-offering? Is not this, ye redeemed and regenerated saints of God, -- is not this your reasonable service?
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, that ye present yourselves a sacrifice." And let it be yourselves in Christ; let it be Christ in you. For thus only can it be a sacrifice "living and holy." When Christ presents himself a sacrifice of atonement, be you one with him in his doing so. When you present yourselves a sacrifice of praise, let him be one with you in your doing so. Let the two presentations be ever going on together, simultaneously, unitedly. The presentation by Christ of himself as the sacrifice of atonement is always going on in the sanctuary above. There, in the true holy place, he is always ministering as your great High Priest, having his own blood to offer, ever freshly flowing, and freshly efficacious to cleanse from all sin. Enter, be always entering, within the veil, that you may associate and identify yourselves by faith, through the Spirit, with Christ, in what is there transacted for your peace. In a corresponding manner, let your presentation of yourselves, as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, be always going on in the sanctuary here below; the only sanctuary now owned on earth, -- the deep and sacred shrine of a believing heart. And oh! let Christ be always entering in there, within the veil, and dwelling there, that he may associate and identify himself with you, in what is there transacted for God's praise. Thus it will be always Christ, and Christ alone; yet always you in Christ, and Christ in you. In the sacrifice of atonement, it is Christ crucified for you, and you crucified with him. In the sacrifice of thankfulness, it is Christ living in you, and you become partakers of his holiness. It is the sacrifice of propitiation, living and holy, prolonging itself, in a manner most acceptable to God and most reasonable on your part, into a living and holy sacrifice of praise. There is the sin-offering of the living and holy body of Christ once for all; and there is the thank-offering of the living and holy Church, "which is his mystical body, the fulness of him who filleth all in all" (Eph. i. 23).
V. -- THE SACRIFICE: ITS MOTIVE.
It now only remains for us to advert a little to the motive by which Christians are to be animated in their discharge of the office of their priesthood, for which they are consecrated to God. As it is a sacrifice of praise and gratitude that they are to present, they are fitly adjured and implored to do so "by the mercies of God." The adjuration, the entreaty, is very earnest. "I beseech you," says the Apostle. I make it a matter of personal request, as if I were asking you to do me a personal favour. I may well thus appeal to you; for the motive which I have to urge is one which I have had good reason myself personally to feel. "The mercies of God" have been very abundant towards me. But it is not from myself, or for myself, that I speak. I speak as an ambassador of Christ. I call to mind what these mercies of God were to Christ, -- what they were in his eyes and in his esteem, -- when, as the great High Priest, he went about the business of presenting his sacrifice of atonement.
What were they to him? What were they in his eyes and in his esteem? -- These mercies of God go back in imagination, to the unfathomed depths of that unbroken eternity, before the world was, wherein the Son is alone, with the Spirit, in the bosom of the Father. There are mercies in that bosom, throes of pity, yearnings of kindness and love unquenchable. A guilty, lost and ruined race is before him; a race of beings who are miserably to fall, under the temptation of an evil spirit more powerful and more knowing than themselves. The great Father's heart is moved; his bowels of compassion are stirred: his mercies are overflowing. But alas, there is a barrier; a great rampart of righteousness; a holy law; a righteous rule of government ; -- that keeps these mercies back; pent up, barred, restrained so that they can find no vent or channel through which they may reach their miserable objects. Is the Father's heart to hold these mercies in, through reverence of sacred justice, until, if we may dare to say so, it shall burst or break?
Lo! the Son, moved by these mercies thus struggling to find a vent, comes forth, and by his own sacrifice of himself, becomes himself their vent, the outlet and channel for their effusion. He opens a door, a door of righteousness, through which these floods of richest love may freely flow,until they reach and revive and renovate even the guiltiest of the guilty, the chief of sinners.
Now by these mercies, no longer pent up in the bosom of the Father, but gushing in full stream through the rent veil, -- the veil rent by that offering of his body once for all which the great High Priest makes, -- and coming in, through the Spirit opening the door of your hearts, into the deepest recesses of your souls, and pouring life and gladness, peace and hope, through your whole inner man ;. -- by these mercies of God, thus issuing from the bosom of the Father, thus coming home to your bosoms, is as you believe on Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, "I beseech you, brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, and holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
Some practical applications of the views which have been given on the subject of the Christian's sacrifice of praise may be briefly stated : --
I. If any of you who are called to be priests feel that there is something vague and shadowy about the sacrifice of praise which you are here called to present, and that you would like to have materials more tangible to offer, -- or at least to have some more definite instruction as to what is meant by offering yourselves, -- will such scriptural intimations as these afford you any help? First, hear what David says (Psalm ii.), in the depths of his sorrow for his grievous sin, after he has sought interest anew in the sacrifice of atonement, offering the prayer of faith, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean," "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God." He looks about for a fitting sacrifice of praise, to seal and witness his appropriation of the sacrifice of atonement. And he finds it, not in any external acts of worship, but in his own sense and experience of the evil of his sin; "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise." Next, hear what the Lord himself testifies (Ps. 1.) when He pleads with " his people, who have made a covenant with him by sacrifice," -- by faith in the sacrifice of atonement ; what sort of sacrifice of praise the Lord desires ; -- "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." Or again, hear the words which the Lord so graciously puts into the mouth of penitent Israel (Hosea xiv.) ; -- " Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips." Or once more, hear the exhortation of the Apostle writing to the Hebrews (ch. xiii.), when, having spoken of Jesus, who, that he might sanctify or cleanse the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate, he adds; -- " By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."
Here is a choice of materials for a thank-offering; a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; the payment of your vows, calling upon God in the time of trouble; the calves of your lips, the fruit of your lips, confessing and praising the name of Jesus; good deeds, good gifts; all or any of these things may be sacrifices of praise. And in fact, are they not all comprehended in your presenting yourselves a sacrifice? So Paul seems to teach when writing to the Corinthians (2 Cor. viii.), he stimulates their zeal by quoting the example of the churches of Macedonia ; -- " How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints." A fact like this -- such abundance of joy in great affliction, such abundance of liberality in deep poverty, requires explanation. The Apostle feels this, and accordingly he furnishes the explanation when he adds, "And this they did, not as we hoped; but first gave their own selves to Lord."
THEY FIRST GAVE THEIR OWN SELVES TO THE LORD.
Ah! this solves the riddle: this accounts for the mystery. No wonder their joy abounded in a great trial of affliction; no wonder the riches of their liberality abounded in deep poverty. And no wonder your joy in your religion is marred by gloom, and your liberality straitened by selfishness, if you do not first give your own selves to the Lord. That you may rejoice right heartily in God your Saviour, that you may be always abounding in the work of the Lord, "I beseech you, brethren," that you first give your own selves to the Lord "that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, and holy.
II. And let the deed of gift, the act of presentation be thorough and unreserved. There is no reserve on the part of Christ, when he presents himself a sacrifice atonement. Let there be no reserve on your part, when you present yourselves a sacrifice of praise. Let your surrender of yourselves be as complete as Christ's surrender of himself was. Through the Eternal Spirit, he offered himself to God; his whole self: himself whole and entire. Through the same Eternal Spirit, offer ye also yourselves to God; your whole selves: yourselves whole and entire: mind and body, heart and soul. That is what as Christians you profess to do: let it be what you really do. Sin not as Ananias and Sapphira sinned; when wishing it to be understood that they were giving their all, they kept back a part. Remember how it was not the amount withheld that was the measure of their guilt. Even their offering of what they gave was vitiated. They lied to the Holy Ghost. Grieve not thus the Spirit. Let no portion whatever of yourselves, -- none of your affections, faculties, powers, energies, resources, -- be held back from God. Be it ever so little, the holding back of anything mars your whole sacrifice; its life and holiness are gone; it is dead and dull; it is hollow and insincere; it is a cheerless, joyless, routine of duty; not a glad service of love. If that be your religion, it may well weary you and repel others: you neither glorify God, nor do good to man; no, nor even gain contentment for yourselves. Follow the Lord wholly; give your all to him; if you would be really Christians, and happy, as well as useful, in your Christianity.
III. Finally, let it be always by the mercies of God that you are moved to present yourselves a sacrifice of thanksgiving to him. "The mercies of God!" How precious is the very phrase! How sweet its sound! "The mercies of God!" How great is their multitude! How manifold are they!
New every morning, fresh every moment, coming down as rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth! Only let your eye be open to see them; your hand to take them; your mouth to sing of them all the day long; above all, your heart to keep them in its inmost shrine. Thy mercies, Lord, in Christ, flowing in upon me through Christ, -- if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. First and chiefest of them all is Christ himself, whom thou, 0 Father, givest to be mine; my Saviour, brother, friend. And in his train what troops of mercies! -- mercies of all sorts, for soul, body, spirit: if I am wearry, rest; if I sin, forgiveness; if I have sorrow, comfort; if I am weak, strength; if I am wayward, chastening; if I am dying, hope! -- mercies for all times and places; songs in the night; a table spread in the wilderness; bread and water sure; oil to anoint the head; a cup running over! -- mercies always, mercies everywhere! Thy tender mercies, Lord, are great: thou crownest me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. What shall I render to thee for them all? Wilt thou take myself, 0 Lord? Wilt thou suffer me to give myself to thee? Wilt thou enable me to give myself to thee? Wilt thou make me thine? thine alone, thine altogether, thine for ever?
But what if thou art disqualified, 0 sinner, for presenting a sacrifice of praise at all? And art thou not disqualified if thou hast not embraced the appointed sacrifice of propitiation? In such a state, unbelieving, unforgiven, think not that any offering of thine can avail thee with God. I move, for thee, the previous question. I beseech thee, brother, to let Christ wash thee in his blood, and present thee to his Father. Think not that whilst thou continuest in thy present state, thou canst bring into God's house any offering that he will accept as thy reasonable service. Thou art dead; thou art unclean. Thou canst not present any service or sacrifice that will at all avail thee for averting the Divine wrath or winning the Divine favour. But see, 0 sinner, there is a sin-offering lying at thy door. And it is thine, if thou wilt but have it to be thine. Why shouldst thou continue in so sad a condition as to be debarred from offering songs of praise to thy God? Nay, it is a condition which, if thou continuest in it, must extort from thee, ere long, instead of songs of praise, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! But thou needst not continue in it, no, not for an hour. Accept now in faith the sacrifice of atonement, and thereupon present the sacrifice of praise. First, be reconciled to thy God; then come and offer thy gift.
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