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die, but living, and to live for evermore, through the powers of Christ's Spirit, and the virtue of Christ's offering
This was our sacrifice which in our words this morning we declared that we offered. May those words have been truly spoken, as I think they were; may they also be faithfully kept! We offered and presented unto God ourselves, our souls and bodies; we offered them, not for that moment, but as our constant sacrifice, to-day, to-morrow, and to our life's end. We offer and present ourselves, our souls and bodies; we have, as far as words go, kept back nothing. Our bodies, with all their various senses and powers, we sacrifice, so we say, to God; we sacrifice them, a living sacrifice, not to be destroyed or dishonoured, but to do God active service. Our bodies so fearfully and wonderfully made; our eyes, our ears, our busy tongues, our active feet, that vigour which youth feels in all its frame, and which makes the very sense of life a pleasure; these we offer and present to God. Should the body which we have sacrificed to God be polluted with intemperance, or be wasted with indolence, or allowed to run freely after its own pleasure ? O that we would remember every day, we whose bodily powers in most of us are so healthy and so vigorous, that we have offered them all to God. Should the tongue which we have offered to God utter lies, or impurities, or unkindness? Should the feet which are God's run to evil; the hands which are God's be made to minister to violence ?
And so in like manner we have offered up our souls, hopes and fears, desires and affections, powers of knowledge, powers of loving and of enjoyment. We have offered them all to God. If we are clever, shall we waste our talents for the gratification of our own vanity, or for the support of wickedness or falsehood? If we hope, shall we hope for nothing but selfish pleasures? If we fear, shall we
, fear nothing but selfish or worldly pains ? If we love, shall we love ourselves most, our friends a little, and God not at all? Yet for every faculty of our nature God has an appointed work to do. Here also what we offer is a living sacrifice, we do not mean to destroy our powers and our feelings; desire may live, hope may live, reason may live, love may live, but they are to live as holy, as God's ministers, as working God's work. They are by no means to be dead, not at all to be idle; there are to be found things true, things honest, things just, things pure, things lovely, things of good report; virtue there is, and praise, the reward of virtue, to be desired both from God and
These are their food, the fruits of God's spiritual Eden, prepared for His regenerate children, for those who have made themselves soul and body no longer their own, but Christ's.
To this sacrifice of ourselves we pledged our
selves this day at Christ's holy table. Surely we may rejoice earnestly that so many were there thus to pledge themselves. We may rejoice in this and be very thankful for it, provided we are only not over confident. It must be a great pleasure to me to see many of you at the Lord's table; I feel sure that it comes of good, and I trust and believe that it will lead to good. But we must never indulge ourselves long in self congratulation; it is neither safe nor right to do so. We have all our onward progress to think of. If we stop for more than a moment to rejoice that we have come so far, we slip back again, and lose the ground which we have gained. That there is good working amongst us, I most thankfully believe; take care that it is not dimmed or quenched by any presumption or carelessness; take care that you do not value it too highly. But our daily sacrifice is not a little thing, nor to be offered without constant prayer and constant watchfulness. Let us watch and pray, that we may pray always and watch always. God will help us ; Christ will strengthen us; His holy communion is the pledge that He will not forsake us, unless we obstinately forsake Him. May we go hence to our several works, to the overcoming of evil in ourselves and others, to the devoting ourselves and all our powers and feelings to Christ our Saviour.
October 31, 1841.
PHILIPPIANS, i. 9, 10.
And this I pray,
may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
THESE words agree entirely with that language concerning the excellency of wisdom, of which we have heard so much in both the lessons of this day's service, taken from the Proverbs. And words to the same purpose occur in many other parts of St. Paul's Epistles. Nor is this to be wondered at, for no one can pay any close attention to the conduct and character of others, without being aware that one of the very most fruitful causes of evil in them is the want of wisdom ; some one or other of those defects which go to make up what the Scripture calls folly. By which of course is
not meant a weak state of intellectual faculties, such a state being wholly out of our power to remove; but it means the not using those faculties which we have, or the not using them rightly; so that by this neglect the faculties, whether naturally strong or weak, fail of effecting their appointed purpose; they do not lead us to knowledge and judgment, nor to approve the things that are excellent; and thus we are not sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, but defiled with many great faults, and by these faults tempting and hindering others no less than ourselves.
The words, “to approve the things that are excellent,” occur again in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It is mentioned as one of the boasts of the Jew that he knew God's will, and approved the things that were more excellent. In both these passages the meaning is the same: what the Jew boasted that he did, what St. Paul prayed that the Philippians might do, was, that they might be able to distinguish between right and wrong; and so distinguishing, might avoid the wrong and choose the right. It follows from St. Paul's language, that this is a thing of some difficulty; of difficulty, I mean, even in the discerning or distinguishing what was right, without speaking of the disliculty of practising it.
But in a great part of our conduct the whole