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should seek “the things which belong unto your peace,” lest they should be “ hid from your eyes.”
It is true you have many worldly objects to engage your thoughts and stimulate your efforts; this is altogether inseparable from your circumstances as men of business, and as mothers of families.
But none of them can furnish an excuse for neglecti procrastinating the interests of the soul. The Jew was not to say, at the return of the appointed festivals, “ If I go up to Jerusalem, what will become of my family or my property ?” So you are not to propose the inquiry, “ If I become pious, what will be the effect on my connexions or my business ?” But as the Jew was to “ cast his care on God,” so this is no less your duty, or your privilege.
Temporal things should present no obstacle. " Behold the fowls of the air ; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they ?” And in your spiritual condition there is no impediment to the operation of God. Has thick darkness enveloped your minds ? He can scatter it. Are your passions violent, raging, and tumultuous ? He can subdue them. Are your foes powerful, malignant, and inveterate? He can cause you to place your feet on their necks, and make you more than conquerors. Yea, “ He is able to do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think.” He says to you as he did to Paul, " My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness ;” and by his aid, which it behoves you to desire, to seek, and continually to implore, you, my hearers, though the most guilty, polluted, and helpless of your race, shall be snatched from impending ruin, " blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ,” and increased with all the increase of God.
As even the pious among the Jews were not perfect, but conscious of the infirmities of nature and of the weakness of faith, so attendance at the appointed feasts would not always be free from some anxieties and fears. To Jerusalem it was, in many instances, a long journey ; the roads thither were infested by robbers; and from the power of unbelief, many painful thoughts would inevitably arise, as to the injury that might occur to the land, or as to the dangers and sufferings of the young or the old ; and, perhaps, there might be occasionally also some apprehension of an irruption of the Moabites.
But such imaginations, be it observed, were not to detain them at home. No! they were to go to Jerusalem three times in the year, cost them what it might. Their duty was distinotly prescribed, and
it was at their peril to disobey ! And so, brethren, our natural feelings should neither prevent nor impede our discharge of solemn obligations. It is not easy to inflict needed chastisement on a beloved child, but “ he that spareth the rod, hateth his son.” It is not easy to pardon a man who has defamed us, invaded our property, or wronged our connexions; but we are to forgive one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.
It is not easy to bear severe and protracted affliction with habitual resignation ; but we are commanded “ to let patience have her perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." It is not easy to suffer meekly unjust reproach ; but “ Christ has left us an example that we should follow his steps,” and “when he was reviled, he reviled not again.” It is not easy to be a faithful minister of Christ; but
woe” be to the man whom God has raised up for the work, and prepared for it, and called into it, “ if he preach not the gospel.” It is not easy to become a missionary, to leave the "father-land,” and to change the society of dearest relations for that of a benighted and barbarous people; but unless some forego all they have for such service, they cannot be Christ's disciples. It is not easy to be a martyr; but there are times when God requires men to be “ faithful unto death,” and when it would involve the guilt of the basest apostasy, to shrink from the gloom of the dungeon, the throes of the rack, or the agonies of the stake! Only let the will of God be clearly determined ; and the sacrifice it requires is not to be considered, — the requirement must be obeyed, though we wander in darkness, pass through the waters, or walk in the fire.
No one was to appear at these festivals “ empty,” but every one was to give as he was able. Obedience in this particular was absolutely necessary.
Numerous and various were the offerings prescribed in the Mosaic ritual : there were peace-offerings, sinofferings, trespass-offerings; - daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly sacrifices ;—and various oblations unconnected with the shedding of blood ;-by which the worship of Jehovah was maintained, and ample provision made for the support of his priests.
At that period there was to be no resemblance to modern parsimony ; the Jew could not say, as some professing Christians do now, even when they know it is false, “I cannot afford to give;" nor dare to offer part of a sacrifice, when a whole one was demanded ; no, nor yet plead that he had made one which must be deemed sufficient, when two, or five, or ten, were required. The rule was explicit and imperative. It was "regarded according to what a man
had, and not according to what he had not;" and hence the rich offered in proportion to their wealth ; and the poor according to their limited means.
And is not this law still in force ? Christ has shewn us that the talent of property is to yield an interest of kindness—charity—benevolence; and that even the poor widow is to cast her mite into the treasury of the Lord. The apostles urged the same principle.
Every one,” says Paul, as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.” And, says John, “ Whoso seeth his brother have need, and shutteth his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”-A question which demonstrates that the love of money
and the love of God can no more be simultaneous in the human heart, than light can exist with darkness, than the deep snows of winter can appear beneath the ardent beams of summer,or than an alliance can be formed between immortality and death.
As, then, Saul of Tarsus exclaimed, when prostrate before Him whose glory transcended the brightness of the sun, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” so let this be your daily prayer. Tremble lest it should be said of you, “ This is their condemnation, that light has come into the world, and they have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” But aim practically to illustrate the declaration of our Lord, “He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God;"—that is, by the aid of his grace, according to the rule of his word, and with an invariable reference to his glory. But,
SECONDLY, Some inducements are to be urged to constant, unwavering, and devoted obedience.
The effort to do this, however, is deeply humiliating. An announcement of the Divine will ought to be enough; but so depraved are we, that we require the advantages of submission to be clearly stated and earnestly enforced. Let, then, the following considerations be remembered.
1. Obedience is productive of peace and joy.
These are not the portion of the rebellious against the authority of heaven. The way of transgressors is hard; and though the wicked may sometimes seem tranquil, their quietude is that of ignorance, like that of the man who stands on the edge of a rock, not knowing that a part of the mass is about to fall and precipitate him into the abyss beneath; or it is like that of him, who madly braves the fury of the storm, reckless whether he shall be saved or lost.
But, says the psalmist,
peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” At peace with God, by the blood of the Lamb; at peace with themselves, by the answer of a good conscience; at peace with all around, by the exercise of a benevolent spirit,-nothing external shall disturb their tranquillity, impede their progress, or divert them from their heaven-ward course.
The pious Jew might therefore exclaim, “I have left, for a season, some objects of my tenderest love; they are beyond my protection and care; and it might be imagined, that my bosom is now torn with anxiety and apprehension; but no! my trust is in the God of Israel, and “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee."
Such feelings of holy serenity would sometimes rise into the warmest emotions of joy. This is evident from the declaration of the psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go up to the house of the Lord.” “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them ; who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.” This part of the journey might be difficult to pass. It is called by some, the valley of mulberry trees, and by these progress might be impeded; by others, it is styled the valley of weeping, and probably it was a dreary spot: but in one way or other, those who, from regard to the ordinances of God, encountered the difficulty, received strength to surmount it. It seems, indeed, that they passed through this encumbered or desolate place, with as much cheerfulness and hilarity as if, abounding with pleasant springs, it had been fair, lovely, and verdant; and proceeded with increasing vigour and alacrity, till each of them appeared in Zion before God. And imbibing their spirit, brethren, peace and joy shall assuredly be yours. Earnestly desire to know and to do the will of God, and then,“ be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Contemplating him as that Saviour, “ whom having not seen ye love, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye shall rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
2. Obedience secures from all evil.
In the case of the Israelites evil was not annihilated; it was only restrained. It was expressly promised, that while they observed these festivals, “no man should desire their land;” but had they been neglected, the people would have deprived themselves of Divine protection; and, as their history proves, evils great and appalling would have accumulated and overwhelmed them. To adduce only.one fact;
when Jeroboam set up the two calves of gold in Bethel and in Dan, to prevent the people going up to do sacrifice at Jerusalem, in order to give stability to his own power, he was guilty of that atrocity which points him out to all generations as the man who made Israel to sin ;”—atrocity which issued in the irretrievable ruin of himself and of multitudes !
Danger and sorrow are, indeed, the inseparable concomitants of sin ; and hence the petition of Christ in behalf of his disciples ;—“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil ; -a petition which can only be answered by their being enabled to walk “in all the statutes and commandments of the Lord blameless." Let these be disregarded; and that moment you expose yourselves to imminent peril. If, for example, in the spirit of avarice, “ that mildew of the soul,” you refuse to aid the cause of benevolence and piety, you may expect your "gold and silver to be cankered,” “the rust of them to be a witness against you," and the doom of the wicked and slothful servant, who hid his lord's talent in the earth, to alight in all its terrors on your trembling spirit! If deterred from the discharge of duty, by any dread of anxiety, toil, or suffering, be assured that no exemption shall be found in sin. Sorrow will come in some form or other;-sorrow, which will be bitter as gall, because you will feel it has been invoked by your own disobedience, because it will be accompanied by the lacerations of remorse, and because it will be a foretaste of that cup of woe, which Cain and Pharaoh and Judas and every unpardoned sinner shall drink to the dregs. If dismayed by the sight of the cross which every disciple has to bear,-if absorbed in the pursuit of the pleasures of sin,-if madly resolved on neglecting your soul,--notwithstanding the terrors of the law, the “still small voice” of the gospel, and all the means which the God of mercy has employed to excite your fears, and to win your love,--then there “remains for you nothing but a fearful looking-for of judgment,” and a portion with “ the devil and his angels,” compared with which that of the wretched inhabitants of Sodom, Canaan, and Tyre, will be indeed tolerable! The only way
from these tremendous evils appears in repentance towards God,” in “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ," and in that purity of heart which is the result of Divine operation. “ With God,” it is said, “ all things are possible;" but the holiness, justice, and truth of God set limits to his omnipotence. He cannot accept you now, unless you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ; nor can he receive you into heaven without the renewal of