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livered from the dominion of sin, the condemnation of the law, and the evil of death, and are made heirs of a heavenly paradise. The paradise above far exceeds, in felicity and glory, the earthly paradise from which Adam was ejected. There flows the river of life in a perpetual stream-there grows the tree of life yielding its fruits every month-there is no more curse; but the throne of God is there, and there his servants shall serve him, beholding his face and rejoicing in his favor forever.
Blessed are they, who do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, may enter in through the gates into the city, and may eat of the fruit of the tree, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
The impiety of offering to God that which costs us nothing.
JI SAMUEL xxiv. 84.
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: Neither will I offer burntofferings unto the Lord my God of that, which doth cost me nothing.
FOR David's distrust of God's promised protection, and for his confidence in his own power, which appeared in his numbering his people, there was sent on the land an awful pestilence, by which, in the space of three days, there perished seventy thousand men.
The king, humbling himself before God for this sin, and supplicating the removal of the plague is directed by a prophet to go and erect an altar in the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, and to offer upon it burntofferings to God for the expiation of his guilt and the preservation of his subjects. When David made the proposal to Araunah, the latter with
great liberality answered, "Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth him good. Behold, here are the oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments, and other instruments of the oxen for wood." All these things did Araunah with a royal generosity, give to David: And he said, "The Lord thy God accept thee." And David said, · Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price; neither will I offer burntofferings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." Or as it is expressed in the first book of Chronicles, "I will verily buy it of thee at the full price; for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burntofferings without cost." "So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen, and there built an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and the Lord was intreated for the land." "He called upon the Lord, and the Lord answered him."
We easily see the propriety of David's caution not to make atonement for his own guilt at the expense of another man's property. The acceptableness of his offering depended, not on its intrinsic value, but on the temper with which he represented it. If through avarice and penuriousness he had withheld his own property, and taken, without compensation, the Jebusites' oxen for sacrifice, his offering would have been vain, because the covetousness of his heart would have been inconsistent with sincere repentance and true devotion. It would have been that sacrifice which is abomination, being brought with a wicked mind. "The Lord hateth robbery for a burntoffering." And covetousness, which withholds from God our own, and offers him another's property, is a species of robbery. We are to honor the Lord with our own substance, not with the substance of other men. Whatever ostentation we make
of piety to God, or liberality to the poor, if we contrive to make other people bear the expense, that we may save our own substance; it is all hypocrisy and abomination.
We are to give unto God the heart: And a heart given to God, is a heart cleaving to him with faith and love, and assimilated to him by goodness and benevolence. Such a heart prefers God's favor to every worldly interest; and, to secure the former, will cheerfully give up the latter. There can be no sincerity, no piety in those sacrifices, which are made under the governing influence of love to the world.
The prophet Malachi condemns the Jews, because they offered to God for sacrifice the blind, lame, sick and torn, when they had in their flocks sound and unblemished beasts-such as God required them to offer. "But why might not these defective beastst answer for sacrifice, as well as perfect ones? The latter were better for the owners-the former were as good for God, for neither could be gain to him. There seems to have been economy in this management." Yes; but it was such economy as hypocrites only use in religion. It blasted the whole. Sacrifice is not gain to God; but he would have us offer it with such a temper, that it may be gain to us. And this is a temper of love and devotion to him and of justice and benevolence to men. If we offer the blind and lame for sacrifice, it is because we wish to serve him without cost, and aim to give him that only which is worth nothing to us. Such a spirit is directly opposite to that piety to God, and charity to men, which ought to accompany all our external worship.
We will farther illustrate our subject, by shewing in particular instances, when men may be said to of fer to God that which costs them nothing; and by
demonstrating the impiety and unreasonableness of such offerings.
First. We will mention some cases, in which men offer to God that which costs them nothing.
1. If a man, under pretence of zeal for religion, but really for the sake of an easy livelihood, should devote himself to the ministry without seeking previous qualifications; or if under pretence of immediate assistance, but really through indolence and laziness, he should perform the work of the sanctuary without previous labor and meditation, he would offer to God, that which costs nothing, and that which prob. ably is worth nothing.
Christ has instituted a ministry of the word for the increase and edification of his church. He requires, that they who enter on this office, should not only possess inward grace, but be furnished with competent endowments. These are to be obtained, not by immediate communication from God but by the faithful application of those means which God has provided and which he usually blesses for this purpose.
Our Lord, when he began his public ministry, chose a number of disciples to be the preachers of his gospel. But before he sent them forth in this character, he took them, for several years, under his own tuition, and trained them up for their work. Timothy had a good education in his childhood; but, before he was ordained to the ministry, he was, for some time under the instruction of the Apostle Paul. And when Paul gave him the ministerial charge, he cautioned him not to lay hands suddenly on any, and not at all on those, who were novices in religion, or had not a faculty and aptitude to teach. When Christ ascended on high, "he gave pastors and teachers for the perfecting of saints to the work of the ministry, in order to the edifying of his body." It was one part of the duty of the first ministers, to VOL. IV.