« ПредишнаНапред »
ON DEDICATION TO GOD.
1 Cor. viii. 5. But first gave their own selves to the Lord. RELIGION, serious, vital, practical religion, is the
great end of our being. I say vital, practical religion, to distinguish it from that form of godliness, that superficial, showy, shadowy profession which some weakly mistake, and others wickedly substitute, for this important concern. There are some, strange that it should be so ! there are many, who, because they put on airs of seriousness at particular times, and say, with much self-approbation, “God, I thank thee, I am not as other men are,” vainly think that they are religious; and are as easy and confident as if they were really children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. But is this religion? Alas ! no more than a picture is a man. Where is thy humiliation before God, on account of the depravity of thy heart, and the sins of thy life? Where are thy tears of repentance, or thy earnest desires of salvation ? Where is
the surrender of thyself, and all that thou hast, to God, as a thank-offering for thy deliverance from the house of bondage, and thy restoration to the enjoyment of light and liberty? Where is thy faith, and zeal, and holiness? Where is thy communing with thy heart, and making diligent search? Where is thy meditation upon God, thy drawing near to him, and delighting in him as thy portion? What! a stranger to all this, and yet a pretender to religion! Ah! man, consult thy Bible, consult thy heart ; consult those who are Christians indeed, and they will tell thee, that religion is something different from this. To be religious, is to “ be renewed in the spirit of our mind; to be dead, indeed, to sin, and to be alive to God through Christ Jesus our Lord;" and,“ whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, to do all to his glory.” It is this reference to the Author of our being that constitutes religion ; and the nicest observances of forms and ceremonies, and the exactest behaviour which terminates in self, have not the least claim to that sacred character. In opposition, therefore, to all such pretensions, it is called " lifting up the soul to God ;" honouring, fearing, trusting, loving, and delighting in him ; and in our text, "giving ourselves to the Lord.”
These words are connected with an account of a contribution, which was made by the churches of Macedonia, for the relief of the Saints in Judea. As an additional commendation of their character, he says, “ And this they did, not as we hoped ; but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” From that part of these words which has been read for our text, we propose to inquire, what is implied in giving ourselves to the Lord---how this is to be done ---and why this should be our first and principal concern. • I. What is implied in giving ourselves to the Lord ? Whether we give ourselves to him or not, he has a natural and an unalienable right to us as the author of our existence. Besides this, he has redeemed us: not, indeed, with corruptible things, such as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot: so that we are under the strongest and most indispensable obliga. tions to glorify him in our bodies and spirits. Yet he expects that we should resign ourselves to him, and confirm his right to us byour own voluntary surrender. We had sold ourselves to sin ; we had been led
captiveby Satan, at his will; and the world had too much reason to claim us for its own, and to boast of its tri. umphs. To give ourselves, therefore, to the Lord, implies, that we renounce all former dependance and attachments; that we break the bands of sin asunder, and cast its cords away from us; and that thus disengaged from all rivals and competitors whatever, we present our bodies and spirits an unreserved sacrifice to God. It is to fall down before him in the lowest humiliation, and say, “ O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us; but by thee only will we make mention of thy name. What wilt thou have us to do? Speak, Lord, for thy servants hear. We subscribe to thy own proposals. Whatever thou choosest us to be, to have, to want, to do, or to suffer, we cheerfully acquiesce in thy wise and righteous appointments. Wegiveourselves to thee beyond the power of revocation. We renounce for ever all
inferior claims and expectations. We bind ourselves to the horns of thy altar. We join ourselves to thee in a covenant, which we hope will never be forgotten : and it is our humble and earnest desire, that whatever difficulties we meet with, we may never deny, nor desert, nor dishonour our Saviour!" Such, my friends, is the dedication or surrender of yourselves to God, which I am now recommending. I proceed, therefore, to inquire,
II. How we are to give ourselves to the Lord.
Remember that you are engaged with the greatest Being in the universe. Endeavour to get your minds impressed with a lively sense of his greatness; and consider that his eyes are as a flame of fire, that he cannot be deceived, and will not be mocked; and that he will be sanctified in them that come nigh him, and before all the people he will be glorified. For, is he not the high and lofty one that inhabits eternity? Do not angels prostrate themselves in his presence ; and are not all the nations of the earth as the small dust of the balance, in comparison with him? Is he not a jealous God, and a consuming fire? while thou, my soul, art dry stubble before him ; a beast, a worm, an enemy, a rebel, a wretch, whom nothing but my crimes could have rendered considerable? What is the sacrifice then which I dare offer to this high and holy Potentate? What is the mighty present which I am vain enough to imagine will be accepted by him from my hands ? Blessed God, I have nothing but a broken heart, the poor remains of what I once was, to surrender to thee. It was originally thine, but I have wickedly withheld it from thee, and have madly devo
ted it to sin and the world. With a high hand, and an outstretched arm, thou hast wrought salvation for me, and I would fain acknowledge the immense obligation. But how can I come before thee, Lord? How can a creature, mean and guilty like me, appear in thy presence ? But while I tremble at a view of thy majesty and holiness, 1 rejoice that, through a mediator, sinners are perınitted to approach thee ; and that, though thou art the Lord of Glory, thou hast condescended to converse and covenant with dust and ashes. I will, therefore, direct my prayer to thee, and will look up; I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercies, and in thy fear will I worship towards thy holy temple.
Secondly, we must give ourselves to the Lord deliberately ; I mean with the prudence and caution of those who know what they are doing. Rash promises are seldom observed. Zeal without knowledge soon becomes cold; and that religion which has nothing but passion for its foundation, like the house built upon the sand, will fall to the ground. Before, therefore, you enter into such important engagements, consider them seriously. It was excellent advice of Solomon, “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words he few.” Christ decoys no man into his service; but he expects from all that enter into it, fide. lity and perseverance. Consider, O my soul, what a sacrifice thou art making. Body, soul, spirit, houses, lands, possessions, and friends, must be resigned to his disposal ; and every sinful gratification whatsoever be renounced. Do I know what I am doing?