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by the mutual transfer, if I may so speak, of our sins to him, and of his righteousness to us, that we are to be freed from all our guilt, and to be made righteous in the sight of a holy God: “ He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we (who had nothing but sin) might be made the righteousness of God in ”
When Christ is thus kept in view in all our transactions with God, we need not fear but that God will be gracious unto us, and seal upon our souls a sense of his forgiving love.]
Let us next notice,
[Together with their humiliation, they offered unto God their praises and thanksgivings agreeably to the laws which had been prescribed by God himself. In this also are they worthy of our constant imitation : “In every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God," says the Apostle: and what God has so joined we ought not to put asunder.
But here also there are two things worthy of more particular notice: “When the burnt-offering began, then the song of the Lord also began:” and “all this continued until the burntoffering was finished.” There was no need to wait: their hearts might well be tuned to praise the very moment they looked to their burnt-offerings as the means of reconciliation with God: nor, as long as they continued so to do, was there the smallest occasion for relaxing in the expressions of their joy. So the very moment we look to the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, and plead with God the merit of his blood, we may begin to rejoice in God as our reconciled God and Father. It is said, “ All that believe are justified from all things;” not all that are strong in faith, or, all that have exercised faith for such a length of time; but all who believe (provided their faith be unfeigned) are from that very moment justified from all things, and may instantly“ rejoice in hope of the glory of Gode.” Št. John, speaking not to fathers only, or to young men, but to the weakest babes in Christ, says, “ I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.” There are many who think it a mark of humility to put away from them all joy, till, as they imagine, the progress of their sanctification shall justify the entrance of it into their souls. But this is altogether founded on ignorance and error. A sinner is not to look into himself for his warrant to rejoice in God: the mercy, the love, the truth, and faithfulness of
C 2 Cor. v. 21.
d Phil. iv. 6.
God, together with the ability and willingness of Christ to save all who come unto God by him, are the proper grounds of joy, irrespective of any change actually wrought in us. We say not that a believer may not afterwards have much joy in the testimony of his own conscience that he has made a progress in the divine life; (for St. Paul himself experienced this joy ;) but the affiance of his soul on Christ interests him in all that Christ has done and suffered for him, and gives him an immediate title to partake of the fatted calf, which his heavenly Father has prepared for him.“ Being delivered from the horrible pit, and having his feet set upon the rock, a new song instantly should proceed from his mouth, even praise and thanksgiving to our Godh.” Nor should that song ever cease; because the efficacy of his Redeemer's sacrifice will never cease.
We are bidden to “rejoice in the Lord always,” yea “ again and again to rejoice:” and indeed, humiliation and joy must be united in all our services to the very end of time
as they will be united even in heaven itself, where we shall cast our crowns at the Redeemer's feet, and sing to all eternity, “ To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen."]
At the close of that solemn service we particularly notice, III. Their reverential obeisance
[When they had made an end of offering, “ the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshipped.” This remarkable termination of their worship indicated a grateful sense of the inestimable privilege which they had enjoyed of drawing nigh to God-an humble acknowledgment that they, and all that belonged to them, were the Lord's—and a determination of heart henceforth to dedicate themselves unreservedly to his service.
And thus it is that we should close our worship, whensoever we draw nigh to God in his public ordinances! It is painful to see persons going from the house of God without a due sense of the awful solemnities in which they have been engaged. The light and airy manner with which persons renew their conferences with each other upon the common topics of the day, demonstrates, that their worship has been by no means such as God requires : had they really felt as redeemed sinners ought to feel, the savour of that intercourse with heaven would not so soon be lost. O, if men did but reflect on the mercy vouchsafed to them, in being permitted to sprinkle the blood of Christ upon the altar, to transfer all their guilt to him, and to receive from him the gift of his unspotted righteousness; if they duly considered what a right the Lord Jesus Christ had acquired over them in having bought them with his blood, and how much they are bound to glorify him with their bodies and their spirits which are his; methinks they would depart from the house of God with a holy solemnity upon their mind, and would continue in their way homeward secretly to commune with their God, and to harrow in by meditation and prayer the seed which has been sown upon their hearts. For want of this, even religious people often lose all the benefit of the ordinances which they have been privileged to enjoy. Earnestly would we entreat all persons to attend to these suggestions; and to bear in mind, whether they enter into the house of God or depart from it, that it is the God of heaven and earth with whom they have to do, and to whom they must shortly give an account of all these privileges which by the generality are so lightly esteemed.
8 2 Cor. i. 12. h Ps. xl. 2, 3. i See that admirable pattern, 1 Chron. xxix. 14.
How the people remembered the vows that were upon them, was evident from the liberality with which they immediately presented their offerings to the Lordk. O let us give up our whole selves to him a living sacrifice: and from a constraining sense of redeeming love, let us henceforth live, not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again.]
k If any Collection be made on the occasion, the zeal and liberality of the worshippers, ver. 32, 33. may well be proposed as a pattern. Or, if the occasion required, the different Officers of the Church or Parish might be exhorted, from the example of the Priests, and of the Levites in particular, to exert themselves in their respective callings to serve and honour God.
2 Chron. xxix. 31. Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now ye
have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the house of the Lord.
RELIGION is the brightest ornament of every state. Solomon was never more truly encircled with glory, than when he led the devotions of his people at the dedication of the temple: nor was Hezekiah
at any period of his reign more honourably employed, than when he was purifying that temple from the abominations which had been introduced into it by his father Ahaz. The exhortation in our text was delivered by him to the whole congregation of Israel, after that the sacrifices for the purification of the temple had been offered. And to you who are of the younger part of our audience they may with great propriety be addressed, after the services which you have this day been called to perform.
With a more immediate view to your benefit, we will consider, I. The act in which you have been engaged
You have been to the bishop to be confirmed : and this is, 1. A solemn act
[From the levity of too many who attend on these occasions, it may be thought to be a ceremony of no importance. But it is a most solemn transaction between God and your souls. You have this day been taking upon yourselves the vows which were made in your behalf at your baptism; and have been devoting yourselves to God as his servants : and, whether you have been sincere or not in the performance of the duty, the consequences of it will be very important: if you have given yourselves to the Lord in sincerity and truth, he has accepted you to his favour, and numbered you among his children: but, if you have lied unto God with your lips, you have riveted upon your souls your former iniquities, and provoked God to give you up to greater obduracy a -] 2. A reasonable act
[The first-fruits of every thing were the Lord's: nor could any man appropriate them to his own use without the greatest impiety. Thus are the first-fruits of your time and strength to be given up to God. It is generally thought that the Jewish children at about twelve years of age went up to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord in a more solemn manner: and we know that our blessed Lord went thither at this age, that he might in a more peculiar way than he had ever before done, engage in the services of “his Father's house." We cannot do better than follow his example in this particular. As soon as we have arrived at an age when we are capable of understanding
a Isai. xxviii. 22. Rom. i. 21.
and executing the vows that are upon us, we should go up to the house of the Lord, and there solemnly acknowledge our obligations to serve our God, and implore from him the grace and strength that shall be needful for us. This, we are expressly told, is “a reasonable service b.") 3. An irrevocable act
[It was an established law, that if any thing whatsoever had been devoted to the Lord, it could not be recalled. Least of all then can you be liberated from the engagement which you have this day entered into, and which would have been binding upon you, even though you had never obeyed the call of
your diocesan in relation to it -]
But confirmation is to be the commencement of a new and more determined course of devotedness to God. I will therefore proceed to mark, II. The duty which yet remains to be performed
The act in which you have this day been engaged must be, 1. Continued
[The whole remainder of your lives is the time for the performance of your vows. There never will arrive a period when you are absolved from them, or when you are at liberty to relax your attention to them. Every morning and evening were the sacrifices offered in the temple, and a double number on the seventh day: so must every day begin and end with fresh surrenders of yourselves to God; and the Sabbath in particular must be a day of more than ordinary communion with him. “ If you look back, after having put your hand to the plough, you are not fit for the kingdom of God:” yea, " if you draw back, it is to certain and everlasting perdition."] 2. Progressive
[After all had been done that was necessary for the purification of the temple, Hezekiah called on the people to present sacrifices and thank-offerings unto the Lord: and, in consequence of this exhortation, they were presented in great numbers. The sacrifices which God desires of you, are, not sheep and oxen, but the offering of a free, a contrite, a devoted heart d. And, as the first offerings which were presented, were from duty and necessity, and the last from a superabundant zeal for God, and gratitude to his name, so are your surrenders
Rom. xii. 1.
c Luke ix. 62. Heb. x. 38, 39. d See Rom. xii. 1. before cited.