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may“ dwell in love,” and thus “ dwell in God and God in us.” Whatever else we are, “ let us be merciful, even as our Father which is in heaven is merciful.” So shall we exhibit to all around the practical tendency of our holy faith.
So shall we prepare for living a life of love to God and man upon earth; and thus have the anticipation and seal of the perpetual bliss of the God of love in his imme. diate presence in heaven.
ROMANS xii. 1.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of
God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
The topic to which we now propose to direct your attention is, The reasonableness of the demand which Christianity makes upon man. For after having pointed out the danger of false conceptions of the Divine character, it is natural for us to repel those charges of harshness and unreasonableness in the practical rules of religion, which such false conceptions have engendered.
What then is the demand which the gospel requires ? And what are the grounds on which its reasonableness may be demonstrated ?
I. The demand then is, in truth, of no slight character. It is no less than of sacrifice to be presented unto God”—and that a sacrifice of ourselves, our bodies and souls: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” This, and no less, is the demand which our text proceeds to declare to be our reasonable service.”
The allusion is to the bodies of the sacred victims which were offered up to God under the Mosaical law. These sacrifices constituted a chief part of the "service of God” under that dispensation. They were of two kinds: the one, sacrifices of atonement; the other, of acknowledgment and dedication : the first, expiatory; the second, eucharistic: the one, offered for obtaining typically the pardon of sin, access to the ordinances of God, and reconciliation with him ; the other, for expressing thanksgiving and praise.
The apostle therefore, alluding to this second class of sacrifices, calls on us, now that we are under the new and universal dispensation of the gospel, when the shadows and types are abolished, to present as our sacrifice of acknowledgment for all the mercies of redemption, not the animal victims which were accustomed to be offered, but our own persons, our bodies and souls, to be devoted to the service of God.
The main idea in such an act is the renunciation of our former right in the thing offered, and the resigning of it unto God. The sacrifices were put out of the power of the offerer, separated from all profane uses, and given up to God, to be disposed of according to his appointment. Thus we renounce, in this spiritual sacrifice, all the ordinary and profane uses to which our bodies and souls were devoted, and we give them up to God, to be spent and worn out in his service; and, if he should so appoint, to be resigned in martyrdom for his glory.
We are, indeed, already God's by right of creation; we are already God's by right of that supreme law which binds all responsible beings ; we are yet more his by right of that purchase of redemption which Christ once made ; and we are also God's by the consecration of baptism, and the renewal of our vows, which most of us have made in our own persons at our confirmation. But all these bonds derive their due effect only from this voluntary sacrifice of ourselves to God's honor.
This dedication includes both body and soul ; all the members of the body and all the faculties of the mind; the word, body, being employed in the text by an usual figure, for the entire person ; and being here the rather adopted, because the apostle was alluding to the bodies of the animal victims offered under the preceding economies.
We are not however called hereby to any superstitious external macerations; we are not to immure ourselves in solitudes; we are not to retire from the bosom of our families ; we are not to deny ourselves the moderate use of those creatures of God, which
are good and nothing to be refused.”
But we are to“ yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” We are to glorify God in our body and in our spirit which are God's.” We are to “avoid all appearance of evil, that we may be sanctified wholly, body, soul and spirit," and be
preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus.” If our right hand or our right eye offends us, we are to cut them off and cast them from us." We are to “mortify our members upon the earth,” to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit,” and to employ our bodies and minds, as a devoted thing, to the glory and honor of God. We are to be willing to suffer depression, pain, solitude, persecution, reproaches, contempt for his sake, and even to be “ offered on the sacrifice and service of our faith.”
The body especially is to be engaged, as well as the mind, in the immediate service of God; the feet are
to "run the way of his commandments;" the eyes to be turned from vanity;" the hands to be clean from taking of bribes ;” the knees to be bowed before the God and Father of all in prayer ; the tongue to resound his praises; the whole man to be separated from all profane uses, and accounted the peculiar property of our God.
But the apostle himself explains what he intends by this sacrifice, in the verses which follow the text: “ And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed in the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The great enemy to the spiritual dedication of ourselves to God is the world Jewish or Heathen, that is, the visible and external people of God and idolaters--and th world substantially now. So long as we mould ourselves after the fashion of the great body of our fellow creatures who are living in sin and folly, there can be none of this sacrifice of ourselves to God. Thé moment we begin in true repentance and lively faith to enter upon this offering, we no longer “ conform” to the notions, schemes, pursuits, pleasures, estimate of good and evil, spirit, ambition, vain amusements, waste of time, eager craving for honor, wealth, and applause, and general “ savoring of earthly things," which constitutes “ the course of this world.” But, on the contrary, we begin to be “ transformed,” metamorphosed, made another sort of men, quickened to a new and heavenly temper, by the “renewing of our mind;" by the renovation of our understanding, will, conscience, and affections, by the Holy Spirit of God; so that we may prove,” make trial of and experience, what is the really “good, holy, acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
Such is the Christian sacrifice which we are called to offer. Feeble, indeed, are our best efforts, and imperfect our highest attainments; but this is