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bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people" (Acts ii. 38, 46, 47).
2. The burnt-offering expresses gratitude for the blessing of the harvest. This sacrifice was to consist of seven lambs, one young bullock, and two rams, which were to be entirely given up to Jehovah. No horn, no hoof, no skin of this sacrifice was to be devoted to any human use or profit. It was, therefore, a fit expression of the grateful feeling of the people. At such a season of the year we seem to hear the words of Paul with new emphasis, "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 motives for gratitude are numerous if men consider the evils which an abundant harvest averts. If the corn had been blighted, or if the fields had been deluged with rain, even with the prospect of large importations, there must have been dearness of price. Many would have become anxious in the extreme. The question of daily bread would have been one of constant solicitude and probably temptations to doubt, or dishonesty might have fearfully increased. The abundant harvest gives us freedom from excessive care, and allows us to make the best of our condition of privilege and opportunity. Life is worth much in England. Here we have the aids of Providence-the light of Revelation to teach us the uses and worth of things, the calmness of the Sabbath, the open sanctuary, innumerable copies of the Scriptures, the wealth of a Christian literature, and all the diversified assistance of the Reign of Grace. We are "exalted to heaven," and the support of our life, with its powers of gaining and diffusing good, should awaken ardent praise. It is desirable to be thankful, further, because there is something noble and disinterested in the nature of praise. It is well to pray and solicit needful help and deliverance from evil, in which there is something of personal craving and anxious care; while thanksgiving brings us near in spirit to the angels who have never stained their garments with sin, and to those who by faith in Jesus Christ have escaped from its defilement, and are now before the throne, and offer their hallelujahs and anthems of praise with "joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
3. The peace-offering shows us some of the uses of the harvest. This consisted of two lambs, of which, after the fat had been burnt upon the altar, the breast and shoulders were given to the priest, and other portions were received by the offerer, who, with his family and friends, and the poor, sat down to a feast with sacred rejoicing. Without straining the signification of this appointment to any undue breadth of application, it seems to suggest that gratitude should not evaporate in pleasant feel
ing and transient states of emotion. These, if alone, somewhat resemble clouds which travel across the sky in vastness of mass, coloured with gold, purple, and crimson, but distil no rain upon the thirsty surface of the fields and pastures. Whether the apostle thought of the peace-offering at the harvest celebration cannot be decisively affirmed; but his words seem to have remarkable adaptation to illustrate this branch of our remarks. His counsels are "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." (Gal. vi. 6, 7.) This gratitude will be well shown in all endeavours to extend the knowledge of Christ by the preaching of the Gospel. It is said by Paul that "God hath sent forth the spirit of His Son into our hearts." One distinguishing feature of the spirit of Christ is to be seen in laborious preaching of the Gospel. In reply to the messengers sent by John Baptist he crowned the recital of his miracles with these weighty words: " And to the poor the gospel is preached." There are other acts of beneficence which should spring from a sense of the Divine goodness. The pleasure of giving is not to be the luxury of the wealthy only; since our Lord has placed works of faith and labours of love within the reach of all His followers, and cups of cold water given to a disciple shall not be unrecompensed.
In reviewing these thoughts we may note the completeness of the Divine institutions. By the sin-offering men were restored to happy relations with God. The burnt-offering said "All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee." All was concluded with the peace-offering, in which priest, worshipper, and the poor had a share in the Divine goodness and human love. J. S. BRIGHT.
Evidences of Growth in Grace.
ONE invariable mark of increasing spiritual vitality will be a more habitual consciousness of an intimate relation to the person of Christ. As you go on, you learn that both the new life and the satisfaction of it come from a personal Friend. Your times of devout retirement will be like dialogues with Him. You will ask yourself, in doubtful matters or places, how this or that would suit His mind, or harmonise with His presence. Not that His visible presence, or any strained attempt to realise it will be needful. Yet there will be an increased feeling of His being really close at hand, and His face, marvellous in its tenderness, is almost seen.
As the better life deepens and expands, there is also a steady alteration in the relative proportions of fear and love, as motive-powers in Christian living. The fear will not, perhaps, totally vanish, even in the highest type of piety; but it will become that confiding and reverential fear which is in
accord with the sweetest filial affection. The love will not wax over-bold or presumptuous, so as to forget the line that runs between things allowed and things forbidden; but it will set the heart at liberty from bondage, and make obedience free-footed and joyous. Whereas the man just shaking himself clear of his old life will often be found saying, "Must I do this?" or, "What will happen to me if I do not?"-doing some good things only because of a premonition of evil if they are left undone,—the more mature disciple will rather move forward to the duty or the sacrifice with an unquestioning conviction-which shuts every question up-that there God will be with him, and hence he cannot go elsewhere. His soul is so affianced to righteousness that, in the instinct of a noble nature, he recoils from known sin as ordinary men shun dishonour. In fact, sin becomes a dishonour to the Best Friend. Law remains, though liberty is gained, for law and liberty are not opposites; the slavery of self-will is the real antagonist of law, as license is the foe of liberty. And therefore it is one of the signs of a spirit that has risen well up toward overcoming the world, when the will spontaneously acts so much in line with the will of God that there is no galling of the neck under the yoke, and but little calculation of the consequences of disobedience. Believe in this oneness of purpose and life with God; pray for it as a part of the Christian victory, and expect it as a part of the Christian sanctification.
Along with the reconciliation of duty with inclination, there comes a reconciliation of small and even comparatively insignificant duties with the great principles of Christian allegiance. I scarcely know a surer test of real growth in Christ than this,- -a more infallible touchstone to distinguish a true advance in holiness from the higher life of mere sentimentalism. Something is wrong where claims to exalted spirituality, or to a superior freedom from temptation, even though it be attributed to the special power of Jesus Christ, are accompanied by no corresponding deliverance from petty domestic foibles, from ill-temper, vanity, obstinacy, contempt of those that differ, or indolence. The grandeur of a triumphant faith is in the uniformity of its operation, in its easy condescension to homely drudgeries, in the quiet self-sacrifice with which it takes the stumbling-blocks and the burdens from others' paths and shoulders, in the Christ-like lowliness that renders the hour with God on the mountain-top not an excuse for neglecting commonplace services to our neighbours, but a secret preparation for their more punctual and faithful performance. Too many old habits, to be sure, cling about our crude beginnings of the new life to allow this divinest beauty of holiness to appear at once. But it is capable of indefinite unfolding and brightening. As sure as Christ is formed in you, it will glorify all your manhood.
Another mark of the increase of the blessed life of Christ in the disciple is an increase of serenity. Agitations belong to earlier periods; the slender stream is tossed about and troubled by trivial impediments, frets at every little roughness on its edges, bubbles and babbles at the stones in its bed, and even seems to foam sometimes at sudden accessions to its own fulness. But, running on its way, it gathers contributions to its force.
Gaining volume and depth it gains tranquillity. Slight hindrances are borne silently away before its strength, and it moves in majesty because its motion is undisturbed. So a German saint, describing in his diary the later results of a long spiritual conflict, the final issue of a slow, inward struggle, borrows Isaiah's image, and says, "Now was my peace like a river." The anxiety of religious beginners is of many kinds. There is the anxiety of crude ideas, of undisciplined emotions, of morbid introspection, of comparison with others, of fear for the future, and distrust in God. In a true, healthy growth, you see less and less of this spiritual worrying. In the character of Jesus Christ nothing is more marvellously beautiful than His peace; and, in the things of the Spirit, peace comes by power. The more He gives us of His life, the more He gives us of His repose. To a large extent this peace consists in a superiority to the irritations and annoyances of our common lot, as well as to its heavier sorrows. In respect to the former, we call it patience, which is sublime, in God and in man. In the latter, we call it submission. In the case of some eager, impetuous, and yet sensitive natures, it requires a long practice and ripe attainments to be patient with one's self,-almost as much as to be submissive to God. This evil spirit of unrest cometh not forth except by prayer and fasting; but when it is gone a singular loveliness is seen on the face of the healed soul, and you confess that the power which, even in a lifetime of holy discipline, can work out a transfiguration so glorious, must be no other than the power of the Son of God.
In nothing, however, is the Christian's progress in holiness more signally manifest than in his prayers. They become more and more the natural expression of the new life. At first, prayer is either a part of the exercise of religious obedience, or else the indispensable means of obtaining some desired benefit. Accordingly, persons immature in faith and love have a great deal of difficulty with their prayers. No complaint is oftener poured into the ears of spiritual pastors and teachers than that of unsatisfactory devotions. It takes different forms. Sometimes the heart is cold; the hour of daily retirement is unwelcome; the closet has no attractions; the words are nothing but words; the whole transaction is a dead form, or even a mockery. At other times the disappointment is that the special petitions are apparently not answered. Again and again the cry goes up, and no evident sign is given of a hearing God. The request is not granted; the bad habit is not broken; temptation does not die; doubt is not removed; the favour sought is not bestowed; the comfort is not felt, and it is questioned whether the Comforter Himself draws near; it is as if the supplication were driven back from a shut-up heaven like a leaden weight upon the breast. The baffled suppliant keeps on entreating, rather because the letter of the command is plain, or because he knows it must somehow be well for him to be on his knees before his Maker, than because he is refreshed, or receives the boon he seeks. With the increase of life these sources of misery disappear; or, if they are afterward re-opened the distress is short-lived, being generally due to some temporary disorder of the inward man. Christ being more completely formed within, the
believer's seasons of communion with the Father spread themselves more widely through his days and nights. He passes very frequently, almost unconsciously, and by imperceptible gradations of feeling, from his ordinary existence among the things of this world into direct converse with that Friend who is ever nearest, while also most high and most mighty. The current of adoring thought flows on in joyous, satisfying concord with the Eternal Will. We do not stop, perhaps, to shape every aspiration into articulate speech, but we yield to the Divine breath, and move whithersoever the Spirit that maketh intercession moves. In such measure as may be, the
disciple is in the Mount with the Master. As the Lord Himself sometimes, to the very last, offered up particular entreaties, so it will daily be with His most spiritually-minded followers. But the communion will not end with these. A larger and larger share of devotion will consist in thanksgiving and praise-a sure mark of spiritual growth. Some new blessing-a victory of faith, a fresh beam of light falling from heaven on the pathwill as often stir the soul to its heavenly conversation as a trial, loss, or throb of pain. There will be no anxious concern about answers, for the felt blessedness of the act is itself an answer. May not something like this be the meaning of the prayer that is "without ceasing"? It is the loftiest action of the spirit of man. It is hiding in the pavilion of the Most High, and resting under the shadow of His wings.
CAN the pure and infinite God really suffer grief? is a question that at once suggests itself upon the mere announcement of this topic. It is to many minds difficult of comprehension, partly because of a dislike to attribute to Him anything that appears like what we understand by suffering or unpleasant emotion, and partly because of the conceptions of God which they are accustomed to entertain. Yet it is certain that the Scriptures do in numerous passages speak of Him as grieved by human sin and misery. Nor are they all in the earlier portions of the Old Testament, where the history represents men in their more barbaric condition, and anthropopathic expressions are perhaps more frequent; but they are found in the New Testament as well. St. Paul quotes from the ninety-fifth Psalm the declaration of the Holy Ghost that God was grieved with that generation," that disbelieved and disobeyed Him, notwithstanding the demonstrations at the Red Sea and Mount Sinai, making it the basis of an exhortation to Hebrew Christians to beware of an evil heart of unbelief; and, again, he distinctly cautions the Ephesians that they "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.”
There is, then, some emotion possible to the Divine Mind, which is best expressed by this term. In some instances it involves the idea of indignation, provocation, and even loathing; in others, sorrow for the misery caused by sin, and remaining even after the sin has been abandoned, as well as pain and sadness for the sin itself. Here is a painful emotion ascribed to God, which however unpleasant to us in the contemplation, especially if we have