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about the time to be devoted to the Lord. The time immediately spent with God has precious effects. It consecrates the rest of the time, and tends to spiritualize the heart; and then the person is likely to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
We are not to reckon the time lost which is thus spent. There is no profit in robbing God. Even as to the things of this world, he may soon blast them, or lay his hand upon us. If we look to the other world, no time can be employed to such advantage as in seeking the pearl of great price, and laying up treasure in heaven.
3. It also implies that we should give him a part of our substance. This was directly and immediately meant by the tithes. Under the Gospel, the command to honour the Lord with our substance is as binding as ever, though we are neither confined to the same manner of giving, nor to the same quantity. As this duty is perhaps as little understood and practised as most, the following things may perhaps cast light upon
it. All that we have in this world is from the Lord. The silver and the gold are his. We are taught by Christ to seek our daily bread from him, and he carves out our lot. If we enjoy outward prosperity, it is wholly from him. “ He blessed them also, so that they are multiplied greatly, and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.” (Psal. cvii. 38.) The hairs of our head are numbered by him, and a sparrow falls not to the ground without him. The best concerted plans, and the strongest endeavours will be unsuccessful, without his blessing; and his watchful
Providence is equally necessary both for procuring, and preserving our outward enjoyments.
As we have our all from the Lord, we ought to expend none of it directly against him or to support his enemies, but to use it in subserviency to his glory, and our salvation. The contrary conduct is most sinful. It was a great ground of the Lord's controversy with his people, that they did not see his hand in the good things they enjoyed, and knew not that their corn, wine, and oil, which they prepared for Baal, came immediately from him. This provoked him to take away these outward blessings, Hosea ii. 8–13. The same conduct is also reprobated, James iv. 3, “ Ye ask, and receive not, because
ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”
While we should use none of our substance against God, a part of it should be directly given to him. The calls of Providence, the situation of Christ's interest and members, and our own ability, will determine the quantity. Christ needs part of our substance to support his cause and ordinances, and to supply his members, who are on beds of languishing or in the straits of poverty. He has the strongest possible claim to what is necessary for these purposes. We are bound by justice and gratitude to give it. It is just that he should be served by his own; and gratitude requires that a part be given to him, from whom we have the whole. As to our ability, the great rule is, 1 Cor. xvi. 2. Every one is to give as God hath prospered him. Many are ready to err in judging of their own ability. If we would judge aright, we should judge without partiality, and
with faith on God as Jehovah Jireh. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, and to remove all backwardness to this duty, he sets before us the most powerful encouragement in his word. What is given for these purposes is called a lending to the Lord, who will return it with interest; a casting our bread upon the waters, with an assurance of finding it; and he has promised that every service of this kind, even to a cup of cold water, shall be rewarded. We have often seen verified, Prov. xi. 24, “ There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty.'
4. It includes a performance of every duty. The duties enjoined are either more directly to God, ourselves, or others; and none of them are to be neglected. That we may know them, we are diligently to look into the law of the Lord, which is perfect, and the only rule of faith and manners: that we may practise them, we are diligently to apply to the grace of the Gospel. The law tells us what to do, and the Gospel how to do it. The one sets duty before us, and the other grace and strength for the performance. A
person can never be said to bring all the tithes into God's house while he lives in the wilful neglect of any known duty.
5. Bringing all the tithes into God's house also includes an observation of every ordinance. The Lord hath appointed various ordinances, some for gathering in sinners, others for building up his own people, all of them for the good of the body and his own glory; and none of them should be slighted.
As these are well known, they need not be named. In the observation of them it is of great importance to have an eye to the Divine authority which enjoins them, and the ends for which they are appointed. Waiting upon God in them, we should be influenced by the hope and expectation of the blessing annexed; and should consider them all as means of communion with the great Head, and designed to meeten us for the inheritance of the saints in light.
We shall only further say, that God considers keeping back the tithes as robbing himself. In any case robbery is a great sin, exposes to severe punishment, and must be aggravated in proportion to the excellency of the things taken away, and the bad effects produced. Keeping back the tithes robs God of his due, is pernicious to our own souls, and hurtful to others. As persons guilty of this crime when apprehended are punished, so God will not hold them guiltless who neglect to bring the tithes into his house. The Israelites here were punished, and such as act the same part have no reason to think that
escape. When the Lord's people themselves are in any measure guilty of this crime, though he pardon their sins, he will take vengeance on their inventions.
Leaving the other parts of this subject, we conclude at present by observing, that a professing people are often very guilty, and always highly favoured. It was so with the Jews. They had peculiar privileges. They were God's chosen people, and he constantly watched over them. He supplied all their necessities, and protected them against all their foes.
They were favoured with the means of grace, and enjoyed the symbols of Divine presence. Salvation was set before them. Justly did Christ say, “ Salvation is of the Jews." But they were very guilty. Though they enjoyed privileges superior to every other nation, they did not improve them. Sin prevailed against light and warnings. They rejected the counsel of God contrary to conscience and conviction. They knew that the tithes should have been paid; but they withheld them. Before this, they had ample experience of the sad effects of God's anger; but they despised them. Others favoured with the Gospel too often follow the same course. The means of grace are a distinguished privilege. Suitably improved, they will produce the happiest effects. Misimproved, the event will be awful and melancholy. God has promised to be with us, while we are with him. If we forsake him, he will forsake
We should endeavour to comply with the gracious call, “ Return unto me,” and take encouragement from the comforting promise, “ and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts."