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1. That of all that we do, we should give the glory to God
[This was designed by the burnt-offering, as also ky the heave-offering: they were acknowledgments to God, that his goodness to them was great, and that the service which they were enabled to render him had been the fruit of his love, and the gift of his grace.
Thus should all our services be viewed. If they be regarded by us as grounds of self-preference and self-complacency, they will be odious to God in proportion as they are admired by us. We should never for a moment forget, that "it is by the grace of God we are what we are.” "It is God who gives us both to will and to do, and that too altogether of his good pleasure." “Our sufficiency even for a good thought is derived from Him alone.” Instead of imagining therefore that we lay God under obligations to us for any works that we do, we must remember that the more we do for God, the more we are indebted to God – --]
2. That, after all that we can do, we need an interest in the atoning blood of Christ
[This was clearly manifested by the sin-offering. The Nazarite's hair was not burnt on the altar of the burnt-offerings, to make atonement, but with the fire that boiled the peaceofferings, to make acknowledgment. However holy our lives be, even though we were sanctified to God from the very womb, and never contracted such a degree of pollution as should destroy our hope of acceptance with him, yet must we be washed in " the fountain open for sin,” even the fountain of Christ's blood, which alone “cleanseth from all sin.” There is iniquity cleaving to our holiest things; and an atonement is as necessary for them as for our grossest sins: and that atonement can be found only in the sacrifice of Christ ---]
3. That when our term of separation is fulfilled, our joys shall be unrestrained for evermore
(“After that, the Nazarite may drink wine :” and, after the short period of mortification and self-denial assigned us here, we shall “enter into the joy of our Lord,” even into “ his presence, where there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.” The dread of pollution shall then be past; and the tokens of humiliation be put away. Then shall we “ drink new wine in the kingdom of our Father:" and O! how sweet those draughts, of which, in our present state of separation, it was not permitted us to taste! More encouragement than this we need not, we cannot, have. Let us only contemplate “ the blessedness of those who die in the Lord," and we shall need no other inducement to live unto the Lord - -]
n ver. 20.
St. Paul says,
[The term, Nazarite, imports separation : and though, as has been observed before, the ordinances relative to Nazarites are no longer in force, their duties, in a spiritual view, are obligatory on us.
“ Come out from among the ungodly, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will be a Father unto you,
ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." You remember too it was observed, that “God raised up young men to be Nazarites.” O that the young amongst us would be foremost in the surrender of themselves to God! How would the world be benefited! how would God be glorified! females, a vow of theirs, if not allowed by their father or their husband, was made void; so that they could not separate themselves, as Nazarites, without the permission of those who had the control over them°: but there is no such controlling power now, none to prevent a surrender of our souls to God: the answer to any opposing authority must be, "We ought to obey God rather than men.” Let nothing then keep us from executing the purposes which God has inspired; but let us, both old and young, “ yield up ourselves as living sacrifices unto God, assured that it is no less a reasonable, than it is an acceptable, service" ---]
With respect to
o Numb. xxx. 1-16.
Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:
THE exercise of benevolence is that which every child of God should cultivate to the uttermost: but ministers above all should consider it as the distinguishing badge of their office: they are compelled indeed sometimes to “use sharpness ;” but whether they rebuke, or whether they exhort, they should be actuated by nothing but a principle of love. Under the law, it was a very important part of the priestly office to bless the people ; and God prescribed a form of words to be used by Aaron and his sons in the
discharge of that duty" : nor can any words better express the scope and end of the Christian ministry. If the people be brought to receive abundant communications of grace and peace, and to surrender up themselves entirely to God, a minister can desire nothing more in this world; his labours are well repaid. To promote this blessed end, we shall, I. Explain the words before us
God is here making known his will to Moses, and directing him what orders to give to Aaron and his sons respecting the execution of their priestly office: and there are two duties which he assigns to them; 1. To bless the people in God's name
[This was repeatedly declared to be their office b; and the constant practice of the Apostles shews that it was to be continued under the Christian dispensation. In conformity to their example, the Christian Church has universally retained the custom of closing the service with a pastoral benediction. We are not indeed to suppose that ministers can, by any power or authority of their own, convey a blessing": they can neither select the persons who shall be blessed, nor fix the time, the manner or the degree in which any shall receive a blessing: but, as stewards of the mysteries of God, they dispense the bread of life, assuredly expecting, that their Divine Master will give a salutary effect to the ordinances of his own appointment. The direction in the text was confirmed with an express promise, that what they spake on earth should be ratified in heaven: and every faithful minister may take encouragement from it in the discharge of his own duty, and may consider God as saying to him, Bless thou the congregation, “ and I will bless thema."] 2. To claim the people as God's property
[To "put the name of God upon them” is, to challenge them as “ his portion, the lot of his inheritance e." This every minister must do in most authoritative terms; and not only claim them as his property, but excite them with all earnestness to surrender up themselves to his service. Nor shall their exhortations be lost; for God will accompany them “ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;" and the people, constrained by a divine impulse, shall say, “ I am the Lord's?" Moreover, in their intercessions for the people, they are also to urge this plea with God on their behalf. Thus are they to strengthen the connexion between God and them; and to promote that fellowship with God, which is the end, as well as means, of all spiritual communications.]
a The circumstance of its being a prescribed form of words, did not render it the less efficacious for the people's good. b Deut. xxi. 5.
c Acts iii. 12. d To this effect, see Luke x. 5, 6. and John xx. 23. e Deut. xxxii. 9.
Having thus explained the general import of the words, we shall, II. Notice some truths contained in them
Amidst the many profitable observations that may be deduced from the text, there are some deserving of peculiar attention :
1. The priests under the law, while they blessed the people, typically represented the office of Christ himself
[Christ as our High-Priest performs every part of the priestly office: and it is remarkable that he was in the very act of blessing his disciples, when he was taken up from them into heaven h. Nor did he then cease, but rather began, as it were, to execute that office, which he has been fulfilling from that time to the present hour. St. Peter, preaching afterwards to a vast concourse of people, declared to them, that to bless them was the great end for which Jesus had ascended, and that he was ready, both as a Prince and a Saviour, to give them repentance and remission of sins! Let us then conceive the Lord Jesus standing now in the midst of us, and, with uplifted hands, pronouncing the benediction in the text; is there one amongst us that would not cordially add, “ Amen, Amen?” Nor let this be thought a vain and fanciful idea, since he has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, and that too, for the very purpose which is here expressedk.]
2. Though ministers are used as instruments to convey blessings, God himself is the only author and giver of them
[The very words, which the priests were commanded to use, directed the attention of all to God himself; nor could the frequent repetition of Jehovah's name fail to impress the most careless auditor with a conviction, that the blessing could come from God alone. Perhaps too the mystery of the Holy Trinity might be intimated in these expressions'; since it is certain that we, under the clearer light of the Gospel, are taught to look to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as the distinct, though united, authors of all spiritual goodm. We ought indeed to reverence God's ministers as the authorized dispensers of his blessings"; but we must look for the blessings themselves to God alone; and endeavour to exercise faith on the Father as the fountain of them, on Christ as the channel in which they flow, and on the Holy Spirit as the agent, by whose divine energy they are imparted to the soulo. At the same time we should remember the obligation which these mercies lay us under to devote ourselves entirely to the service of our gracious and adorable Benefactor.]
f Isai. xliv. 3—5.
8 Dan. ix. 17-19. Jer. xiv. 9. h Luke xxiv. 50, 51. i Acts iii. 26. and v. 31. k Compare Matt. xviii. 20. with Exod. xx. 24.
3. However weak the ordinances be in themselves, yet shall they, if attended in faith, be available for our greatest good
[Nothing can be conceived more simple in itself than a priestly benediction: yet, most undoubtedly, it brought down many blessings upon the people. And can we suppose that God will put less honour upon his ordinances under the Gospel dispensation? Shall not " grace, mercy and peace, flow down from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” in answer to the fervent intercessions of his ministers P? Though ministers be but earthen vessels, yet shall they impart unto the people the richest treasures. Their word shall not be in vain, but shall accomplish God's good pleasure, and prosper in the thing whereunto he has sent it". Let not then the benediction be so often slighted, as though it were only a signal to depart: but while it is delivered with solemnity in the name of God, let every heart be expanded to receive the benefit. Let every one consider himself in particular as the person addresseds; and may the experience of all attest at this time, that God is ready to grant us above all that we can ask or think.”]
1 See Bishop Patrick on the place. m.2 Cor. xiii. 14. n 1 Thess. v. 13.
o Rev. i. 4, 5. P 2 Tim. i. 2. These three words seem to contain all that is implied in the text.
9 2 Cor. iv. 7. r Isai. lv. 10, 11. $ " Thee” was repeated six times, though addressed to the whole congregation, that every person might feel himself as much interested as if he alone were present. See the text.