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As the Old Testament dispensation was typical, and a shadow of good things; we must drop the sha. dow, and attend to the substance. In New Tes. tament language, bringing all the tithes signifies having respect to all God's precepts, aiming at the performance of every duty, and especially prizing and supporting the Gospel and its ordinances. By the blessing of plenty is meant the corn that makes the young men cheerful, and that new wine which exhilarates the maids.
It is universally agreed that the devourer in the following verse signifies a great spiritual enemy; deliverance from him, a great spiritual blessing; and that the fruits of the ground are to be taken in a spiritual sense. This verse also, under figurative language, sets before us great spiritual blessings. If we could only see, we would find it a bright cloud with the sound of abundance of rain. If we could attain to the spiritual exercise here pointed out, the blessing would certainly become matter of experience and enjoyment. In fine, if one person attain this exercise, though ten thousand should neglect it, the blessing will be his. · Faithful is he that hath promised, and God has not said to any, Seek me in vain.
We shall endeavour in explaining these words,
I. To open up the import of the text.
II. Show what it is to bring all the tithes into God's house.
III. Ilustrate the exercise of proving God.
IV. Speak of God's opening the windows of heaven and pouring out the blessing.
I. It is first proposed to take notice of some truths implied in the text.
In this, and many other passages of Scripture, Zion is called God's house. He says, That there may
be meat in mine house. It is so called in allusion to the temple. There is much propriety in this designation. God has founded it. It is the place of his peculiar residence, and he says, Here will I dwell. In Zion he converses with his people, as the Father of the family. There he is worshipped, and communicates mercy; there he receives petitions, and bestows his grace. It is an emblem of the Church above, and the entrance to it; and the same term is applied to both. Christ says of heaven, In my Father's house are many mansions.
1. This text implies that this house is supported by the activity of the Head and the members. If either of these be deficient, there is a great want. If the members fail, the tithes are wanting ; and if, through provocation, the Head fail, the blessing is withheld. In every period, the Church has been supported by the activity of both. The members have supported her by their activity and the performance of duty; and the Head by powerful efficacy and the blessing. It is impossible to mention what both of these have done, and still do.
The members love and attend. They love the habitation of God's house, and prefer a day in his
courts to a thousand. They wait at the posts of wisdom's doors, listen to Christ's voice, and sit at his feet and learn. Hearing Christ's voice is an eminent way in which they support the spiritual house. They pour out their hearts before him. They wrestle for his interest and their own, which are inseparably connected; and will have no denial. They present the calves of their lips, and enter his courts to praise him. They support and maintain his ordinances. They are set for the defence of his Gospel. In Ezekiel's language, they love and support the forms, fashions, and laws, of his house. They devote themselves and their all to him. To maintain this house, they count not even their lives dear, and by his
grace are determined to resist whatever would hurt or destroy it even unto blood. To all these things they are constrained by the love of Christ.
The Head does all in respect of efficacy. He laid the foundation deep in his own purpose and blood, The whole edifice is built upon him as the foundation laid in Zion by his Father. By his almighty grace he brings all the stones from the rough quarry of nature, and makes them lively stones by union to himself. He lays and supports them. Conversion and through-bearing are signal parts of the support of this house; and both are from him. He instituted every ordinance, and appointed every office. His grace and providence are hourly employed about this house. He waters it with his grace every moment; and all power in heaven and earth is given to him for supporting and bringing it to perfection. “ The Lord of hosts shall come down to fight for Mount Zion, and
for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it, and passing over he will preserve it.” Whatever the members do, in the way of duty, is by his appointment; and his blessing alone makes it successful. All the efficacy and grace and Providence is immediately from himself.
2. It implies that the great Master of this house takes particular notice of the conduct of all who profess to belong to it. This and other passages in this chapter are expressive of the narrowest notice. He observes when they pay the tithes, and when they neglect. He observes even the principle from which they act, and whether they give cheerfully or with a grudge. There are two characters of Christ expressive of the closest notice. He is called a refiner, and distinguishes between the gold and the dross. He is a witness. He is present at every action, and carefully scrutinizes it.
He distinguishes between the true and nominal professor. Where the person is not accepted, every action and service is rejected. He curses the deceiver. None can enter into this house and deceive him. He observes all the workings of the unbeliering heart, and takes particular notice how often it refuses him, and how inimical it is to his grace. About nominal professors he particularly notices, what they do not to support his house, and what they actually do to undermine and destroy it. Though they may forget the instances of neglect and opposition, he registers them all; and will call them over at the last day. To one he will say, I was an hungered,
and you gave me no meat; and to another, I was sick and in prison, and you did not minister unto me.
He observes also the real friends. Should any, however vile and unworthy, cast but an eye to this house, he sees him yet afar off, like the prodigal when he thought of returning to his father's house, or the publican, when he could scarcely lift up
his eyes, or Jonah when he cried from the belly of hell. With respect to the real friends, he carefully notices what they actually do, for his house, and what they desire to do; how many are converted in their desire, and how many enemies are brought down. He observes their sad lamentations for what they cannot do. He knows when it is in their heart to build a house, and when they lament after the Lord. He takes notice of all their complaints about what retards them; and their secret groanings are not hid from him. He is well acquainted with their love to the lower house, and longing for the higher. He notices every part of their outward substance which is given to support his members and interest, even to a cup of cold water. Every groan and every grace are. carefully observed, and shall not lose a reward. He cannot but notice these, as they all come from himself; for out of his fulness we receive, and grace
3. It implies that God has appointed a certain order and connexion between the services of his people and the blessing. This text evidently supposes an established and settled connexion. When the tithes were regularly brought into God's house, the blessing was granted; and when withheld, the