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“'Tis a young heaven on earthly ground,
And glory in the bud.” We know that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” and we are spiritually refreslied, strengthened, fitted for service and for conflict too. There are answers to prayer, which prove that our service is accepted. The record of answers to prayer belong to all periods of time, and are proved by all His praying ones. Many of them are answers to prayer presented in our closets, at the family altar; others are answers to believing prayer offered where the disciples meet. And what myriad instances we have of such! The calculations of astronomy all proved correct, the discoveries of science certified and found true, the prophecies of the Divine volume already fulfilled ; all these multiplied a thousand. fold, will not equal the answers to prayer which have proved His presence in their midst, and cheered the hearts of his children in all time. When God gave promise to Abraham he bid him gaze on the stars, and as he viewed their untold numbers, said to him, “ So shall thy seed be;" and we may employ the same symbol to illustrate answers to prayer. Very many who will read this are themselves the living witnesses, in converting grace, and in delivering mercy, of answers to prayer. Many a man can adopt the Psalmist's language, " Verily, God hath heard my prayer.” As the cures wrought on the blind, the possessed, the dead, were the proofs of Christ's presence, and the evidences of answers to prayer, so conversion to God, the heart broken, and the broken heart healed, the singer penitent, and the penitent sinner pardoned, the young allured and yielding to Cbrist, the aged sinner prostrate at his feet, the man of business “ constrained ” to take up the cross and follow Christ; all these occurring in our assemblies, are the tokens of our service being acceptable. The service on the day of Pentecost was acceptable, and thousands of converts were the evidences thereof; the same evidences hold good now, and every convert is given in answer to prayer. When our service attracts others ; not when the ornaments or the tinsel, but when the worship itself attracts; not the gorgeous display, or the fragrant incense, or glittering robes, or mystic rites, but when conducted with simplicity and godly sincerity, the presence of the Lord is felt, and fills the place, à more than magnetic influence is there ; and many, before careless and alien, will say, “ We will go with you, for we perceive that God is with you." The spiritually-prosperous Christian is the attractive one; and when the service of a people is acceptable in God's sight, that service will attract others. We see that wherever a true revival of religion is enjoyed, there has been at least these three features manifest: revived and increased spiritual life in believers, conversion to God of sinners, the attracting of many to the place until it is thronged with hearers. By all these we may know whether our persons and our services are acceptable before Him. Let us examine the proofs, and if we be destitute of them, “let us search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord;" intensely concerned to offer him a service which, through Christ his Son, he will accept.
III. Reproof for unacceptable service. “If ye offer the blind and the lame, is it not EVIL P" “ Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person ?" Jehovah reproved the laxity of both priests and people : “If I be a father, where is my honour ? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” And God has a right to OUR BEST SERVICE. We must present to him the un. blemished lamb, and new bread must be placed on the altar every day. His mercy towards us; the innumerable blessings he bestows upon us ; the pity and love which spared us in all the years of our rebellion against him; the gift of his Son, his best gift for us; his home of “ many mansions," the best portion of his universo, “prepared” for us ; the endeared relationship in which he reveals himself to us ; the clearest and best revelation of his love made known to us ; his Holy Spirit promised to all who ask : all these speak to us in terms which
cannot be mistaken, that he has a right to our best service; poor that service at best, but to him that best of right belongs. That right you will not disown, dispute, or deny. See to it, that while you admit the right, you give your practical assent to it, and make your prayerful aim to give him a service which he will accept. He stoops to ask our BEST service. “My son, give me thine heart.” Why the heart? Because this will test our sincerity and earnestness. The heart': then it will take with it the lips, the feet, the hand, the eye, our prayer and praise, our active service, our consecrated effort, our “watching unto prayer.” The heart: then we shall give our time, energy, money, our whole souls to him. The heart: this is the fountain, and only as that flows will the streams run. The heart : then we engage in his service with delight and worship him with gladness. We will respond to the claim: “Behold we come to thee, for thou art the Lord our God; “Thou that knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."
“Lord, take my heart, and let it be
For ever closed to all but thee." To render best service will ensure His pleasure. Will He be pleased with thee? Yes, he will, and showers of blessing will come upon us. He will return us blessings a hundredfold on our own heads. He will grant us “his favour, which is life; his lovingkindness, which is better than life.” His pleasure is the sunshine which scatters our gloom, the light which drives our darkness away. His pleasure, the summer's beauty which succeeds to winter's barrenness. His pleasure: it is peace, it is joy, it is life. Life of the most exalted character, and of the most exquisite blessedness. To render best service will be a preparative for heaven. There the worshippers never offer“ polluted bread,” * bring the sick and lame," or account his service “weariness." They have “ each one a robe ;' it is always spotless. Each one a harp ; it is always in tune, strung to His praise. Each one a crown; it is laid in holiest and adoring love at Jesus' feet. We hope to join that assembly, to form part of that Church, to join in that worship, to go out no more for ever. Surely all the intellect, all the heart, all the energy, which he has given us should be employed in his service: intellect enlightened by his word and Spirit; heart renewed by grace and panting for greater holiness; energy consecrated to the honour of his name and the spread of his kingdom. Oh! let us rise higher and yet higher every day in the purity, the zeal, the ardour of our service, and in the character of it may we and it become more and more assimilated to the worship of heaven.
Blessed God, forgive us that we have so often rendered unacceptable service, that we have ever offered “strange fire ” or “brought the sick and lame." Lord, help us to worship thee so that we may receive thy blessing and be made a blessing to others.
THE BURNING BUSH AND ITS TEACHING.
BY THE REV. W. P. BALFERN. « Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush : and be looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and seo this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither : put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Mosos hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”—Exod. iii. 1–6.
THERE were, doubtless, many bushes in , but only one which, though enveloped in the wilderness in which Moses wandered, flame, remained uncone umed; and there are many churches in the world, but only their surroundings : here was one who one in which the Angel of the Covenant did; and the same Divine Spirit whe dwells, existing through all time, in spite moulded and fashioned Moses for his wort, of the malice of hell, and enabled and willing though in a desert place, will ever do the to have an intelligent and practical fellow same for others whom he intends to emplos. ship with a suffering Saviour, and to be in God has no difficulty in forming suitable this world even as he was. To a super- instruments for his own work. He en ficial observer this burning bush might make them out of the most unlikely mat have appeared as a very common thing, in rials, and in the midst of the most unprowhich could be seen but little meaning and pitious circumstances. While the gold, bor less beauty ; but to Moses it was a very ever, which is to have the future impress of uncommon thing, and meant a great deal; the King of heaven, is melting in the furnace, so true is it that things and places are to much dross will float upon the surface; and us just what the state of the mind makes while the marble is having the impress of them to be. Those who desire to see God genius, sharp tools must be employed, and will soon be taught to see him in every there will be many a hard and uncomely thing; wbile those who desire not to see blow; and while Moses was getting tha: him will affirm that he is not to be seen in wisdom which was needful, and which he anything. To the eye of faith there is ever could not get from the schools of Egypt, some glimmerings of light in the darkest his heart, no doubt, had often been burnight; while unbelief amid the clearest light | dened by grief, and his faith often wellof heaven ever remains in the dark. A nigh perished in the fire. As, however, the burning bush shall teach Moses; why? greatest darkness often just precedes the Because a living God is in its midst, and break of day, so the greatest felt depression, Moses by the discipline of sorrow has been weakness, and sorrow, are often but the prepared to listen to the instructive voice parents of our sweetest joys and clearest which will proceed from its midst. Thou. intimations of the will and love of God. sands have more than a burning bush with On the very day, it may be, that Moser them now. They have the perfected, the went forth to tend his sheep, a sad, it may majestic, the beauteous temple of revealed be, and melancholy man, lo, a burning bosh truth. They see its beautiful windows and and a voice from its midst calling him by pillars, its history, poetry, prophecies, and name. Why, something within had just promises, but they appear to them as the said before, “How foolish it was of you mystic symbols of an Egyptian column, or I to identify yourself with the sufferings and the utterancês at most of a young and sorrows of that poor oppressed and confabulous age. Why? Because He who temptible people ; a people who could not built the temple is not in it with them, a even appreciate your sympathy: and is it living, present Teacher; and hence in vain likely that the God of Abrabam will ever do they gaze upon its altar and seek to hear your prayer, and deliver them ?" II understand its mysteries.
such was the experience of Moses on this " To the upright there ariseth ligbt in memorable day, he, doubtless, took another the darkness.” Moses way to realize the degree in the school of humility and selftruth of these words. Every true man is a abasement in which he had so long misteri tried man: he has to learn not only to be culated, and by which he was to be fittel lieve, but to wait. Through the strength for his work. In looking, however, at this of his faith in God, zeal for his glory, and interesting incident in the life of this great sympathy with his people, Moses had ex man, let us noticechanged the court of Pharaoh for a tent in I. THE STRANGE PHENOMENON. the wilderness, and the society of the great “The bush burned with fire, and the besh and the learned for the bleating of the | was not consumed.” We shall not attempt sheep which he tended. But he lost no the natural history of this bush: it might thing by the exchange. The desert was be a pleasing exercise to those who are not so solitary but that he could find God more concerned to display their verbal inin it, and in the consolations of his Spirit genuity than to feed hungry souls, and a sweeter joy than the palace of Pharaoh more anxious to master a critical difficulty could afford, and more wisdom than the than to lay hold of the conscience. It is libraries of Egypt could impart. Some say | sufficient for us to know that it was a bush, that men can only be what their age makes that God was in it, and that his servant them, and that they never can rise above I was instructed and comforted by his voice
from its midst. Moses thought, perhaps, yet able to say through him, “O my soul, that his people must be destroyed : they thou hast trodden down strength." How were so weak and their oppressors so strong, marvellous that of the feeblest believer in like an enveloping flame around them. No, I whom Christ dwells it is written, that he says God, I know all about it: they are shall have a power over the nations," and weak, and their oppressors are strong; but that “he shall rule them with a rod of I am with them, and they shall not be con iron;" that, by the force of his life, prinsumed. Moses called that burning bush ciples, and influence, he reigns and stands by which bis unbelief was rehuked "a great identified with the triumphs of truth in sight;" and in the Divine meaning and every age, even to the end. Oh, it is faith significance which God meant it to have to -the reality, invincibility, and constant him, it was ; but viewing it as a type of victory of spiritual and not natural power God's spiritual Church, and descriptive, that we want. more or less, of her life below, all through But it was not the mere fact of the the night of time, it is no less a great sight bush's existence that astonished Moses, to us now.
but the manner of its existence. “I will There was a great mystery of
now turn aside, and see this great sight, (1) Purpose. The burning bush which why the bush is not burnt.” Moses might Mores saw was not the produce of nature well wonder : on the one side fire, one of simply, but of the purpose and power of the most potent forces in nature ; on the God; and it was not simply the working other a bush possessed of all the elements together of the laws of nature, the ordinary of weakness and combustion, yet the bush influence of cause and effect, which brought unconsumed. God's ancient people into Egypt, and pre How beautifully descriptive of the served them there, but the budding forth Church's condition and experience as located of a gracious decree. And how wonderful here : surrounded with the fire of Satan's it is that God should turn aside from all malice, in her self utter weakness, and, other worlds, and even from the intelli however highly sanctified, the elements of gences of heaven, and purpose in his heart all that sin in her still through which her even from everlasting to dwell in a burning great adversary is perpetually seeking her bush, a poor suffering and despised Church, destruction; while all around her also frea mere burning bush upon the surface of quently burns with a veheinent flame the this insignificant planet, and say respect fire of Divine chastisement, outward afilic. ing it, * This is my rest; here will I tion, and persecution. And yet the Church dwell, for I have desired it."
has lived, still lives, and will continue to (2) Promise. The promises of God are live. Still, where is there one at all acYea and Amen in Christ. They embraced quainted with himself who is not comhim as a suffering Head, and his members pelled frequently to exclaim, “I will turn also. God's ancient people could not be con aside, and see this great sight, why the sumed by the fire of oppression which sur bush is not burned ”j But we know why rounded them, for his words were stronger it is not. In that burning bush God himto preserve than that fire was to destroy. self presents us with the greatest and most What a mystery of strength exists in the consolatory truth which the Church can conword of God! And look at the Church now: | template: the Angel of the Covenant was she is a child of promise. The truth of there, and hence the frail bush was stronger God surrounds her like a wall of fire. Hell than the fire, and refused to burn. Thus cannot consume her, because this is im in every age Satan has been foiled, and perishable, and is her shield and buckler. 1 kindled his fires in vain. Some of old could
(3) Presence. In the burning bush bo cast into a fiery furnace, but came forth Moses saw, there was present the Angel of again losing nothing but their bonds ; the Covenant. Here we reach at once the and the blessed apostle could say, "For heart of the mystery-God in the midst of we that live are always delivered unto a burning bush. But how much more won death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus derful is the incarnation of the Son of might be made manifest in our mortal God, the perfections of God speaking, act. flesh.” And many Christians now could join ing, shining through our frail nature, that with him and say, “ As unknown, and yet nature unconsumed. How mysterious his well known; as dying, and behold we live ; presence in the Church-a poor, lowly, as chastened, and not killed ; as sorrowful, bush-like, dwarfed, feeble, perishing thing, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making
many rich; as having nothing, and yet 1 of some. There are many who would s possessing all things." The root of this that a burning bush would be a fit symbu Divine experience may be found in the of their human experience : trouble alte words of Jesus, “ Because I live ye shall trouble, life-long trouble, constant circa live also.” And hence says the apostle, of labour with no result but disappoint“ Ye are of God, little children, and have ment. Well, reader, if this is your exp overcome them, because greater is he that rience, remember that your circles his is in you than he that is in the world.” been fruitless because godless. Your burII. TAE SPIRIT EVOKED.
ing bush has revealed no Angel of l. “I will turn aside and see this great Covenant to you; hence your sorrow. En sight, why the bush is not consumed." the Son of God is in the history of every Tỏis was nature on the alert, curiosity man; for "he worketh all things after un excited. I will turn and see why, counsel of his own will.” And the reasie &c. He was going to do it all him your experience has yielded you nothing self. He would see and he would know yet, is because you have not viewed i why. He must have wondered at himself under the influence of His teaching wie afterwards ; but what a picture of many. speaks often through the burning bush of The religion of Christ is in the world human sorrow, and who ever has a Divine a religion among many religions, a fact meaning and beauty in all that he dos among many facts, a phenomenon amid Do not be content simply to repeat this phenomena. The Bible is in the world, a doleful tale your life long. Life is a book among books; the Church is in the mystery, but God can make it sufficiently world, a Church among churches. We will plain to be instructive to you and lead you look at these facts: why should we not ? | to himself. We will understand why it is that this III. THE DIRECTIVE VOICE. peculiar people and this peculiar book "And when the Lord saw that he turbal exist age after age. Let us master the aside to see, God called unto him out of twe psychology of this subject. But some busb, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, how they do not; and be assured, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigt reader, there is more in the why the bush hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feety is not burned than the philosophy of the for the place whereon thou standest is hoh world ever has or ever will embrace. Why ground.” It was not wrong in Moses to not consumed ? Why, there is a mystery, turn aside to see “the great sight;" but infinite, deep, and eternal as the Divine there was more in it than he imagined nature, underlying it. Yea, the Divine The God of his fathers was there, and nature itself does underlie it; the ever. hence he must do it in a right spirit. And lasting love and wisdom of God; the per it is not wrong for men to turn aside to fections and work of his Son; and truths contemplate spiritual mysteries : indeed, # and principles which no man ever did or is their duty to do so, and it is at ther can receive but by the teaching of God. peril that they do not find time to do sa “Why not consumed ?" Why do you not But it is a sin to approach them in then say that you will explicate every secret of own spirit, without the fear and reverene nature, measure the distances of the planets of God in their hearts. They are to put af with your fingers, yea, sound the secret their carnal conceptions and prejudices depths of the mind of God himself? And and to approach them with prayer, im yet men do say, “I will see why it is not humility, and self-distrust, relying op consumed.” They look at the Church, but the teaching and influence of that Sperzi: they do not see it. Philosopby comes, | who only can take of the things of Christ intellect comes, morality comes, a busy, and reveal them unto us. And especials curious crowd age after age comes, but do should we do this when we seek to colnot see it, nor understand the great why, template the spiritual Church of Christ; and that simply because the sight is not for, next to the incarnation of the Son of promised to such things, but to weeping, God, this Church is the greatest mystery in broken-hearted, self-renouncing faith. Oh, the universe ; and if any man, by error or if the truth could be known without sym false statements,“ defile the temple of God, pathy with it, Satan himself might become him shall God destroy.” These are solemn religious, and the godless wise.
words, which one day will find 006 And these words, too, may have an many to their utter ruin; and that we instructive application to tho experience | may escape their righteons and retributive