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SERMON XIII.

MALACHI III. 10.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may

be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

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This chapter begins with an illustrious prophecy concerning Christ. His incarnation is foretold; and his glorious character as Messenger of the new covenant is delineated as ground of faith and consolation to the Church. His gracious work of refining his Church, and all her members, is also predicted. In the language of the Old Testament, believers are priests and Levites, and these he refines. His work extends to his enemies, and he is a swift witness against them. When he comes to his Church as a Refiner, the dross which cannot stand the furnace will be consumed; and the true gold brightened.

This chapter also contains the sad state of the Jewish Church. Various charges are brought against her. The precepts of both tables of God's law are broken: there is a departing from God's ordinances in a continued progression: they were guilty of rob

bing God: they were obstinate, and refused to take with the charge, and instead of performing the duties enjoined, said, Wherein shall we return, and wherein have we robbed God? This prophet not only describes what the church then was, but foretells what she would be at other periods. Therefore, at any time, when these or such sins prevail, a gracious Lord speaks to Zion in the words of the text, Bring ye

all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

This text viewed in its connexion contains these things:

A judgment from God, viz. great outward scarcity bordering on famine. This was produced partly by the season, and chiefly by the caterpillar and cankerworm devouring the fruits of the ground. . This judgment was God's voice, and proclaimed that he was angry. It was a loud language to the people. By it God punished them for the sins specified; accordingly in ver. 9 it is said, Ye are cursed with a curse, even this whole nation.

It contains the procuring cause of this judgment,they robbed God of the tithes. They learned in experience that keeping back God's part did not enrich them. Withholding more than is meet, espeeially from God, tendeth to poverty. On the other hand, if we honour the Lord with our substance, our barns shall be filled with plenty, and our presses burst with new wine. In opposition to this conduct

the Jews still kept back God's part. They grudged it, and thought that what he got was lost to themselves.

In the text too there is the way to get matters bettered, and the judgment removed; God's curse taken away, and his blessing restored.-Bring ye all the tithes into my house. These were God's property, and were chiefly designed for two purposes,—that the priests and Levites might be maintained, and the poor supplied. The Levites had no portion in the division of Canaan. The Lord was their portion. They attended daily at the altar, and God appointed that they should live by it. The poor were also to be supplied. The tithes for these uses were to be separated, and carried up to Jerusalem, particularly every third year, and the owners, along with the Levites, and the poor, were to eat. Thus it is said, Deut. xiv. 28, 29, “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates. And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest." See also chap. xii. 5, 6, 7, 11, 12,—they were to pay them all, and withhold none. They were to do this before the plenty should be enjoyed, as a proof that they could trust God, and believe his word before they saw the accomplishment, as the way in which they were to expect plenty, and as giving a decided preference to God's house.

In fine, the text contains the encouragement. God calls them to prove and try him about the blessing. This without doubt amounts to a promise. The path of duty is pointed out, and the success graciously secured. While there is great encouragement in God's promise, this is heightened by the abundance of the blessing,—“ that there shall not be room enough to receive it." Perhaps the words in the original imply, that God could give no more, as well as they receive no more; and may very naturally be explained, that God will give a perpetual, everlasting, and most abundant blessing. As God expressed his kindness to the Old Testament Church in blessings of à more visible nature, this had a primary respect to great abundance of corn, wine, and oil; his blessing on the land that flowed with milk and honey. So much did these outward things depend on his blessing, that Zion sung, “ He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs.”

Such is the literal and primary sense. But matters of vastly more importance are included. That the mere paying of tithes was not all is evident, because the Old Testament dispensation was near an end; or rather the prophecy respected the period after Christ's incarnation. Besides, tithes might, and often were, punctually paid, and God, instead of being pleased, greatly offended. He says, Psal. I. 8, “I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, or thy burntofferings.” Much depends on the manner of performing duty, and the end. 66 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High.”

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