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Christian Obligations, Or the Fate of Ananias and Sapphira

Christian Obligations, Or the Fate of Ananias and Sapphira

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Will a man rob God ? — Malachi, iii., 8.

Will a man rob God ? — Malachi, iii., 8.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Oct 19, 2013
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CHRISTIA OBLIGATIOS, OR THE FATE OF AAIASAD SAPPHIRA.STEPHE OLI, D.D., LL.D.,Will a man rob God ? — Malachi, iii., 8.The brief but tragic history in the beginning of the fifthchapter of the Acts of the Apostles contains, and was designedto inculcate, lessons of great practical importance, which aretoo frequently overlooked by the Church. The perusal of this portion of Holy Scripture never fails to fill the mind of achild with strong emotions. I can well remember the min-gled awe and wonder with which, in my early days, I waswont to meditate on the fate of Ananias and Sapphira ; andto the present moment I can never read this terrible narra-tive without a feeling with which no other portion of theew Testament inspires me. o doubt this scripture is prof-itable for instruction in righteousness, and will reward thehumble inquirer with practical suggestions of great moment.What, then, was the grievous offense for which these guiltydisciples were cut off at a stroke, and doomed to imperishableignominy throughout all the succeeding ages of the Church?They had voluntarihj 'pledged a 'portion of their property{" a possession'') to the p)ro7notion of the cause of Christ, anddeclined to fulfill the obligation {''kept hack apart of theprice''). This constituted the whole offense. The falsehood,which became necessary in consummating the fraud, was nota distinct crime. Its guilt had already been incurred in theS 2418 CHRISTIA OBLIGATIOS, OR THEdeliberate purpose to do wrong, when " Satan filled theirhearts to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of theprice." If this is all, why, I am asked, was a retribution so
fearful visited upon an offense usually esteemed so shght ?We ought not, perhaps, to consider the punishment of theseoffenders as peculiarly severe. It was marked and ugnal,in order that it might be memorable. An impressive exam-ple seems to have been necessary, in order to guard the in-fant Church from demoralization, and as a perpetual warn-ing to Christians of all ages to beware of a sin to which thehearts of men are strongly, because constitutionally disposed.Still we are to remember that the death of the body does notrank high in the scale of Divine retribution ; and we oughtrather to " fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and bodyin hell." The sin of Ananias was, no one can doubt, oftenrepeated in the primitive Church, and it is nowadays fright-fully prevalent, yet we hear of no other such terrible and vis-ible display of God's displeasure. Like other transgressions,this is now left to follow the general principle of the Divineadministration, and to find its reward in the retributions of eternity. One signal instance, however, is enough to admon-ish us of the utter abhorrence in which God holds this oflenseagainst his sacred claims and dignity, and we are at libertyto inquire in what its peculiar enormity may be supposed toconsist.1. It conflicts with the essential arrangements of the Gos-pel, and would render its diffusion throughout the world im-possible. God has pleased — we need not stop to inquire forwhat reasons — to make the propagation of true religion de-pendent upon the voluntary efibrts and offerings of His peo-ple. He calls the preacher, but " how can he preach excepthe be sent?" Few, comparatively, need be apostles or mis-sionaries, in the proper sense of those terms, but multitudesmust co-operate in their support and maintenance. The king-dom of Christ must triumph by the diffusion of Bibles, byFATE OF AAIAS AD SAPPHIRA. 419Christian institutions, by churches, by schools, by costly char-ities, and yet it has no material resources. Its appeal is to
the hearts of Christians. The holy Spirit enlightens andsanctifies believers, in order that they may live unto Christ,and their voluntary sacrifices, their spontaneous vows, con-stitute the sole revenue of the Gospel. Every one is left togive as he purposeth in his heart. Is it a light offense torob the Gospel treasury, to withhold the means by which ittriumphs, on which the salvation of souls depends ?2. What we have consecrated to God and the service of religion is no longer our own. When once the purpose isformed and the vow made, there is an end of all power overthe consecrated object. In the sight of God it is no betterthan sacrilege to employ, for our own purposes, what has thusbeen set apart for the satisfaction of religious obligations. Itis corban, and we may not divert from the altar what, in theintent and spirit of the thing, we have alienated forever. Allthis is true, before we have proceeded beyond the religious, in-ward act of consecration. When this purpose is avowed, anda verbal or written pledge has been given before men, we haveadmitted them to our counsels, and called them to be witnessesof a transaction between our souls and God, and we have, atthe same time, incurred an obligation of the most sacred char-acter to co-operate with them, in promoting the particularenterprise we have chosen to patronize. o note of hand,no bond for the payment of money, is more imperatively oblig-atory upon the Christian conscience than these pledges madeto our fellow-Christians ; but when their religious characteras offeri?igs to God is taken into the account, I am wholly un-able to conceive of a transaction more binding and solemn.Under what pretext does an individual, thus pledged to Godand man, claim to release himself from his engagement? Ishis promise less binding and sacred because it is made toGod? Is he more free because the written document mayhappen to lack some technical formality ? Are these prom-420 CHRISTIA OBLIGATIOS, OR THE

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