2 CHRONICLES

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

DISCOURSE 395

USE OF CHURCH MUSIC

2 Chronicles 5:13-14. It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endures forever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.

EVERY duty which we owe to God is excellent in its season; nor is there any which is not peculiarly suitable for particular persons, and under particular circumstances. Repentance, prayer, attendance on the preached Gospel, are eminently proper, not for the ungodly alone, but for the saints also, whenever a sense of ignorance, guilt, or helplessness, call for such exercises. But the duty of praise seems to claim a just preference before all others, not only because it is more pleasant, and more lovely for the upright, but because in all others we receive from God; whereas in this we give to God. Indeed God himself declares, that he is more especially honored by the due performance of this duty; "Whoever offers me praise, glorifies me:" and in my text, he has given the most abundant testimony of its acceptableness to him.

Solomon having finished the temple, had now brought up the ark of the Lord, and placed it in the holy of holies; he had also offered innumerable sacrifices on this glorious occasion; and, while he was praising God in concert with the priests and Levites, and an immense band of vocal and instrumental music, God came down into the temple, and filled it with his glory; "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters," etc. etc.

In discoursing upon these words, we shall consider,

I. The manner in which they praised God;

II. The subject-matter of their praise;

III. The token which God gave them of his approbation.

I. Let us consider the manner in which they praised God—

Never since the creation of the world was there a more glorious display of religious zeal than at the dedication of Solomon's temple. Solomon had assembled "the elders of Israel, even the heads of all the tribes, and the chief men in all the families of Israel, to Jerusalem." He had collected also, not the priests of one particular course, but all the priests and all the Levites, to assist in this solemnity: and this vast concourse of people, after having deposited the ark in the place prepared for it, joined in praises and thanksgivings to God: they praised God, unitedly: we are told that "the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound." It is much to be regretted, that, in our worshiping assemblies, the greater part of the congregation never join in this part of the service: they seem to think, that they are not interested in it, and that it may well be left to those few who may have studied music as a science. But would it not appear absurd in the highest degree, if the prayers also were left to a few select persons, and the bulk of the congregation were to sit still, as though they had no need to join in the devotions? And if this would be so evidently absurd in the one part of the service, why should it not be so in the other? All indeed are not alike qualified to join aloud; but there are very few who might not, by a little attention, easily qualify themselves to join in this act of worship; nor can there be any one who is not bound at least to exercise his mind, and "make melody in his heart to the Lord." Indeed this is one great use of musical instruments in the public worship; they are serviceable to unite voices which might otherwise be discordant, and to help forward those, who through ignorance or diffidence might otherwise be silent. Therefore David, in the last Psalm, exhorts us to praise the Lord with stringed instruments and with organs; and well knowing how easy it would be with such helps to sing, he adds, "Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord."

We must not however imagine, that the mere lifting up of the voice is a sacrifice pleasing to God: no; he requires the service of the heart: and therefore we observe, in the next place, that they praised God devoutly.

It is said, in my text, that the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound "in praising and thanking the Lord."

We know, that the uttering of a prayer without any sense of our need, or any desire of the things we ask for, is no other than a solemn mockery, which is in the highest degree displeasing to God: so the singing of psalms and hymns without any sense of joy and gratitude, is a hypocritical service, and wholly unacceptable to God: we may indeed please the congregation, and establish our own reputation for skill; but these are very unworthy motives to be influenced by, when we are solemnly addressing the Most High God: persons actuated by such considerations sing to their own praise and glory, rather than to God's; and therefore they must rest satisfied with their reward, I. e. the reward they seek after; for it is certain that they will never receive any testimony of God's approbation. Let me therefore remind you all, that the end of singing is to thank and praise the Lord; and that, whenever we join in psalms and hymns, we must be especially careful that we "make melody in our hearts to the Lord." In this we shall be greatly assisted by a judicious use of instrumental music; which leads me to observe further, that the Jewish assembly praised God with instruments of music.

Many are prejudiced against church music; and it is certain, that it is capable of very great abuse: but it may also be employed to great advantage: it is said in my text, that they lifted up their voices with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music. Who can doubt but that the devotion of the congregation was greatly aided by these? Who can doubt, but that if Solomon, the wisest of men, at the most solemn season imaginable, not only used these instruments, but (as we shall have occasion presently to observe) was approved of God in the use of them, who can doubt, I say, but that they may be used to great advantage? As far indeed as they contributed to the pomp and grandeur of the temple worship, they may well be dispensed with under the Christian dispensation; since the excellence of the Gospel worship consists in its simplicity, in which respect it is directly opposite to the Jewish worship: but, inasmuch as it aided the devotion, its utility remains: and, I trust, that in a little time we shall find that effect arising from it.

In order to this, however, we must learn to distinguish between the natural effect of music on the organs of sense, and the spiritual effect of divine truths upon the soul. Those who attend only to the sound may experience the former; but to experience the latter, we must attend simply to the words we sing. We shall sing to little purpose "with the voice, if we sing not with our understanding also." To promote this, I proceed to set before you,

II. The subject-matter of their praise—

A sense of the divine goodness and mercy was that which inflamed their souls. David had before recorded, in Psalms 136, the goodness of God, in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; and no less than twenty-six times in as many verses had he repeated that delightful truth, that "the mercy of the Lord endures forever." In all probability that Psalm was now used by Solomon's appointment; so that with the commemoration of every fresh act of mercy, the whole band united in singing, "For the Lord is good; for his mercy endures forever." The grand subject therefore of their praise was, the goodness and mercy of God. And what abundant ground was here for praise! Who that surveys the wonders of creation, must not see the goodness of God stamped indelibly on every part of the universe? Who that sees the sun, ruling by day, and the moon and stars, ruling by night; who that sees this terrestrial globe furnished with everything which can contribute to the happiness both of the rational and irrational creation; who that observes the variety and the beauty of God's works, the fitness of every creature for its use, the subordination of one creature to another, and the joint concurrence of all to one common end; who that observes the fabric of the human body, that is so fearfully and wonderfully made, or reflects on the powers of the soul, which can in an instant soar from earth to Heaven, and there contemplate not the heavenly bodies only, but even the Maker of them; who, I say, can view any part of the creation, and not exclaim with the Psalmist, "The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all his works?" Nor does his goodness less appear in the works of Providence: David, in the Psalm we have referred to, recounts most of the gracious acts which God had performed towards the Jewish nation from the first bringing of them out of Egypt to the time he penned that Psalm: those were no doubt recited with joy and gladness. And may not we also look back through the annals of our history, and see how often God has preserved us from our enemies, how he has prospered our nation in ten thousand instances, and how he is yet protecting us from foreign invasion and domestic tumults? Do we not see how good he is to us in making the earth to bring forth plenteously, and in providing for all our returning wants? May not every individual among us too trace the peculiar kindness of Providence to himself, in averting ills, or overruling them for good? Surely we have all experienced enough of God's goodness to make us joyfully unite in songs of praise. But most of all is the goodness of God conspicuous in the work of redemption: this the Psalmist notices particularly, though indeed in but few words. The Jews fixed their attention more on the typical redemptions: but now that the shadows are removed, and the substance is set before us, we should survey the redemption of Christ with incessant wonder. Behold the goodness of God in giving us his only Son; in laying our iniquities on him; and in opening the kingdom of Heaven to all believers! Behold him satisfying his own justice by the sufferings of his Son, and opening a way for the exercise of his mercy towards us consistently with his other perfections! This is the wonder; this is the bright display of goodness; this is the subject-matter of thanksgiving, to all the saints on earth, and all the saints in Heaven. O that every tongue might pay its tribute of praise! and that we might all with united hearts and voices proclaim, that "the Lord is good!"

A further subject of their praise was the mercy of God, "His mercy endures forever." How eminently did this appear in God's dealings with the Jewish nation! for, notwithstanding all their murmurings and rebellions in the wilderness, he brought them into the land which he had promised them: and in due time he raised up his servant David, to whom he had confirmed all the promises which he had made unto the patriarchs; and now at last he had in a figure taken possession of the temple of Solomon, as a typical representation of his future dwelling in the temple of Christ's body. These were proofs of the perpetuity of God's mercy, and that he would not withdraw it from those to whom he had promised it. But here again we survey his mercy in far brighter colors: we see indeed that it endures forever: we have seen the mercy promised to our fathers long since performed: we have seen the Son of God, the Savior of the world; we have seen him living, dying, rising, and resuming his throne of glory: we have seen him making an end of sin, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness; and now we behold him pouring out all the blessings of redemption on his Church and people. At this moment is his mercy as full and free as at the time he died upon the cross: at this instant do his affections yearn over sinners: he invites them all, and importunes them to accept his offered salvation: and to those who have tasted of his mercy he still continues to be gracious: he keeps mercy for thousands, when they would cast it utterly away: he does not in anger shut up his tender mercies: he will chastise, but not cast off: he will "hide his face for a little moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us."

Such was the subject-matter of their praise: and shall our tongues be silent? Have we not incomparably greater cause for thanksgiving than the Jews were even able to conceive? Let the praises of God then be in our lips; and let us unite our hearts and voices in declaring the goodness and mercy of our God.

Were this more the frame of our hearts, surely we should find God more frequently present in our worshiping assemblies; for he would certainly never leave us without "witness that we pleased him."

This brings us to consider,

III. The testimony which God gave them of his approbation—

God had often given to appear in a visible manner to his people: he went before them in a cloud through the wilderness, and conducted them in all their journeys: and, when Moses had finished the tabernacle according to the direction given him by God, it pleased God to give him a signal token of his presence and approbation. In Exodus 40:34-35, it is said, "Then (when Moses had finished the work) a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle: and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Exactly similar to this was the testimony which God now gave of his approbation, both to Solomon and all the assembly: "he came down in a cloud, and filled the house with his glory, so that the priests could not stand to minister there any longer."

This cloud was the Shechinah, or symbol of the divine presence: and its coming down, and filling the place at that time, was a signal manifestation of the divine favor. This shadowy representation of the Deity was suited to that dispensation, wherein everything was wrapped up in obscure types and shadows: it was calculated to strike their senses, and impress them with reverence for God; while, at the same time, the effect which it produced upon the priests served to intimate, that, when Christ should come, and the Deity truly appear in the temple of Christ's body, the priests should cease to minister in their former manner, and the whole of that dispensation should be done away.

It is particularly proper on this occasion to notice the exact time when God was pleased to grant this remarkable testimony of his approbation. If we look to the text, we shall see that it was not when the sacrifices were offered, nor even when the ark was deposited in its place; but it was when the singers and the players on the musical instruments joined in one grand chorus of praise and thanksgiving: "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endures forever; that then the house was filled with a cloud." We cannot doubt but that God approved of every part of this grand ceremony: but that which crowned the whole was, the tribute of praise offered by the chorus of vocal and instrumental music. We have before observed, that this, without the heart, would be a vain offering indeed: but, with the heart, no doubt it is pleasing and acceptable to God in the highest degree: it comes as near as possible to the worship of Heaven, where, in one grand concert, they strike their golden harps, and sing, "Salvation to God and to the Lamb forever!" In Revelation 14:1-3, John beheld in a vision the glorious company of Heaven; and he says, "I looked, and, lo! a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from Heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps; and they sung as it were a new song before the throne." Shall not we therefore endeavor to anticipate that blessed employment? shall not we strive to bring down Heaven upon earth? shall not we from henceforth lift up our voices unto God, and every one be ambitious to join as in one general chorus? Yes, my Brethren, let me hope that many of you will unite your endeavors: call to mind the goodness of your God; think of his manifold and never-ending mercies; think of Jesus the fountain and foundation of all your blessings; stir up your hearts to gratitude; let not one be silent; and while we are united in singing the high praises of our God, may God himself come down in the midst of us, and fill the house with his glory! Amen, and Amen I

 

 

2 Chronicles 6:7-8

 

DISCOURSE 396

GOD'S ACCEPTANCE OF DAVID'S GOOD DESIRES

2 Chronicles 6:7-8. Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the Lord said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in your heart to build an house for my name, you did well, in that it was in your heart.

FROM our general notions of the Deity, we should be ready to imagine, that he would not only permit, but encourage, the execution of every good thought that could come into our minds. But "his ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts:" he appoints unto men their work according to his sovereign will, and uses what instruments he pleases for the accomplishment of his own designs. Moses, who had brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness, was not permitted to conduct them into Canaan; he must devolve that office on Joshua, and die without seeing the completion of the work he had begun. Thus David had conceived a noble idea of building a temple unto the Lord, and had made preparations for it to a most astonishing extent: yet God suffered him not to execute the work, but ordered him to leave it to Solomon his son. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon brought this fact to the remembrance of the people, partly perhaps with a view to honor the memory of David his father, but principally to display the sovereignty of God who had appointed him to that office, and the faithfulness of God in having enabled him to complete the work. But at the same time that he mentions the prohibition given to David his father respecting the execution of his design, he declares God's gracious acceptance of the intention just as much as if it had been carried into effect, since it argued and evinced that state of mind which alone could have rendered the act itself acceptable in the sight of God.

In this incident, as related in our text, we notice,

I. The characteristic marks of true piety—

From the example before us, we see that,

1. Its aims are high—

David sought to honor and exalt Jehovah's name: and wherever real piety exists, it will inspire us with similar views and sentiments. To act merely with a view to this world, or for the promoting of our own interests, will appear unworthy of a rational and immortal being. We shall "look (that is, aim) not at the things which are visible and temporal, but at the things which are invisible and eternal." We shall carry this spirit into all the common acts and offices of life: "whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we shall endeavor to do it all to the glory of God." In speaking on this subject, Paul uses an expression of peculiar force: he says, that "as Christ had been, so he should continue to be, magnified in his body, whether by life or death Philippians 1:20." Perhaps it may be thought, that such an aim was proper in an Apostle, but would be presumptuous in us: but it is equally proper for all; and indeed is necessary for all: for, "being not our own, but bought with a price, we should glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his 1 Corinthians 6:19-20."

2. Its efforts earnest—

David not only desired to build the temple, but collected materials for it, and contributed towards it to an incredible amount. Thus is piety always operative, and regards all earthly possessions as talents to be improved for God. The more those talents are multiplied to us, the greater obligation we shall feel to honor God with them; and every service which we are enabled to render him, we shall consider only as a step to further services. If we had attained the eminence even of Paul himself, and, like him, had labored more than all the other Apostles, we should not be satisfied with anything we had done, while anything yet remained for us to do: we should "forget all that was behind, of the course we had already run, and reach forth unto that which was before, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:13-14." Yes; "as many of us as are perfect and upright in the sight of God, will certainly be thus minded Philippians 3:12."

3. Its desires are unbounded—

Had David's means been augmented an hundred-fold, his desire to use them for God would have proportionably increased: his ability would still have been the measure of his exertions. True piety regards, not the opinion of the world, but the will of God: it looks at the precepts, the promises, the examples, set before us in the Scriptures; and makes them the standard of its aims and efforts. The precepts require us to "love and serve God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength:" the promises give us reason to hope that we shall be "cleansed from all unrighteousness," and "be renewed after the image of our God in righteousness and true holiness:" and God proposes himself to us as our pattern, that we should "be holy, as he is holy," and "be perfect, even as our Father which is in Heaven is perfect." However short of these things the Christian falls in point of practice, he desires, if it were possible, to fulfill all that is required of him, and to attain "the full measure of the stature of Christ himself Ephesians 4:13." In a word, he realizes in his experience the prayer of Epaphras, and "labors fervently and incessantly to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God Colossians 4:12."

Whoever possesses such piety in his heart, shall assuredly be honored with,

II. God's approbation and acceptance of it—

Without the heart, no services that we can render to the Lord are pleasing to him—

God says to every one of us, "My son, give me your heart:" and, if we withhold that, he regards nothing else that we can give him: our very prayers and our praises are only an abomination to him Matthew 15:7-9. Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:13. Amos. 5:21-23.

But, where the heart is, even the smallest services are pleasing in his sight—

God judges not of our services by their magnitude in the eyes of men, but by the measure of love and zeal with which they are performed. The widow's mite was on this account considered as "more" than all the offerings of the rich: in itself, it was nothing; but, as indicating the state of her mind, it was above all price. And it is worthy of observation, that the most encouraging promises in Scripture are given to such expressions of our feelings as most indicate the sincerity of our hearts. A sigh, a groan, a look, a wish, a silent tear stealing down the cheek, are among the most acceptable offerings that we can present to God Psalm 79:11; Psalm 38:9; Psalm 34:5; Psalm 10:17; Psalm 145:19; Psalm 56:8. And when his Holy Spirit operates most powerfully upon our hearts, it is "with groanings which cannot be uttered Romans 8:23; Romans 8:26." If he looked at the outward services merely, the poor would labor under the greatest disadvantages: but we are assured, that he forms no such partial estimate of men's conduct; but that, "if there be first a willing mind, he accepts us according to what we have, and not according to what we have not 2 Corinthians 8:12;" so that, provided our exertions be proportioned to our ability, the poorest and weakest among us shall be approved and rewarded equally with those whose abilities and opportunities have been most enlarged: yes, if through the good providence of God we be incapacitated for any service whatever, yet, if we desire to serve God, he will bear testimony to us before all, saying, "You have done well, in that it was in your heart to serve me."

APPLICATION—

That we may obtain such a testimony from the Lord,

1. Let the advancement of the Church be dear unto us—

There is a temple which we are called to build, and of which the temple of Solomon was but a type and shadow; I mean, the Church of Christ, which to all eternity shall be "the habitation of God through the Spirit Ephesians 2:20-22. 1 Peter 2:4-5." For the advancement of that, we should long, and pray, and strive; and never cease from our exertions, until God himself "shall bring forth the head-stone, and the whole universe shall shout, Grace, grace unto it Zechariah 4:7." If this were a Mission Sermon, or for building a Church, here would be the proper place to press the subject. 2. Let us, in all that we do, be particularly attentive to our own hearts—

Many sinister motives are apt to arise, and to pollute our best actions: our liberality is apt to savor of ostentation, and our spiritual affections of pride and vanity. But God, "to whom all things are naked and open," will judge according to what he sees in the inmost recesses of the heart; approving of the good that was there, though never carried into effect; and disapproving of our latent hypocrisy, by whatever specious appearances it had been concealed from mortal eyes. Only take care that the heart be right with God, and then all will be well with us, both in time and eternity.

3. Let us be contented with doing what we can for God, though we should not succeed according to our wishes—

If our labors be crowned with present success, we receive, as it were, a present recompense: but if our labor appear to be in vain, we may expect a suitable recompense hereafter. God will reward us, not according to our success, but according to our labor 1 Corinthians 3:8. The very consciousness of endeavoring to honor God is itself an ample reward for all that we can do. Whether we ourselves reap, or leave others to enter into our labors, we should be equally well pleased to serve our God. Let this thought animate us all in our respective stations; and whether our abilities be more or less, let us all endeavor to obtain this testimony from the Lord, "He has done what he could Mark 14:8."

 

 

2 Chronicles 6:18

 

DISCOURSE 397

CONDESCENSION OF GOD IN BECOMING INCARNATE

2 Chronicles 6:18. Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?

IT is nothing but a want of reflection, that keeps us from being filled with incessant wonder and astonishment. The things which God has done for us in the works of creation and providence, if duly searched out, would furnish abundant matter for our profoundest adoration. But the provision which he has made for our redemption exceeds all the bounds of credibility. Even those manifestations of his mercy whereby he shadowed forth the mystery of his incarnation, were so stupendous, that Solomon, who beheld them, could scarcely believe his own eyes. He had erected a temple which was to be a type of Christ's human body. He had just seen God coming down in a cloud to take possession of that temple, and filling it with his glory. He was in the act of dedicating it to God, and of praying that it might be, as it were, an habitation for him: but struck with astonishment at the requests which he was presuming to offer, he pauses, and breaks forth into this hesitating, admiring, adoring exclamation, "But will God—in very deed—dwell—with men—on the earth?" This was an inconceivable act of condescension as it respected his symbolic presence in a temple of stone; but it was infinitely more so, as it respected his real presence in a body of flesh. To illustrate this we shall,

I. Contrast the characters of God and man—

We can be at no loss for matter to illustrate this subject, since light and darkness, or Christ and Belial, are not more opposite. But that we may not exceed the limits proper for this part of our discourse, we shall draw the contrast in two particulars only:

1. The majesty of God, and the baseness of man—

We have no higher ideas of majesty than those which are conveyed under the terms appropriate to royalty. God therefore, in order to suit himself to our feeble apprehensions, adopts those terms in reference to himself. He assumes the title of a king; he is "King of kings, and Lord of lords Revelation 17:14." He has moreover all the ensigns of royalty; "Heaven is his throne, and earth his footstool Isaiah 66:1." Unnumbered hosts of angels are his retinue; "thousands of thousands minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him Daniel 7:10." Instead of the equipage of an earthly monarch, he "makes the clouds his chariot, and rides on the heavens us upon a horse Psalm 104:3; Psalm 68:4." So great is his majesty, that "all the nations of the earth are before him only "as the drop of a bucket, or as the small dust upon the balance;" yes, "they are less than nothing and vanity Isaiah 40:15; Isaiah 40:17." And so "terrible is his majesty," that, "if he touch the mountains, they smoke; and, if he but look upon the earth, it trembles Psalm 104:32." But in attempting to speak of his majesty, we only "darken counsel by words without knowledge." Suffice it therefore to add, that "the Heaven of heavens cannot contain him verse 18;" and that "his greatness is unsearchable Psalm 145:3."

But what is man? an atom insect of an atom world. If we compare him with the globe on which we stand, he is a mere worm: but if we compare him with the visible creation; and still more, if we view the universe with the eye of a philosopher, if we compute the distances of the fixed stars, if we suppose that multitudes of them are, like our sun, the center of different and independent systems; if we then compare him with these, what an insignificant being will he appear! The smallest grain of sand is not so diminutive in comparison of the whole terrestrial globe, as the whole human race would be when compared with the other works of God's hands. But unworthy as man is of God's notice in this view, he has rendered himself incomparably more unworthy by the commission of sin. By this he is become, not merely worthless, but odious and abominable. In this respect the whole human race are involved in one common lot: and so contemptible are they in his eyes, that there is scarce an animal among the brute creation to whom he does not liken them, and that too in reference to their most hateful qualities: from whence we may understand, that man is a compound of everything that is noxious and hateful.

And can we conceive, that so great and glorious a Being as God should ever deign to notice man; and not only to notice him, but to dwell with him?

2. The purity of God, and the sinfulness of man—

Holiness is that attribute of the Deity which is most eminently glorified by the heavenly choir: they cry day and night, saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts Isaiah 6:3." On earth too this perfection is peculiarly admired by the saints, who "give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness Psalm 30:4." Such was God's abhorrence of iniquity, that he cast the fallen angels out of Heaven. Nor can he behold sin in man, without feeling the utmost indignation against it Habakkuk 1:13. But why do we mention these things? Such is the holiness of God, that "he charges even his angels with folly Job 4:18;" and "the very heavens are not clean in his sight Job 15:15."

As for man, he is, unhappily, a perfect contrast to God in these respects. He is polluted in every member of his body, and in every faculty of his soul. The inspired writers seem to have labored, as it were, to mark the extreme depravity of man, by specifying that his members are altogether instruments of unrighteousness Romans 6:13; his "eyes are full of adultery 2 Peter 2:14," and his "ears deaf as an adder Psalm 58:4;" his "mouth and lips full of cursing and bitterness Romans 3:14;" his "tongue is a world of iniquity, set on fire of Hell James 3:6," and "his throat an open sepulcher Romans 3:13;" "both his hands are employed to work iniquity Mic. 7:3;" his "feet are swift to shed blood Romans 3:15;" and, to complete the whole, "his inward parts are very wickedness Psalm 5:9." His soul is, if possible, yet more depraved: his understanding is blinded, so that it "puts evil for good, and darkness for light 2 Corinthians 4:4. Isaiah 5:20." His will is rebellious, so that it cannot bow to the commands of God Romans 8:7. His affections are earthly and sensual. His memory is retentive of what is evil, while it lets slip every good admonition or advice. His conscience is partial, excusing where it should condemn; and, in too many, it is "seared as with a hot iron."

Contrast this character with that of God; and then say, whether it be possible for God to dwell with man.

Having thus prepared the way, we will,

II. Give an answer to the question proposed in the text—

Our answer is short: He not only will dwell with man on the earth; but he has done it. He has dwelt with man,

1. Symbolically—

When Israel came out of Egypt, God went before them in all their way, and guided them by a pillar and a cloud: and even to the time of the Babylonish captivity, did he continue by that symbol of his presence to dwell in the midst of his people. This alone was sufficient to show the condescension and grace of God; and to prove that he will make his abode with those who are the objects of his special favor.

2. Personally—

Wonderful as it may appear, God has taken upon him our nature and dwelt among us. In the fullness of time, he appeared on earth; and, though formed, without the intervention of man, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, he came into the world like other infants, passed through the helpless years of childhood, wrought at a low trade until the age of thirty; and then continued nearly four years longer in the exercise of his ministerial office, as the instructor of men, and the Savior of the world. While he was despised and rejected of men, and accounted a worm and no man, he was "God over all blessed for evermore:" "in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily Colossians 2:9." It was in order to prepare the world for this, that he so often appeared to the patriarchal saints, and that he for so many centuries abode in the tabernacle and the temple. By manifesting himself in our flesh, he has clearly shown, that "as his majesty is, so is his mercy."

3. Mystically—

There is yet another temple in which God delights to dwell, even in the broken and contrite heart Isaiah 57:15. He has repeatedly promised, that he will thus distinguish those who seek him in spirit and in truth. "He will come to them, and make his abode with them John 14:23." "He will dwell in their hearts by faith Ephesians 3:17." "He will manifest himself unto them as he does not unto the world John 14:22." It was in this way that he enabled all the primitive Christians to shine as lights in a dark world, and to maintain their steadfastness in the midst of the most cruel persecutions. It is in the same way that he still upholds and sanctifies his chosen people: "Such honor have all his saints."

APPLICATION—

Has God in very deed dwelt with man on the earth? Then let us,

1. Marvel at our own ingratitude—

Who would imagine that God should have become a man for us, and should offer moreover to dwell in our hearts, and that we should be so unmindful of him? Is it a light thing that he has done; to assume our nature, when he passed by the fallen angels; to assume it in its fallen debased state, as far as he could consistently with his own unspotted holiness; to assume it for the express purpose of bearing our sins and expiating them by his own death? Is it a light thing that he offers to do, when he begs us to open our hearts to him, that he may make them his habitation? Yet what are the returns we make him? We do indeed commemorate both his incarnation, and the descent of the Holy Spirit: but how? with holy feasting, and with spiritual joy? Do we not rather act, as if he came to liberate us from all restraints, and to give us a licence to forget him, and to abandon ourselves to carnal pleasure? Let us only reflect on the manner in which these holy seasons have been spent by all around us, and how little our own spirit and conduct have accorded with the mercies given unto us, and we shall see reason to blush and be confounded, yes rather, to weep in dust and ashes.

2. Seek to dwell with him in Heaven—

For what purpose has God revealed himself to us in this diversified and astonishing manner? Has it not been to display the exceeding riches of his grace, and to encourage our application to him for an interest in his favor? Yes; he would not that we should "dwell with everlasting burnings;" but rather that we should be made partakers of his glory. It was for this end that he became incarnate, and died upon the cross: it is for this end that he yet daily strives with us by his Spirit. In very deed he dwelt with man on earth, that we might dwell with God in Heaven. Let us then make a suitable improvement of his unbounded mercy; and secure that exaltation, which he, by his own humiliation, has prepared for us.

 

 

2 Chronicles 6:41

 

DISCOURSE 398

DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE

2 Chronicles 6:41. Arise, O Lord God, into your resting-place, you, and the ark of your strength: let your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in goodness.

THE fuller account of the dedication of Solomon's Temple is given us in the 8th chapter of the First Book of Kings. But in this place we have a most interesting part of Solomon's prayer, which in the former place is omitted. The piety and the pathos of these concluding sentences are worthy of the highest admiration. If we were to confine our notice of them to that particular occasion, they would be found replete with instruction: but, knowing as we do the figurative nature of that whole dispensation, we must of necessity point out the bearing of these words upon our own times, and upon the Christian Church: and for that purpose we will show,

I. What Solomon desired as the crown of all his labors—

He had built the temple, which in grandeur and beauty exceeded any structure that ever existed upon earth; and he had deposited the ark in the place prepared for it. But he was not satisfied with having executed the office which God had so graciously assigned him: he desired that God would grant his presence in the temple, and render it the means of manifesting his own glory, and of dispensing his blessings to his favored people: and, therefore, in this concluding prayer he implored,

1. The special presence of the Deity in the temple, as His fixed abode—

The ark had hitherto dwelt only in a tabernacle which was moved from place to place. Henceforth it was to have an abiding resting-place in the temple. But in vain would the temple have been built, and in vain the ark fixed in its place, if God himself did not accompany the ark with his special presence. It had been hitherto "the ark of God's strength; because God had, on many occasions, wrought as it were in concert with it, exerting his almighty power wherever it went: but if he should detach himself from it, the people had already seen how incapable the ark itself was of affording them protection, when it had not been able even to protect itself from the Philistine army. Therefore Solomon prayed, that God himself would, by that symbol of his presence, the cloud of fire, abide upon it; and thereby give a public testimony of his approbation of the measures which had been adopted, and a visible pledge of his continued favor to his people.

2. An abundant effusion of his promised blessings on all who should frequent it—

Without this, no good end would be attained. Without this, God would not be glorified, nor sinners saved. Hence Solomon prayed for all, both priests and people, that the one might "be clothed with salvation," and the other "rejoice in goodness." That temporal prosperity was included in his petition is probable enough Nehemiah 9:25; but, doubtless, spiritual blessings were chiefly solicited, as the portion of them all. A holy priesthood is an inestimable blessing to any people: for, if "they who handle the Law transgress it Jeremiah 2:8," and "they who should be a light to others are themselves in darkness Romans 2:19-21," what can be expected, but that a general declension should ensue? Hence he desired that the priests should be, not merely habited in white garments, but clothed with righteousness and salvation; that so they might be examples to the flock, and edify the people to whom they ministered. In behalf of the people, too, he desired that they should find a rich feast in all God's ordinances, "being abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God's house, and drinking there of the rivers of his pleasures Psalm 36:8 with Isaiah 25:6." In a word, he desired that universal piety might prevail, and that the happiness attendant on it might be universally dispensed.

But we hasten to show,

II. What infinitely richer blessings we may expect under our more perfect dispensation—

The temple, with everything pertaining to it, was "a figure for the time then present," a "shadow of good things to come."

Here we must view the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true Ark, in which the tables of the Law were deposited, and on which the mercy-seat was placed, and into which the angels desired with incessant scrutiny to search Hebrews 9:4-5. 1 Peter 1:12. Yes, in the verse following my text, Solomon clearly refers to him: "O Lord God, turn not away the face of your anointed: remember the mercies of David, your servant!" What was the mercy here pre-eminently referred to? It was, that God in due time would raise up unto David that august progeny, "who should sit upon his throne; and of whose kingdom there should be no end Luke 1:32-33." The very words of Solomon are so applied by the Prophet Isaiah Isaiah 55:3, and so explained by Peter, who both cites them, and comments on them to this precise effect Acts 13:34. But that which throws the fullest light upon this passage, is the 132d Psalm, (probably composed by Solomon himself on this very occasion,) wherein all the same expressions are twice used; first, in a way of prayer; and next, in a way of promise: and their prophetic reference to Christ is plainly and incontrovertibly declared: "Arise, O Lord, into your rest; you, and the ark of your strength. Let your priests be clothed with righteousness; and let your saints shout for joy: for your servant David's sake turn not away the face of your anointed. The Lord has sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of your body will I set upon your throne Psalm 132:8-11; Psalm 132:13-16. In this Psalm the Incarnation of Christ is specified: in the two preceding passages, the Resurrection. If this subject were taken for a Christmas-day or an Easter-day, those citations which are the most appropriate should, of course, be most insisted on. As applied in a general way to the reign of Christ, they are equally proper; both of them being accomplishments of the same prophecy."

What, then, in this sense of the passage, is the desire here expressed? It is simply this: "Come, O blessed Lord, and dwell in your house, as you have promised!" You have said, "Wherever two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them:" and again, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." Let it now be seen that you are with us: "manifest yourself unto us, as you do not unto the world:" and let it be clearly shown, by the mighty working of your power upon our souls, that we are indeed your people!

The blessings we may expect are great, in proportion to the excellency of the dispensation under which we live—

What ministers may we not hope to find in the Christian Church, instructed us they are in the great mystery of redemption, and commissioned as they are to proclaim salvation to men through the sacrifice of their incarnate God! If "they who bare the vessels of the Lord," under the Jewish dispensation, were required to "be clean;" much more should they be holy, and "clothed with righteousness," who go forth as ambassadors from God, and stand in the very place of Christ, to preach the word of reconciliation to a guilty world 2 Corinthians 5:20. And what ought our people to be? What may we not expect from them who are thus divinely taught, and who have all "the unsearchable riches of Christ imparted to them?" We are told, that, "by comprehending with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ, we are to be filled with all the fullness of God Ephesians 3:18-19;" and therefore we may well expect that those who, through the ministry of the Gospel, are led into the knowledge of these incomprehensible mysteries, will "rejoice in all this goodness," yes, "rejoice in it with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified." Certainly, the fruit of the Gospel should exceed that of the Law: for so are we taught in Scripture to expect, that "the light of the moon in our day should be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold Isaiah 30:26." "Behold," says God, "I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be glad, and rejoice forever, in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy: and I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying Isaiah 65:17-19." This, then, Brethren, is the blessedness I desire for you: and I pray God that all of us, both priest and people, may so walk, as to approve ourselves to Him, who assumed our nature, and tabernacled among us John 1:14, and laid down his life for us.

To improve this subject, I would add,

1. Let us consecrate our souls to God, as his temple—

Glorious as the Temple of Solomon was, and greatly as God honored it by his presence, I hesitate not to say, that it was contemptible, in comparison of an abode which you may offer him in a broken and contrite spirit Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 56:1-2; The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, will come and take up their residence within you, Brethren, if you will but open the door of your hearts, and implore of them this high honor John 14:23. And what holiness and happiness you shall then possess, I need not say. Let every one of you seek this honor; and not one of you shall be disappointed of his hope.

2. Let us plead with him his great and precious promises—

Solomon entreats of God to "remember the mercies promised to David." Thus take you every promise contained in God's blessed word; and spread it before him. He bids you "put him in remembrance, and declare your affiance in him Isaiah 43:26." And if you do this, you shall be constrained to acknowledge, as Joshua after an experience of fourscore years acknowledged, that not one of all the things which God has promised to you has ever failed Joshua 23:14.

 

 

2 Chronicles 7:15

 

DISCOURSE 399

GOD'S REGARD FOR HIS OWN HOUSE

2 Chronicles 7:15, 2 Chronicles 7:16. Now my eyes shall be open, and mine ears intent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and my eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

NEVER, from the foundation of the world, was there so magnificent a structure as Solomon's Temple, or so imposing a scene as that which took place at the dedication of it This may be briefly described, verse 12; The prayer which Solomon offered on that occasion was no less remarkable: in point of humility and fervor and propriety, nothing could exceed it. The answer also that was given to it was singularly encouraging. Compare the petition to which my text refers, with the answer given to it in the text itself: "Now, my God, let, I beseech you, your eyes be open, and let your ears be intent unto the prayer that is made in this place 2 Chronicles 6:40."

These very words does God repeat to him in a way of promise, and with great additional force: "My eyes shall be open, and mine ears intent unto the prayer that is made in this place: for now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and my eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually."

These words will afford me a fit occasion to show,

I. The regard which God bears to his house—

We marvel at the condescension of Almighty God, when he says, "My eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." But he regarded that structure, and he regards every place that is built for his more immediate service,

1. As the house where he will more especially reside—

The whole land of Israel was dear to him in this view. Moses says of it, "It is a land which the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year Deuteronomy 11:12." But this house was his more peculiar residence: "his name was put there Deuteronomy 12:11 with 2 Chronicles 6:5-6." He was invited by Solomon to come and take possession of it: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place, you, and the ark of your strength 2 Chronicles 6:41." And, in answer to his request, he came down visibly and abode within it: "Now, when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from Heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house verse 1, 2." To this event the Psalmist refers, when he says, "The Lord has chosen Zion: he has desired it for his habitation: This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it Psalm 132:14-15." Hence it may well be said, that "God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob Psalm 87:2."

2. As the theater where he will display his glory—

In the temple were displayed, under types and shadows, all the wonders of redeeming love. The sacrifices that were offered, the consuming of them upon the altar, the carrying of their blood within the veil to sprinkle the mercy-seat of the Moat High, the offering of incense also before the mercy-seat, all prefigured the atoning sacrifice, and the prevailing intercession of the Lord Jesus, through which every sinner in the universe may find acceptance with God. The whole of the services there offered were "a shadow of good things to come Hebrews 10:1;" and in the temple alone were they suffered to exist. But now are the same things declared plainly and explicitly by every servant of the Most High that is called to preach the Gospel of Christ. Yes, every minister that is taught of God proclaims this truth: "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners 1 Timothy 1:15." And though this message may be greatly diversified in the mode of its delivery, it is in substance the same with all: for every faithful minister "determines, with the Apostle, to know nothing among his people save Jesus Christ and him crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2." And where is this mystery unfolded, but in the house of God? True, the house of God is pre-eminently "the house of prayer;" but it is also the place where "the glory of God is displayed as shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ," and a free salvation is proclaimed to all the sinners of mankind.

3. As the throne from whence he will dispense his blessings—

To the temple of old, every sinner brought his offering: and from thence he departed with a comfortable hope that he was accepted of his God. And say, Brethren, whether you have not found God in this place, ready to hear and answer your most enlarged petitions? Have you not found the word, that was delivered in the Savior's name, "quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword?" Has it not brought conviction to your minds; and been effectual, also, to administer consolation to your souls? Has not grace been administered by means of it? and have you not found it a channel of communication to your souls, insomuch that you have here "drunk as of rivers of water," and "feasted, as it were, upon fat things," that have nourished your souls unto life eternal? Yes truly, God has said that he would "beautify the place of his sanctuary, and make the place of his feet glorious Isaiah 60:13;" and in these divine communications his own soul, no less than the souls of his people, has been refreshed, and filled with joy Jeremiah 32:41. Zephaniah 3:17.

From the regard which God bears to his house, we see,

II. The feeling which we also should have towards it—

Are God's "eyes and heart upon his house perpetually?" Then we also should regard it,

1. With a reverential sense of its sanctity—

I readily grant, that there is not the same measure of sanctity in holy buildings and in holy vessels now, that there was under the Mosaic economy, where "Touch not, taste not, handle not," constituted so great a part of the divine Law. But, on the other hand, there is an immense distance between things sacred and things common: nor is there any person of real piety who would willingly break down this distinction. It is possible, I grant, for this idea to be carried to an extreme of superstition: but it is equally possible for it to be spurned at in a way of grievous impiety. Different usages may prevail in different places, in perfect consistency with a becoming reverence for the house of God: but what our blessed Lord did in driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple, may serve to show us, that what has been consecrated to God ought not to be turned to a profane use: and more especially, while it is acknowledged as the place which God delights to honor with his peculiar presence, it should be approached with reverence; and, in the spirit of our minds at least, we should "put off our shoes, when we tread on such holy ground:" for God has expressly and most authoritatively said, "You shall reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord Leviticus 19:30."

2. With gratitude for mercies there received—

Methinks, of some of you it may be said, that "you were born there Psalm 87:4." And what a blessing is this! In comparison of it, the whole world is lighter than the dust upon the balance. Call to mind how ignorant you once were of those things which belong to your everlasting peace. Once you knew not what guilt you had contracted in the sight of God, and to what tremendous judgments you were exposed. You knew not what provision God had made for you in his Gospel. The necessity of an atonement; the suitableness and sufficiency of the atonement which Christ has made; the nature of a life of faith on Christ; the work and offices of the Holy Spirit; the beauty and excellency of holiness; these, and a variety of other things, were altogether unknown to you, until you heard them in this place, and God "opened the eyes of your understanding to understand them." Only call to mind what a load of guilt has been removed from your souls; what peace and joy have flowed in upon you through the preached word; what strength has been imparted to you to resist temptations, and to fulfill your duties to the Lord; and, finally, what anticipations and foretastes of your heavenly inheritance you have here enjoyed; and you will not regard with indifference the very spot where such mercies have been given unto you; but will be ready to say, "If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not that Jerusalem above my chief joy Psalm 137:6."

3. With desire for yet further blessings—

To our latest hour shall we need yet further blessings from the Lord. As all the males of the land came up to the temple thrice every year to offer their accustomed offerings, so we must still come up to the house of God, to renew our supplications at the throne of his grace, and to receive from him such communications as our necessities require. Even when at a distance from the temple, the Jews looked towards it with a view to express more fully their faith and hope in the God of Israel: and so should we, not indeed to any individual edifice, but to the house of God where his people are assembled; "panting after it as the deer after the water-brooks, and saying, When shall I come and appear before God Psalm 42:1-2." It should be a comfort to us to reflect how often we have in past times "gone up with the multitude to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise Psalm 42:4;" and we should long to have those opportunities renewed, that God may yet again be glorified in us, and that the whole work of his grace may be perfected within us.

Improvement—

1. As members of the great community, let your expectations be enlarged—

"When did God ever say to any, Seek you my face in vain?" No indeed; "God delights in the prayer of the upright:" not a sigh shall pass unnoticed by him Psalm 12:5, or a look be directed towards him, without some special token of his regard Psalm 34:5. "Only draw near to him, and you never need fear but that he will draw near to you James 4:8."

2. As individual believers, assure yourselves that God will not overlook you—

Did God so regard the Temple of Solomon? Know, that you who believe in Christ are far more acceptable temples than that. While that was yet standing in all its glory, God poured contempt upon it in comparison of "a poor and contrite spirit Isaiah 66:1-2." Yes, "to a contrite sinner he will look" with delight Isaiah 57:15; and "in him will he dwell, as in his temple 2 Corinthians 6:16." Towards him "his ears shall be intent;" and on him shall be fixed "his eyes and his heart perpetually." Know, then, your privilege, my beloved Brethren; and value as you ought the honor thus accorded to you.

 

 

2 Chronicles 7:16

 

DISCOURSE 399

GOD'S REGARD FOR HIS OWN HOUSE

2 Chronicles 7:15, 2 Chronicles 7:16. Now my eyes shall be open, and mine ears intent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and my eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

NEVER, from the foundation of the world, was there so magnificent a structure as Solomon's Temple, or so imposing a scene as that which took place at the dedication of it This may be briefly described, verse 12; The prayer which Solomon offered on that occasion was no less remarkable: in point of humility and fervor and propriety, nothing could exceed it. The answer also that was given to it was singularly encouraging. Compare the petition to which my text refers, with the answer given to it in the text itself: "Now, my God, let, I beseech you, your eyes be open, and let your ears be intent unto the prayer that is made in this place 2 Chronicles 6:40."

These very words does God repeat to him in a way of promise, and with great additional force: "My eyes shall be open, and mine ears intent unto the prayer that is made in this place: for now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever: and my eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually."

These words will afford me a fit occasion to show,

I. The regard which God bears to his house—

We marvel at the condescension of Almighty God, when he says, "My eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." But he regarded that structure, and he regards every place that is built for his more immediate service,

1. As the house where he will more especially reside—

The whole land of Israel was dear to him in this view. Moses says of it, "It is a land which the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year Deuteronomy 11:12." But this house was his more peculiar residence: "his name was put there Deuteronomy 12:11 with 2 Chronicles 6:5-6." He was invited by Solomon to come and take possession of it: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting-place, you, and the ark of your strength 2 Chronicles 6:41." And, in answer to his request, he came down visibly and abode within it: "Now, when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from Heaven, and consumed the burnt-offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house verse 1, 2." To this event the Psalmist refers, when he says, "The Lord has chosen Zion: he has desired it for his habitation: This is my rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it Psalm 132:14-15." Hence it may well be said, that "God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob Psalm 87:2."

2. As the theater where he will display his glory—

In the temple were displayed, under types and shadows, all the wonders of redeeming love. The sacrifices that were offered, the consuming of them upon the altar, the carrying of their blood within the veil to sprinkle the mercy-seat of the Moat High, the offering of incense also before the mercy-seat, all prefigured the atoning sacrifice, and the prevailing intercession of the Lord Jesus, through which every sinner in the universe may find acceptance with God. The whole of the services there offered were "a shadow of good things to come Hebrews 10:1;" and in the temple alone were they suffered to exist. But now are the same things declared plainly and explicitly by every servant of the Most High that is called to preach the Gospel of Christ. Yes, every minister that is taught of God proclaims this truth: "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners 1 Timothy 1:15." And though this message may be greatly diversified in the mode of its delivery, it is in substance the same with all: for every faithful minister "determines, with the Apostle, to know nothing among his people save Jesus Christ and him crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2." And where is this mystery unfolded, but in the house of God? True, the house of God is pre-eminently "the house of prayer;" but it is also the place where "the glory of God is displayed as shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ," and a free salvation is proclaimed to all the sinners of mankind.

3. As the throne from whence he will dispense his blessings—

To the temple of old, every sinner brought his offering: and from thence he departed with a comfortable hope that he was accepted of his God. And say, Brethren, whether you have not found God in this place, ready to hear and answer your most enlarged petitions? Have you not found the word, that was delivered in the Savior's name, "quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword?" Has it not brought conviction to your minds; and been effectual, also, to administer consolation to your souls? Has not grace been administered by means of it? and have you not found it a channel of communication to your souls, insomuch that you have here "drunk as of rivers of water," and "feasted, as it were, upon fat things," that have nourished your souls unto life eternal? Yes truly, God has said that he would "beautify the place of his sanctuary, and make the place of his feet glorious Isaiah 60:13;" and in these divine communications his own soul, no less than the souls of his people, has been refreshed, and filled with joy Jeremiah 32:41. Zephaniah 3:17.

From the regard which God bears to his house, we see,

II. The feeling which we also should have towards it—

Are God's "eyes and heart upon his house perpetually?" Then we also should regard it,

1. With a reverential sense of its sanctity—

I readily grant, that there is not the same measure of sanctity in holy buildings and in holy vessels now, that there was under the Mosaic economy, where "Touch not, taste not, handle not," constituted so great a part of the divine Law. But, on the other hand, there is an immense distance between things sacred and things common: nor is there any person of real piety who would willingly break down this distinction. It is possible, I grant, for this idea to be carried to an extreme of superstition: but it is equally possible for it to be spurned at in a way of grievous impiety. Different usages may prevail in different places, in perfect consistency with a becoming reverence for the house of God: but what our blessed Lord did in driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple, may serve to show us, that what has been consecrated to God ought not to be turned to a profane use: and more especially, while it is acknowledged as the place which God delights to honor with his peculiar presence, it should be approached with reverence; and, in the spirit of our minds at least, we should "put off our shoes, when we tread on such holy ground:" for God has expressly and most authoritatively said, "You shall reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord Leviticus 19:30."

2. With gratitude for mercies there received—

Methinks, of some of you it may be said, that "you were born there Psalm 87:4." And what a blessing is this! In comparison of it, the whole world is lighter than the dust upon the balance. Call to mind how ignorant you once were of those things which belong to your everlasting peace. Once you knew not what guilt you had contracted in the sight of God, and to what tremendous judgments you were exposed. You knew not what provision God had made for you in his Gospel. The necessity of an atonement; the suitableness and sufficiency of the atonement which Christ has made; the nature of a life of faith on Christ; the work and offices of the Holy Spirit; the beauty and excellency of holiness; these, and a variety of other things, were altogether unknown to you, until you heard them in this place, and God "opened the eyes of your understanding to understand them." Only call to mind what a load of guilt has been removed from your souls; what peace and joy have flowed in upon you through the preached word; what strength has been imparted to you to resist temptations, and to fulfill your duties to the Lord; and, finally, what anticipations and foretastes of your heavenly inheritance you have here enjoyed; and you will not regard with indifference the very spot where such mercies have been given unto you; but will be ready to say, "If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not that Jerusalem above my chief joy Psalm 137:6."

3. With desire for yet further blessings—

To our latest hour shall we need yet further blessings from the Lord. As all the males of the land came up to the temple thrice every year to offer their accustomed offerings, so we must still come up to the house of God, to renew our supplications at the throne of his grace, and to receive from him such communications as our necessities require. Even when at a distance from the temple, the Jews looked towards it with a view to express more fully their faith and hope in the God of Israel: and so should we, not indeed to any individual edifice, but to the house of God where his people are assembled; "panting after it as the deer after the water-brooks, and saying, When shall I come and appear before God Psalm 42:1-2." It should be a comfort to us to reflect how often we have in past times "gone up with the multitude to the house of God with the voice of joy and praise Psalm 42:4;" and we should long to have those opportunities renewed, that God may yet again be glorified in us, and that the whole work of his grace may be perfected within us.

Improvement—

1. As members of the great community, let your expectations be enlarged—

"When did God ever say to any, Seek you my face in vain?" No indeed; "God delights in the prayer of the upright:" not a sigh shall pass unnoticed by him Psalm 12:5, or a look be directed towards him, without some special token of his regard Psalm 34:5. "Only draw near to him, and you never need fear but that he will draw near to you James 4:8."

2. As individual believers, assure yourselves that God will not overlook you—

Did God so regard the Temple of Solomon? Know, that you who believe in Christ are far more acceptable temples than that. While that was yet standing in all its glory, God poured contempt upon it in comparison of "a poor and contrite spirit Isaiah 66:1-2." Yes, "to a contrite sinner he will look" with delight Isaiah 57:15; and "in him will he dwell, as in his temple 2 Corinthians 6:16." Towards him "his ears shall be intent;" and on him shall be fixed "his eyes and his heart perpetually." Know, then, your privilege, my beloved Brethren; and value as you ought the honor thus accorded to you.

 

 

2 Chronicles 11:13

 

DISCOURSE 400

THE DUTY OF PROTESTANTS

2 Chronicles 11:13; 2 Chronicles 11:16. And the Priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts: And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.

IN this age of Revolutions In 1822, after the attempted Revolutions in Italy, and in the midst of those in South America, and the commotions in Spain and Portugal, and in Greece, it may be well to turn our attention to perhaps the greatest, speediest, completest and least sanguinary revolution that is recorded in the annals of the whole world. The empire of Solomon, if not large in extent, was exceeding powerful: but no sooner was he removed from it, than his son, instead of conciliating the regards of his subjects, disgusted them with the most insulting menaces, and drove them, in utter desperation, to revolt. Far the larger half of his people, even ten tribes out of twelve, formed themselves into a separate and independent state; and continued, throughout all successive periods of their existence, not only an independent, but an hostile nation. To enter into any discussion about the rights of the different parties, would be altogether foreign to our purpose, and to the occasion for which we are assembled: though we cannot refrain from expressing our most unqualified reprobation of Rehoboam's folly, in listening to the extravagant counsels of his young friends, instead of following the sage advice of the elders. But, in a religious view, this revolution was pregnant with consequences of the most important nature. Jeroboam, in order to keep his new subjects from going up to Jerusalem to worship according to the Law of Moses, set up golden calves in Dan and Beth-el, that the people might worship them, or, perhaps, that they might worship Jehovah in and through them. Having appointed a new worship, he appointed new priests to officiate in it, excluding of course from that service all the ministers of Jehovah. What now must be done throughout all his dominions? Shall the godly conform to this idolatry? No: a schism was instantly created: and all the godly in the land, whether Clergy or Laity, forsook their country, and united themselves to the worshipers of Jehovah in Jerusalem; entering thus their solemn protest against the abominations which had been introduced.

Now this will lead me to set before you,

I. The conduct of Protestants in that day—

It was not on account of some trifling regulations about non-essential matters, that they withdrew themselves, but on account of the utter subversion of their religion, and the establishment of idolatry in its stead. Nor did they rise up in rebellion against the government, or attempt to maintain their religion with the sword. They peaceably withdrew; and sought to enjoy in another country the blessings of which they were deprived in their own. Their conduct was altogether such as became the servants of the Most High:—

1. They bore their testimony against the reigning abominations—

Of all the clergy of the land, we read not of so much as one who consented to renounce his principles for filthy lucre sake. A noble example this! and nobly followed, too, by all the godly of the land! for it is said, "After them" that is, after their example, "out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem." It is probable that they had no hope of effecting my thing by remonstrance: but here was a testimony far more decisive than any mere remonstrance could be. It was open and visible to all; and could not but produce a very great sensation through the land. It spoke, in fact, so loudly and intelligibly, as to leave the whole nation without excuse.

2. They adhered steadfastly to the service of their God—

It is said, "they came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers." It was by sacrifice only that they could approach their God: and it was in the temple only that the sacrifices could be offered. Thither, then, they would go. Nothing should detain them from thence. They would not willingly offend man: but they were determined not to neglect their God. His honor and his authority were, in their minds, considerations of paramount importance: and, if enjoined to worship any other God, or to refrain from serving him, their answer was, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you."

3. They renounced all for conscience sake—

The priests left their cities, their suburbs, their possessions, and abandoned all for conscience sake. The people, too, even all the godly of the land, forsook their all, that they might approve themselves faithful to their God. This was a severe test of their integrity: but their piety was equal to the occasion. And though, in individual instances, we may certainly find much greater sacrifices for conscience sake, yet perhaps, on so large a scale, this was never equaled in any country under Heaven.

But let us pass on to what more immediately concerns ourselves, namely,

II. Our duty, as Protestants, at the present day—

The abominations of Popery are scarcely more tolerable than those which Jeroboam established. And it is a mercy to us that our forefathers had courage and piety enough to protest against them. But we have our duties also to perform—

1. We should realize our own religious principles—

To what purpose do we renounce the superstitions of the Romish Church, while we hold fast the greatest and most fundamental error of all, the doctrine of human merit? I grant that we do not maintain this error in the same open, gross, and avowed way in which it is held by the Papists: but on the subject of salvation by faith alone we have all the same jealousies as they. Yes, though Protestants by profession, the great mass of us are looking for salvation by our own repentances or reformations, rather than by the simple exercise of faith in Christ. In the ministry of the word, instead of bringing forward the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, as that which is universally admitted, approved, and gloried in, we are forced to make a thousand apologies, in order to ward off from ourselves the imputation of being Antinomians and heretics. O Brethren! it should not be thus. We ought all to rejoice that we are emancipated from the bonds in which Popery holds its deluded votaries, and to glory in the Lord Jesus Christ as all our salvation and all our desire.

2. We should show their superior efficacy to sanctify the heart and life—

There have been doubtless many eminently pious men in the Church of Rome: but they were pious in despite of their errors. So far as they were influenced by superstition, their piety was debased, rather than advanced. Christianity gives liberty to the soul, instead of reducing it to a state of bondage: and, if we possess that liberty, it should elevate us to a higher and nobler course than can be attained by the servile principles of Popery. Papists withdraw altogether from the world: we, while in the world, should show ourselves above it; "dead to" its cares, and "crucified to" its allurements. They, in order to mortify the flesh, have recourse to absurd and self-tormenting usages, which, while they lacerate the body, puff up the soul with pride and self-applause. We must seek the elevation of the soul in high and holy affections, "having our conversation in Heaven," and delighting ourselves in God.

Address,

1. Those who are conforming to this vain world—

Behold the conduct of the pious Israelites, and blush. They, for the honor of their God, forsook all that they possessed: and if you, either from the love of the world, or from the fear of man, are averse to make this sacrifice for your Lord and Savior, glory not in being Protestants; but seek to become Christians: for on no other terms than these will Christ ever acknowledge you as his disciples Luke 14:33.

2. Those who, like the Israelites, are "setting their hearts fully to seek the Lord their God"—

No man ever repented of "following the Lord fully." Such persons may have less of this world; and may at times be reduced to great necessities, even as the Apostle Paul was on different occasions. But the presence of God with their souls, and the testimony of a good conscience, will amply compensate for all the losses they can sustain, and for all the evils they can suffer, in so good a cause. Even in this present life will those who give up their all for Christ, "receive in return an hundred-fold Mark 10:29-30;" but what they shall reap in the eternal world, who can tell? Ask those who are now in Heaven, "where they came out of great tribulations Revelation 7:14-17," whether they have ever for one instant regretted the sacrifices they made for the Lord: and take for your own comfort the testimony which you feel well assured you would, without one single exception, receive from them.

 

 

2 Chronicles 11:16

 

DISCOURSE 400

THE DUTY OF PROTESTANTS

2 Chronicles 11:13; 2 Chronicles 11:16. And the Priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts: And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers.

IN this age of Revolutions In 1822, after the attempted Revolutions in Italy, and in the midst of those in South America, and the commotions in Spain and Portugal, and in Greece, it may be well to turn our attention to perhaps the greatest, speediest, completest and least sanguinary revolution that is recorded in the annals of the whole world. The empire of Solomon, if not large in extent, was exceeding powerful: but no sooner was he removed from it, than his son, instead of conciliating the regards of his subjects, disgusted them with the most insulting menaces, and drove them, in utter desperation, to revolt. Far the larger half of his people, even ten tribes out of twelve, formed themselves into a separate and independent state; and continued, throughout all successive periods of their existence, not only an independent, but an hostile nation. To enter into any discussion about the rights of the different parties, would be altogether foreign to our purpose, and to the occasion for which we are assembled: though we cannot refrain from expressing our most unqualified reprobation of Rehoboam's folly, in listening to the extravagant counsels of his young friends, instead of following the sage advice of the elders. But, in a religious view, this revolution was pregnant with consequences of the most important nature. Jeroboam, in order to keep his new subjects from going up to Jerusalem to worship according to the Law of Moses, set up golden calves in Dan and Beth-el, that the people might worship them, or, perhaps, that they might worship Jehovah in and through them. Having appointed a new worship, he appointed new priests to officiate in it, excluding of course from that service all the ministers of Jehovah. What now must be done throughout all his dominions? Shall the godly conform to this idolatry? No: a schism was instantly created: and all the godly in the land, whether Clergy or Laity, forsook their country, and united themselves to the worshipers of Jehovah in Jerusalem; entering thus their solemn protest against the abominations which had been introduced.

Now this will lead me to set before you,

I. The conduct of Protestants in that day—

It was not on account of some trifling regulations about non-essential matters, that they withdrew themselves, but on account of the utter subversion of their religion, and the establishment of idolatry in its stead. Nor did they rise up in rebellion against the government, or attempt to maintain their religion with the sword. They peaceably withdrew; and sought to enjoy in another country the blessings of which they were deprived in their own. Their conduct was altogether such as became the servants of the Most High:—

1. They bore their testimony against the reigning abominations—

Of all the clergy of the land, we read not of so much as one who consented to renounce his principles for filthy lucre sake. A noble example this! and nobly followed, too, by all the godly of the land! for it is said, "After them" that is, after their example, "out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem." It is probable that they had no hope of effecting my thing by remonstrance: but here was a testimony far more decisive than any mere remonstrance could be. It was open and visible to all; and could not but produce a very great sensation through the land. It spoke, in fact, so loudly and intelligibly, as to leave the whole nation without excuse.

2. They adhered steadfastly to the service of their God—

It is said, "they came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers." It was by sacrifice only that they could approach their God: and it was in the temple only that the sacrifices could be offered. Thither, then, they would go. Nothing should detain them from thence. They would not willingly offend man: but they were determined not to neglect their God. His honor and his authority were, in their minds, considerations of paramount importance: and, if enjoined to worship any other God, or to refrain from serving him, their answer was, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you."

3. They renounced all for conscience sake—

The priests left their cities, their suburbs, their possessions, and abandoned all for conscience sake. The people, too, even all the godly of the land, forsook their all, that they might approve themselves faithful to their God. This was a severe test of their integrity: but their piety was equal to the occasion. And though, in individual instances, we may certainly find much greater sacrifices for conscience sake, yet perhaps, on so large a scale, this was never equaled in any country under Heaven.

But let us pass on to what more immediately concerns ourselves, namely,

II. Our duty, as Protestants, at the present day—

The abominations of Popery are scarcely more tolerable than those which Jeroboam established. And it is a mercy to us that our forefathers had courage and piety enough to protest against them. But we have our duties also to perform—

1. We should realize our own religious principles—

To what purpose do we renounce the superstitions of the Romish Church, while we hold fast the greatest and most fundamental error of all, the doctrine of human merit? I grant that we do not maintain this error in the same open, gross, and avowed way in which it is held by the Papists: but on the subject of salvation by faith alone we have all the same jealousies as they. Yes, though Protestants by profession, the great mass of us are looking for salvation by our own repentances or reformations, rather than by the simple exercise of faith in Christ. In the ministry of the word, instead of bringing forward the great doctrine of justification by faith alone, as that which is universally admitted, approved, and gloried in, we are forced to make a thousand apologies, in order to ward off from ourselves the imputation of being Antinomians and heretics. O Brethren! it should not be thus. We ought all to rejoice that we are emancipated from the bonds in which Popery holds its deluded votaries, and to glory in the Lord Jesus Christ as all our salvation and all our desire.

2. We should show their superior efficacy to sanctify the heart and life—

There have been doubtless many eminently pious men in the Church of Rome: but they were pious in despite of their errors. So far as they were influenced by superstition, their piety was debased, rather than advanced. Christianity gives liberty to the soul, instead of reducing it to a state of bondage: and, if we possess that liberty, it should elevate us to a higher and nobler course than can be attained by the servile principles of Popery. Papists withdraw altogether from the world: we, while in the world, should show ourselves above it; "dead to" its cares, and "crucified to" its allurements. They, in order to mortify the flesh, have recourse to absurd and self-tormenting usages, which, while they lacerate the body, puff up the soul with pride and self-applause. We must seek the elevation of the soul in high and holy affections, "having our conversation in Heaven," and delighting ourselves in God.

Address,

1. Those who are conforming to this vain world—

Behold the conduct of the pious Israelites, and blush. They, for the honor of their God, forsook all that they possessed: and if you, either from the love of the world, or from the fear of man, are averse to make this sacrifice for your Lord and Savior, glory not in being Protestants; but seek to become Christians: for on no other terms than these will Christ ever acknowledge you as his disciples Luke 14:33.

2. Those who, like the Israelites, are "setting their hearts fully to seek the Lord their God"—

No man ever repented of "following the Lord fully." Such persons may have less of this world; and may at times be reduced to great necessities, even as the Apostle Paul was on different occasions. But the presence of God with their souls, and the testimony of a good conscience, will amply compensate for all the losses they can sustain, and for all the evils they can suffer, in so good a cause. Even in this present life will those who give up their all for Christ, "receive in return an hundred-fold Mark 10:29-30;" but what they shall reap in the eternal world, who can tell? Ask those who are now in Heaven, "where they came out of great tribulations Revelation 7:14-17," whether they have ever for one instant regretted the sacrifices they made for the Lord: and take for your own comfort the testimony which you feel well assured you would, without one single exception, receive from them.

 

 

2 Chronicles 12:7

 

DISCOURSE 401

HUMILIATION THE MEANS OF DELIVERANCE

2 Chronicles 12:7. And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them.

REPENTANCE is so plain and acknowledged a duty, that it is never unseasonable to call men to the performance of it: while, on the other hand, so great are our encouragements to it, that we rather account it a privilege than a duty. The instances wherein God has recorded his condescension to penitents of old time, are almost numberless: the one before us, even if there were no other, would of itself be sufficient to encourage all, whether nations or individuals, to abase themselves before him, and to seek his favor with an assurance that they should not seek it in vain.

For the space of three years Rehoboam continued to walk in the ways of David and of Solomon 2 Chronicles 11:17. But having, as he thought, strengthened himself against all assault from foreign enemies, "he forsook the law of the Lord, as did all Israel together with him verse 1." For this great defection God stirred up Shishak king of Egypt to come forth against him with a large army. Shishak doubtless was of himself willing enough to invade a country which offered the prospect of such abundant spoil as Jerusalem did at that time: but, though unconscious of any foreign agency, he was only an instrument in God's hands, sent forth to punish the transgressions of revolted Israel verse 2. Success attended the invading army in all their movements; the fenced cities all successively fell into their hands; and at last Jerusalem itself became their prey. In less than five short years was all the wealth which David and Solomon had treasured up in the temple and in the king's house, swept away, and delivered over as a spoil to a victorious enemy. And now would Jerusalem itself also have been utterly destroyed, if the arm of justice had not been arrested by the penitential cries of Rehoboam and his nobles. God had sent a prophet to declare to them the grounds and reasons of the judgments that were now inflicted on them: and they, seeing that all other hope had failed them, betook themselves to repentance. To this God had respect, as our text informs us; and, on seeing their repentance, he sent the same prophet to assure them, that he would suspend his uplifted arm, and forbear to execute upon them his judgments according to the full measure of their deserts.

Now from the message which was sent them from the Lord we may properly observe,

I. That sin will surely bring the judgments of God upon us—

It matters not by whom sin is committed; for all are equally amenable to the laws of God, and must stand on an equal footing at the bar of judgment. Kings and princes are in this respect on a level with the lowest of mankind: for "with God is no respect of persons."

Nor must we imagine that those sins only which are of greater enormity in our eyes will be noticed by God: for he notices the violations of the first table, as well as of the second; and those of defect as well as those of actual transgression. The sum of the two tables is, that "we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves:" and it will be to little purpose, that we have not bowed down to strange gods, if we have withheld from Jehovah the entire devotion of our souls; or that we have not injured our neighbor by the open crimes of adultery and murder, if we have withheld from him those holy exercises of brotherly affection which God has made his due. Sins of omission must be accounted for, as well as those of commission: and not one escapes the notice of the heart-searching God.

Our iniquities, because committed long ago, may be forgotten by us: but not one of them is forgotten by God: they are all recorded in the book of his remembrance: and the precise measure of "wrath" that is due to each "is treasured up," against the day that the vials of God's wrath shall be poured out upon the whole world. Every sin leaves a stain behind it: and as the hunted stag, though far removed from the sight or hearing of his pursuers, is traced by them until he is overtaken and destroyed, so will the sinner be by the judgments of the Most High; according as it is said, "Evil shall hunt the wicked man, to overthrow him." Yes, to every sinner under Heaven must it be said, "Be sure your sin will find you out."

Nor is there any possibility of escape, but by repentance; since God has ordained,

II. That sin, in order to its being forgiven, must be repented of—

"God has commanded all men everywhere to repent:" and has declared, that, "except we repent, we must all perish."

But let it not be thought that repentance is a mere light and transient emotion: no indeed: repentance is a far different thing from what is generally supposed. It must be general, not relating to some few particular acts, but to the state and habit of our souls throughout our whole lives. It must also be deep, like that of the publican, leading us to smite on our breasts with deep contrition, and to cry for mercy as the most unworthy of mankind. One thing in particular we notice in Rehoboam and the princes; they acknowledged, that "God was righteous"in all that he had brought upon them verse 6. And until we also are brought ingenuously and from our inmost souls to acknowledge, that he may justly enter into judgment with us, and consign our souls over to everlasting perdition, we are not truly penitent: we see not our own demerit: we virtually deny God's right to punish us: we are proud, unhumbled, unsubdued.

Our penitence must also lead us to cast ourselves altogether upon God's promised mercy in Christ Jesus. This it is which constitutes the difference between that "repentance which is unto salvation," and which is "never to be repented of," and that repentance which will fall short of salvation, and leave room for everlasting penitence in the world to come. If our hope terminate on anything short of the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have not yet learned the extent of our fall, or the impossibility of being saved by any name but his.

It is, however, no little consolation to know,

III. That sin, truly repented of, shall assuredly be forgiven—

How delightful the evidence of this in the passage before us! God sends his servant to announce to his penitent people his compassion towards them, and his readiness to forgive; expressly grounding his forgiveness on the penitence which they had evinced. And where shall we find any instance of penitence despised, or of judgments inflicted on one who with sincerity of heart implored mercy at God's hands? We will take an instance of one whose crimes perhaps exceeded those of any other individual from the foundation of the world,—the idolatrous, and murderous Manasseh. He, like Rehoboam and his courtiers, thought not of repentance, until he was reduced, as it were, to the lowest ebb of misery: but even then his cry was heard; and his supplication entered into the ears of this Lord of Hosts 2 Chronicles 33:11-13. So, if we be truly penitent, whatever may have been the extent of our iniquity, it shall be forgiven. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon Isaiah 55:7." Only let us "repent and turn ourselves from all our transgressions, and then iniquity shall, not be our ruin Ezekiel 18:30," Though "our sins have been many, they shall be forgiven Luke 7:47;" and "where sin has abounded, the grace of our God shall much more abound Romans 5:20."

And now permit me to institute a most important inquiry—

Respecting Rehoboam and the princes, it is said, "God saw that they humbled themselves:" and of this God testified, saying, "They have humbled themselves." Now then I ask, Can he bear the same testimony respecting you? Has he seen you weeping in secret on account of your multiplied iniquities? Can he say of you as he does of Ephraim, "Surely I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself;" and can he, as he did in Ephraim's case, rehearse the very language of your lips and hearts, and attest your every motion, whether of body or mind, as indicating the depth and sincerity of your repentance Jeremiah 31:18-19.: Call to mind the time, the place, the occasion: Say whether it arose only out of some particular circumstances, or whether it be the stated habit of your mind? Were this indeed the general frame of your souls, we would congratulate you, assured that God has already said concerning you, "Is not Ephraim my dear son? Is he not a pleasant child? for since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my affections are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord Jeremiah 31:20." There can be no doubt respecting any "one who thus sows in tears, that he shall soon reap in joy Psalm 126:5."

But respecting too many of you, must not the testimony of God be the very reverse of this? Must not the heart-searching God say respecting the generality,—'I have seen in them no repentance at all. I have seen them agitated times without number on account of earthly things: I have seen them angry, when offended; and grieved, when they have suffered loss: but I have never seen them angry at themselves for offending me, nor bemoaning, as they should have done, the loss of their own souls. If you were to form your estimate from what has been seen in them, you must conclude, that sin is no great evil; that repentance on account of it is of no urgent necessity; and that acceptance with me is not worth the trouble of it'—? Must he not further testify respecting some, 'I have seen their parents, yes, and their minister too, weeping over them; but have never seen them weeping for themselves'—?

Now, Brethren, it is to little purpose for you to say, "I have repented," unless "your sorrow has been of a godly sort:" for you will not be judged by what you are pleased to call repentance, but by; the standard of God's blessed word: it is by that that God forms his estimate of you now; and by that will you be judged in the last day. "Judge yourselves therefore now, that you may not be judged of the Lord." If it were only such a destruction as impended over Jerusalem, that were about to come upon you, methinks I would be content to let you "sleep on and take your rest:" but, when I reflect that it is an "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power," I tremble at the thought of your exposure to it, and of its being the doom to which you are so soon to be consigned.

Begin then this necessary work, before it be too late: Consider God as now calling you to it by me, as he called his people of old by the Prophet Shemaiah If this subject for a Fast-Day on account of ill success in war, or any other calamity, a parallel may here be drawn between that and the afflictions specified in the context; and never cease to abase yourselves before him, until he shall have said concerning you, "I have seen his ways, and will heal him, and will restore comfort to him and to his mourners Isaiah 57:18;" for you may be assured, that, if now you "are afflicted, and mourn, and weep; if your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into heaviness, so that you humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, he will lift you up in due time James 4:9-10;" he will say, "Deliver him from going down into the pit; for I have found and accepted a ransom for him Job 33:27-28."

 

 

2 Chronicles 12:14

 

DISCOURSE 402

THE EVIL OF NEGLECTING PRAYER

2 Chronicles 12:14. He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

IF we were to judge by the conduct of all around us, we should suppose that religion required no effort; and that eternal happiness was to be acquired in a neglect of all the means which God has appointed for the attainment of it. But "the kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force." The means are closely connected with the end. Even in earthly things, wealth is, for the most part, the fruit of diligence; and poverty the result of idleness: but in spiritual things it may be said invariably, that "he who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly, and that he who sows bountifully shall reap bountifully." Of King Rehoboam we are informed, that there were hopeful appearances at the beginning, since "for three years he and his people walked in the way of David and Solomon 2 Chronicles 11:17;" but "when he was established in his kingdom, he forsook the Law of the Lord, and all Israel with him verse 1." From that period "he did evil:" which melancholy change is here accounted for: "He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord."

From this conduct of his I will take occasion to show,

I. How alone man can be preserved from evil—

It is "by seeking after God;" yet not simply by that, but by "preparing the heart to seek him." Now this implies,

1. Meditation—

A man can never prevail against sin, if he do not give himself to serious meditation upon the concerns of his soul. He must consider the end for which he has been sent into the world; the responsibility of his soul for the use of those means which God has appointed for his happiness; and, above all, the great wonders of redemption, whereby alone a fallen creature can ever obtain mercy with an offended God: It is in this way only that he can get his mind into a proper frame for prosecuting the work which God has given him to do.

2. Self-examination—

It is necessary that we obtain correct views of our own state before God. And for this end we must compare ourselves, not with those around us, but with God's revealed will, which alone will bring us to a just estimate of our own character. Persons of different ages, and under different circumstances, have peculiar temptations, and peculiar failing's: and it is by searching out, each his own peculiar weaknesses and faults, that any real humiliation can be produced, or any clear perception of the evils to which we are most exposed. Without such a knowledge of our own hearts, we cannot "seek God" with effect. Then only, when we know our own sins, can we deplore them as we ought, or plead for mercy as we ought from our offended God.

3. Fixedness of heart to follow the dictates of our conscience—

The word "prepared" is, in the marginal translation, "fixed." Now there must be in us a fixed purpose to renounce sin, and a determination, through grace, to surrender up ourselves entirely to God in newness of heart and life: Without this fixedness of purpose, we shall vacillate between sin and duty, and never become steadfast in the ways of God.

We may therefore easily foresee,

II. The certain consequence of neglecting the appointed means—

We shall "do evil," and continue to do it even to the end. As long as we neglect to seek after God,

1. Our corruptions will rage—

"The heart of every man is full of evil." Our corruptions may vary according to our age or condition in life: but our besetting sins, whatever they may be, will gather strength. A fire, if not checked, will produce a conflagration, as long as there are any materials to burn. And our corruptions, if suffered to remain unmortified, will burn even to the lowest Hell. There is in every man "a spiritual, as well us a fleshly, filthiness;" and both the one and the other will overspread the whole man, even like a leprosy, though under different forms, according to the dispositions and habits of every different individual.

2. Our temptations will multiply—

Men, if they turn not to God, will frequent those scenes which most amuse them, and that company which is most in accordance with their taste. Their pursuits will all be of such a nature as shall tend rather to confirm, than to eradicate, the corruptions of their hearts: and thus they will be working out their own damnation from day to day, even as a child of God is daily "working out his salvation." What but ruin can proceed from such a course?

3. Our enemies will prevail—

Satan is a great adversary, whom we are commanded to oppose: and a divine panoply is provided for us, that we may be able to withstand him. But if we put not on our armor, how can we hope to vanquish him? He will "lead us captive at his will," yes, "as a roaring lion he will devour us."

Get then your minds deeply imbued with,

1. A sense of your weakness—

It is impossible to have too deep a sense of our incapacity for what is good. To be "as a little child" is almost the summit of human attainment. And, strange as it may appear, you "never are so truly strong, as when you are thus weak:" for then will God interpose for you, and "perfect his own strength in your weakness."

2. A persuasion of the efficacy of prayer—

If we really believed that our prayers would be answered, methinks we should be urging our requests all the day long. Observe, in the Scriptures, God's answers to prayer, how marked! how speedy! how effectual! Truly, "however wide we might open our mouths, God would fill them:" and all that he did for the Lord Jesus Christ corporeally, in raising him from the dead, and setting him at his own right hand above all the principalities and powers of Heaven, he would do mystically and spiritually in us Ephesians 1:19-22 with 2:4–7, and "make us more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

3. A conviction of the necessity of holiness in order to your happiness in the eternal world—

To "do evil," and continue in it, can issue in nothing but destruction. "Christ came to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." Let, I pray you, the end of his grace be answered in this way: and never cease to plead with him, until he has "delivered you from all evil," and "bruised Satan himself under your exulting and triumphant feet."

 

 

2 Chronicles 13:12

 

DISCOURSE 403

ABIJAH'S REMONSTRANCE WITH JEROBOAM For a Fast-Day in war.

2 Chronicles. 13:12. Behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight you not against the Lord God of your fathers; for you shall not prosper,

GOOD advice should be attended to, by whoever it may be given. Our blessed Lord particularly inculcated this on his disciples, commanding them to do whatever those who sat in Moses' chair required of them, without regarding the moral character of the persons themselves, or refusing compliance with what was good, because it was not exemplified in the conduct of their instructors. The words before us were not spoken by a good man; for Abijah was on the whole a wicked King 1 Kings 15:3; but they contain very sound instruction, and have a semblance even of piety itself. The whole address indeed was well fitted for the occasion, though it certainly savors much of that partiality, which is found in almost all who plead their own cause. There is undoubtedly a good deal of false coloring in what he speaks to the disparagement of his enemies, though there is ground for his assertions, if they had been more carefully expressed and more duly qualified. Notwithstanding Abijah had invaded Jeroboam's country, in order to make that, rather than his own country, the seat of war, we think it probable that Jeroboam was the aggressor; because the address of Abijah was altogether of a pacific nature. It seems from the words of our text that he labored hard to prevent the effusion of blood: and if his adversary had been like-minded with himself, the dispute might perhaps have been amicably adjusted.

We shall consider the words of our text,

I. In reference to the contest then pending between Judah and Israel—

Abijah's address was certainly striking and judicious—

Abijah contrasts the usurpation and idolatry of Jeroboam with the legitimate claims of his own family, and their continued adherence to the God of their fathers verse 4–11; and doubtless these were just grounds for hope, that God would espouse his cause: for though it may please God for a season to let the ungodly triumph over his people, yet we believe, that, as a righteous Governor, he will ultimately favor the cause of righteousness and truth.

Well did the Israelites know, that there could be no effectual resistance to the Lord of Hosts, especially when those who were under his command were observant of the laws appointed for them. Hence, when Abijah told his adversaries, that he was come forth in dependence on God's aid, and in a strict observance of his commands Numbers 10:9. This passage reflects much light on the text, they had reason to tremble for themselves, and to refrain from prosecuting the contest any further. True indeed, a hypocrite may make all these pretensions, even as Rabshakeh. did in his address to Hezekiah's servants Isaiah 36:10; but where the dependence is real, and the obedience true, a successful issue may justly be expected.

The event justified his expectations—

While Abijah was endeavoring to avert the conflict, Jeroboam sought by stratagem to overwhelm him and all his followers. He placed in ambush a considerable portion of his army, and attacked Abijah both in front and rear. But Abijah "cried unto the Lord; and the priests sounded with their trumpets; and the men of Judah gave a shout," expressive of their confidence in God: and immediately the hosts of Israel turned their backs; and, though they were twice as numerous as their enemies, no less than five hundred thousand of them fell down slain before the victorious hosts of Judah. Never was there such a slaughter in one single battle, either before or since: and the event of that day fully proves, that they who fight for God have nothing to fear; nor they who fight against him, to hope Ezekiel 22:14 with Romans 8:31.

Taking the text in somewhat of an accommodated sense, we will proceed to consider it,

II. In reference to the contest now pending between God and us—

There is a contest now existing between God and sinners—

By every sin that men commit, they do indeed "fight against God": What shall we say of those who cast off their allegiance to the God of Israel; who bow down to idols of their own creation; who disregard the word and ordinances of their God; and who seek only to wound and destroy those who warn them of their guilt and danger? Are not they avowed enemies to God? They are: their own reason may tell them so: the Scriptures universally declare it: justify themselves as they may, their excuses are all vain; and they only deceive their own souls.

"Suffer you then the word of exhortation"—

"O children of Israel, fight you not against the Lord God of your fathers!" We are appointed of God to "blow the trumpet of alarm against you;" and we must blow it, at the peril of our own souls: we must "lift up our voice as a trumpet, and show you both your sin" and danger Isaiah 58:1. It is against God, even "the Captain of our salvation" himself, that you are fighting: it is his majesty that you oppose, his law you trample on, his mercy you despise, and his salvation you reject: O think with yourselves, Can you prosper? "Did ever any harden themselves against him and prosper Job 9:4." No indeed; "it is in vain to kick against the pricks:" "though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished Proverbs 11:21."

APPLICATION—

1. From the former view of this subject, we may learn how to obtain the blessing of God upon our arms—

It is not by confidence in an arm of flesh that we can hope to prevail, but by a humble trust in God. It is said, "The children of Israel prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers verse 18." Notwithstanding the numbers and the stratagems of their enemies, they prevailed, because God himself fought for them. Let us then by prayer and supplication call God to our aid, and rest assured that he will interpose for us in the hour of necessity.

While indeed we trust in him for success, we must use every effort for the attainment of peace: but if our adversary will not listen to reasonable terms, then may we go forth with confidence against him, knowing that "with God it is alike easy to save by many or by few."

2. From the latter view of this subject we may learn how to escape the destruction to which we are exposed—

Our God "has made ready his glittering spear;" and he has already said, "Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of my enemies Isaiah 1:24." What then shall we do? Shall we continue the contest? What would this be, but to "set briers and thorns in battle against the devouring fire, which would go through them, and burn them up together Isaiah 27:4." No: let us throw down our weapons of rebellion against him, and cast ourselves on the multitude of his tender mercies: let us go, like Benhadad, "with ropes round our necks, and sackcloth on our loins," and confess our desert of his heavier judgments, Then will he "turn from his fierce anger," and be reconciled towards us: yes, "he will be merciful to our transgressions, and our sins and iniquities will he remember no more."

 

 

2 Chronicles 15:2

 

DISCOURSE 404

THE EQUITY OF THE DIVINE PROCEDURE

2 Chronicles 15:2. And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear you me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while you be with him; and if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

AS in a season of affliction it may be sometimes necessary to blend reproof with consolation, so in a season of joy and triumph it may sometimes be proper to temper our congratulations with prudential advice. When Asa was returning with his victorious army after the destruction of his Ethiopian enemies, the prophet Oded was sent forth to meet him, and was directed by God himself not to salute him with fulsome compliments, but to impress upon his mind a beneficial admonition.

In this concise and pointed address, we see,

I. The rule of God's procedure—

God is not necessarily bound by any rules; for he both may do, and actually "does, according to his own will in the armies of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth:" yet has he been pleased to prescribe rules to himself,

1. In the dispensations of his providence—

The Jews, as God's peculiar people, were governed by him according to the strictest rules of equity. They were taught to look for temporal rewards or punishments according as they were obedient or disobedient to his word: and their whole history may serve to illustrate the correspondence there was between their dealings towards him, and his towards them See this exemplified in Asa, 2 Chronicles 14:5-7; 2 Chronicles 14:11-12; 2 Chronicles 15:10-15; 2 Chronicles 15:19 with 16:7–9; in Jehoshaphat, 17:3–6, 10 and 20:3, 30 with 19:2 and 20:35–37; in Joash, 24:20; Indeed, God himself expresses peculiar jealousy on this head; and appeals to them, whether the inequality which there was in his providence, did not originate in themselves; and whether it was not perfectly agreeable to the rules which he had established for his conduct towards them Compare Ezekiel 18:24-29 with Leviticus 26:3-45 and Deuteronomy 31:16-17.

Somewhat of the same procedure is yet visible in the dispensations of God towards us. Nations at this time are often prospered or punished according as they pay due allegiance to God, or revolt from him: and individuals not unfrequently experience even here a recompense suited to their conduct. But as, under the law, God sometimes deviated from this rule, in order to direct the views of men to a future day of retribution Psalm 73:3-14, so now he has laid it aside in a great degree, in order that our motives to action may be more spiritual, and that we may look forward to the day of judgment as the period fixed for the display of his righteousness, and for the rewarding of our actions.

2. In the communications of his grace—

God's conduct towards the Jews in respect of temporal things was intended to shadow forth his dealings with us in respect of spiritual things. In relation to these we may see, that the rule which God has laid down to himself is almost invariably observed. It is true, that he is often "found or them that sought him not:" but when once he has revealed himself to any man, he regulates himself towards him according to a principle of perfect equity, rewarding him for his fidelity, or punishing him for his neglect. Who among his people ever sought his face in vain? Who ever diligently walked with him in a state of humble dependence, and did not find God with him in the tokens of his love, and the supports of his grace? God indeed reserves in his own power the times and the seasons when he shall reveal himself more fully to the soul; and he apportions to every one such trials as he in his wisdom knows will be productive of good: but he never did, nor ever will, forsake them that seek him Psalm 9:10.

On the other hand, who is there that has not experienced the hidings of God's face, when fresh contracted guilt, or repeated neglect of duty, has given him offence? Who has not found on such occasions that God has withdrawn the aids of his Spirit both in public and private ordinances; and perhaps left him for a season to the power and influence of his own corruptions? We know indeed that God has said, he will not finally cast off his people 1 Samuel 12:22. Hebrews 13:5. Isaiah 54:7-10; and we believe he will not: we believe he will "visit them with the rod" until he has brought them back to him with deep contrition Psalm 89:30-35: but as long as they forsake him, he will, as far as respects any manifestations of his favor, forsake them; and if any who have thought themselves his people, forsake him utterly, they shall also be utterly abandoned by him. Nor can any be assured that they themselves shall not suffer eternal dereliction, any longer than their adherence to God justifies the hope that they are his children.

To impress this rule the more deeply on our minds, let us consider,

II. The universal importance of it—

The prophet in a most solemn manner called the attention both of the king and all his army to the subject before us; intimating thereby, that there were none who were not interested in it, nor any occasion when the consideration of it would not be useful to their souls.

It is suited to us,

1. In prosperity—

Of this there can be no doubt, since it was in a season of peculiar triumph that the prophet was sent to give this admonition. Indeed we are never more apt to forget ourselves, yes, to forget God also, than when we are elated with great prosperity. We are apt to "sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag Habakkuk 1:16." When "Jeshurun waxed fat, he kicked Deuteronomy 32:15;" when "Uzziah was made strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction 2 Chronicles 26:5; 2 Chronicles 26:16." Strange as it may seem, even the manifestations of God's love to the soul are calculated to puff us up with pride, if we have not some thorn in the flesh given us to counteract this evil tendency, and to keep us from abusing the divine mercies 2 Corinthians 12:7. The more sail a ship carries, the more ballast it requires. The very deliverance that Asa had experienced was likely to render him careless and secure, as though he were now beyond the reach of harm. But by this admonition he was taught, that his security was in God alone, and that he must continue to "walk humbly with God," if he would have the divine protection continued to him.

Similar admonitions are also given to us, to counteract the pride of our hearts. "Be not high-minded, but fear Romans 11:20-21." "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall 1 Corinthians 10:12," "Blessed is the man that fears always Proverbs 28:14." Even the great Apostle himself, though he knew himself to be a chosen vessel unto God, yet felt the necessity of "keeping under his body, and bringing it into subjection, lest, after having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away 1 Corinthians 9:27." Let us therefore exercise the same caution; and, whether we rejoice on account of national or personal mercies, "rejoice with trembling Psalm 2:11."

2. In adversity—

As in prosperous circumstances we need to be guarded against presumption, so in heavy trials we need to be cautioned against despondency. If we appear to be forsaken of our God, we are apt to think that he has altogether "shut up his tender mercies, and will be favorable to us no more Psalm 77:7-9." But in the words before us we see, that no nation or individual can be in so low a state, but that their recovery is certain if only they wait patiently upon God. He will assuredly be found of them that seek him: yes, at the very time that they perhaps are bewailing his absence, he "is actually present with them," working in them that very contrition, and enabling them to wait upon him, when their unassisted nature would have fainted in despair.

Let every one then apply to himself the text in this view. Are we ignorant? let us look to God for the teachings of his Spirit. Are we guilty? let us cry to him for remission through the blood of Christ. Are we in any strait or difficulty whatever? our way is clear; let us wait upon God in assured expectation of support and support. This promise shall never fail us Hebrews 11:6; though we had a million 2 Chronicles 14:9. of men or devils to encounter, we should be "more than conquerors Romans 8:37." "Believe in the Lord; so shall you be established: believe his prophets; so shall you prosper 2 Chronicles 20:20." The subject may be further improved: 1. For caution; to guard against any secret evil in the heart, or any remissness of duty in the life, which may offend God. See 1 Chronicles 28:9 with the first clause of verse 10. Mark this passage carefully. And, 2. For encouragement; since, if he be for us, we need not fear, however many there may be against us.

 

 

2 Chronicles 15:7-8

 

DISCOURSE 405

ENCOURAGEMENT TO EXERTION

2 Chronicles 15:7-8. Be strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage.

THERE are two extremes to which mankind are prone—presumption, and despondency. To the former the ungodly are inclined; to the latter, the righteous. King Asa was a man who "did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God 2 Chronicles 14:2," and "his heart was perfect all his days verse 17;" yet did he need encouragement from a prophet of the Lord, to sustain his fainting mind.

In the passage before us, we have,

I. An historic record—

Asa had been enabled to vanquish an host of not less than a million of Ethiopians, with an army of little more than one half their number. But in his own kingdom there was a great work to perform, a work which he despaired of ever being able to accomplish. God, however, mercifully sent him a prophet, to raise his drooping spirits, and to animate him to his appointed work. Hear the message delivered to him—

"Be strong, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded." Think nothing too arduous to be attempted, provided the Lord call you to it Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9. 1 Chronicles 28:20; And never doubt of success in anything that you undertake for Him.

Mark, too, the effect produced upon his mind—

"He took courage." And how did he evince the power of that grace which had been bestowed upon him? He put down idolatry throughout his dominions verse 8; He summoned all his people to enter into a solemn "covenant with God, to serve Him with all their heart verse 12,": and "he deposed his mother from her throne, because she had made an idol; which he cut down, and stamped, and burned at the brook Kidron verse 16,".

In this noble conduct he has left to us,

II. An encouraging example—

We also have difficulties, every one of us, to encounter—

Great are the corruptions by which we are assailed: And fierce will be the opposition which will be made to us, if we exert ourselves for the reformation of others.

But to us, no less than to Asa, are the prophet's words addressed See Isaiah 35:3-4.—

We should "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might Ephesians 6:10;" and if we "hold fast our confidence in him, we shall have a great recompense of reward Hebrews 10:35." We are assured that "our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord 1 Corinthians 15:58."

In us, also, should they produce a similar effect—

They should encourage us to serve the Lord alone: to serve him with our whole hearts: to serve him "without partiality, and without hypocrisy James 3:17. 1 Timothy 5:21." The nearest friends must be withstood, and the most endeared lust be mortified. Not a right hand, or right eye, must be retained: everything that is offensive to God must be sacrificed without reserve.

APPLICATION—

If Asa acted thus on one single word of encouragement, what may be expected of you, who have had all the promises of God set before you from Sabbath to Sabbath, through many successive years? If He, under that dark dispensation, acted so noble and consistent a part, what may be expected of you, who live under the full light of the Gospel, and are instructed in all the wonders of redeeming love?.

 

 

2 Chronicles 15:12-15

 

DISCOURSE 406

ASA'S COVENANT WITH GOD

2 Chronicles 15:12-15. And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; that whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And they swore unto the Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about.

FEW persons have any just idea of the use and efficacy of ministerial exertions, when accompanied with power from on high. In the context, we see one man, a prophet of the Lord, standing up in Jehovah's name, and by one single address turning a whole nation to the Lord their God. Doubtless the prophet Oded In verse 1. he is called "Azariah the son of Oded:" and we apprehend that when, in verse 8, he is called "Oded," the son of Oded is meant; this being a common abbreviation in the Scriptures. But in a popular discourse it is not necessary to notice this. had a peculiar commission, and was honored with a far greater measure of success than any minister in this day is authorized to expect: nevertheless every servant of the Lord, to whoever he may be sent, whether to kings or subjects, should deliver his message with fidelity; and in so doing, may expect that God will render his word effectual for great and extensive good. In the hope that our message shall not be altogether in vain, we come to you now in Jehovah's name, and call upon you to covenant with him as Asa and his subjects did: and, that we may prevail with you to comply with our injunctions, we will distinctly consider,

I. What covenant they made—

Here we shall separately notice,

1. The covenant itself—

This related to nothing which they were not previously bound to fulfill. To "seek the Lord God of their fathers" was their duty: the law of Moses, yes, the law of nature, bound them to it: and reason, no less than revelation, told them, not only that they should seek after God, but that they should seek him with their whole hearts.

2. The manner in which they made it—

Their zeal was very remarkable; yet it was precisely what the occasion called for. That they should all solemnly swear to this covenant, and devote to death every soul that should refuse to concur in it, seems an instance of unparalleled harshness and intolerance; yet were both the oath which they took Deuteronomy 29:10-15, and the proscription which they agreed to Deuteronomy 17:2-5, expressly required in the law of Moses: if a husband or a wife were to propose a departure from God, it was the duty of the party who was so tempted to give information to the magistrate, and, on conviction of the offender, to take the lead in executing the sentence of death upon him.

But it will be asked, Would you propose this as a pattern for us? We answer, Yes: we would propose it as a pattern, both in the matter and the manner of it:–

1. In the matter of it—

Let us covenant "to seek the Lord God of our fathers with our whole heart, and with our whole soul." To seek him thus is our duty, independently of any covenant: it is due to God as our Creator; it is due to him also as our Redeemer. Did our God come down from Heaven to seek us; and shall not we seek him? Did he give up himself to the accursed death of the cross for us; and shall we content ourselves with offering him a divided heart? What is the thing that deserves to be put in competition with him? What has done so much for us, or what can? Have the vanities of this world, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," any pretension to be his rivals? O let a sense of his unbounded love and mercy lend us to consecrate ourselves altogether to his service! If the Jews, on account of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage by the exertions of Omnipotence, were bound to seek and serve God with their whole hearts, much more are we, who have been redeemed from sin and Satan, death and Hell, by the blood of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son.

2. In the manner of it—

If it be thought that we are not called to swear, we answer, that we all have sworn already in our baptism; and have renewed our oath when we were confirmed: and, as often as we have attended at the table of the Lord, we have again repeated our oath to renounce the devil and all his works, and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as our only Lord The term Sacramentum was used to signify the oath by which the Roman soldiers engaged never to desert the General under whom they fought.

With respect to the proscription, we acknowledge that we are not at this time to enforce Christianity by an appeal to the civil power: and that to inflict the penalty of death on any persons on account of their neglect of Christ, would be to oppose the plainest dictates of his religion: but yet we may, and must, declare, that the judgments of God shall overtake all who either reject him altogether, or seek him with a divided heart: yes, the sentence of eternal misery denounced against them in the Scriptures must receive our most unqualified approbation: we must say with Paul, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema Maranatha 1 Corinthians 16:22;" that is, let him be accursed; and God will surely come before long to inflict that curse upon him. Thus, notwithstanding the abrogation of penalties to be inflicted by the civil arm, under the Christian dispensation, we do in fact proceed even further than the Jews did in the covenant before us: for the judgments denounced by them related to overt acts only, whereas ours relate to the heart: and the penalties inflicted by them extended only to the body, whereas ours relate to the soul; and that too of every creature to whom the Gospel is sent, "whether small or great, whether man or woman."

If it be thought that such covenants are needless, we reply, that they are of the greatest possible utility, if solemnly entered into in our secret chamber before God: for, they contain a solemn recognition of our duty, and a deliberate vindication of God's justice in punishing all who will not seek him in his appointed way: they moreover tend exceedingly to impress our own minds with a sense of the heinousness of departing from God, and to fortify us against all the temptations to which at any time we may be exposed: and it is owing to the low state of religious attainments among us, that such covenants are so rarely made.

As to the idea of legality, it is no better than an excuse for our own sloth and lukewarmness. For, nothing can be more suited to the spirit of the Gospel than such covenant-transactions are; they are a strict compliance with the Apostle's exhortation "to yield our bodies unto God a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, as our reasonable service Romans 12:1."

That we may be stirred up to enter into this covenant, let us contemplate,

II. The benefits resulting from it—

For the discovery of these, we need go no further than the passage before us.

In the very act,

They were filled with great and exalted joy; "they swore, with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets; yes, all Israel rejoiced at the oath." This mode of testifying their joy was suited to the dispensation under which they lived. The joy which Christianity inspires is of a more refined nature; it is less tumultuous, but more spiritual, and more abiding: and we will venture to appeal to all who have ever solemnly devoted themselves to God in their secret chamber, embracing the Lord Jesus Christ as their only Lord and Savior, and surrendering up themselves to him as his redeemed people, whether they did not find in that transaction a peace and a joy which nothing else in the whole universe could impart? Do they not at this moment look back to such seasons as the happiest periods of their lives?: We have no fear of contradiction upon this point: we are well assured, that "all who sow in tears do reap in joy Compare Psalm 126:5-6 with Jeremiah 29:12-13;" and, for the most part, "the reaper treads upon the very heels of the sower Amos. 9:13;" so speedily do they enjoy the reward of their labors.

After the act was performed,

God gave them undoubted testimonies of his acceptance. How he manifested it to them on this occasion, we know not: there were a great variety of ways in which he was accustomed to give his people an evidence of his approbation: at one time, by a lamp passing between the divided pieces of the sacrifice Genesis 15:10; Genesis 15:17; at another, by a special messenger from Heaven Daniel 9:21; at another, by a voice from Heaven John 12:28-29; and frequently by sending fire from Heaven to consume their sacrifice Leviticus 9:24. But whatever means he used, we are well assured, that he left them no room to doubt of his approbation of the act they had performed; for we are told, "He was found of them." And will he not be found of us also? and has he not still many ways of manifesting himself to us? Yes; by the secret operation of his Spirit he will reveal himself to our souls, and shed abroad his love in our hearts, and "say unto our souls, I am your salvation."

For a long period afterwards,

There was peace to the land; for "God gave them rest round about." By comparing different dates in this chapter, we find that the land had rest twenty years verse 10 with verse 19,. It is true, in another part of the inspired volume, we are told, that "there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days 1 Kings 15:16;" but this, for the space mentioned in our text, was only in small contentions or skirmishes on the borders: there was no serious assault upon him from any quarter. This exhibits in a most striking point of view the rest which God will give to his believing and obedient people. Our spiritual enemies will not be so put down as to leave us no occasion for vigilance: their enmity will remain the same as ever; and there will still be occasional skirmishes on the borders Galatians 5:17; but they shall not so come against us as to overwhelm us, or even to destroy our happiness: we shall "know in whom we have believed;" and feel safety in his protection. "Weapons may be formed against us; but they shall not prosper:" and "men may fight against us; but they shall not prevail against us." It is surprising to what an extent some are delivered from painful conflicts for a considerable time after they have devoted themselves in a solemn covenant to the Lord: their very lusts which once led them captive seem almost to be slain, and "Satan himself to be bruised under their feet." True it is, that this will not always continue; but the more frequently and cordially we devote ourselves to God, the more abundantly will he fill us with grace and peace, and give us a foretaste of that rest which remains for us in a better world.

We shall conclude with two proposals, in reference to the covenant we have been considering; and we shall make them to two distinct classes:

1. To those who think such an entire devotion of themselves to God unnecessary—

If God do not require this service at our hands, we need not render it to him: and, if we need not render it to him, we may resolve, and even covenant to withhold it from him. We propose then to those who think there is no necessity to seek after God with their whole hearts, Let us make a covenant together, that we never will seek him thus: let us confirm it with an oath; and let us swear aloud that Heaven and earth may hear. Let us go further still, and covenant to prevent every one to the utmost of our power from seeking him, in this way. let us hate, and revile, and persecute them, and, by every means that the law of the land will admit of, let us deter them from such unnecessary, fanatical, and injurious proceedings. The law will not suffer us to put them to death; but let us at least show, that we would do it if we dared; and by the whole of our conduct towards them let us say, "Away with such fellows from the earth, for it is not fit that they should live!" Or, if any of you think that we ought to leave others at liberty, then we will wave this part of our proposal, and only covenant that we will never seek after God ourselves. Now then let us begin: let us address ourselves to the sacred Majesty of Heaven: let us tell him that he has no such claim upon us as he pretends to in his word, and that we are determined never to render him the service he requires; What! Do you hold back? Do you shudder at the proposal? Do you tremble at the thought of entering into such a covenant? Yes; methinks, there is not one person present that is bold enough to give it his sanction: yet there are many who act agreeably to the tenor of that covenant; many who seek God in a mere formal way, or at best with a divided heart. Know then, all you who violate your duties to your God, that you stand condemned in your own consciences; and, "if your own hearts condemn you, God is greater than your hearts," and will condemn you also. Attend then with becoming reverence to the proposal which we next make,

2. To those who desire to approve themselves to God in the way that he requires—

The making of covenants in our own strength is in no respect advisable: but in humble dependence on the grace or Christ we may make them, and ought to make them. We read of the Christians in Macedonia, that, previous to serving God with their properly, "they gave their own selves to the Lord 2 Corinthians 8:5,." And this is what the Prophet Jeremiah foretells as characterizing the godly under the Christian dispensation; "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten Jeremiah 50:4-5." Now then let us do it: let us all be of one heart and one mind in this particular Here the persons confirmed might be particularly addressed; let us look up to God for his grace, that we may be enabled to keep the vow which we are about to make: and may "God be found of us," while we are thus seeking him; and "give us rest" in our souls, even that rest which our blessed Lord has promised unto all that come to him in truth Matthew 11:28-29.

O gracious and ever-blessed God, "who have formed us for yourself," and have moreover redeemed us by the blood of your only dear Son, your we are by every tie. We are conscious that "we are not our own; and that, having been bought with a price, we are bound to glorify you with our bodies and our spirits, which are your." We desire then now to consecrate ourselves to you; and engage, as in your immediate presence, "no longer to live unto ourselves, but unto Him that died for us and rose again." May we never forget this vow, or act for a moment inconsistent with it! We avouch you this day to be our God; and we give up ourselves to you as your people: and we desire, that "you would sanctify us wholly; and that our whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ 1 Thessalonians. 5:23."

 

 

2 Chronicles 16:9

 

DISCOURSE 407

GOD'S REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE

2 Chronicles 16:9. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

IN estimating the characters of men, God looks not so much at their actions as at their motives and principles. It is by them that the quality of our actions must be determined: for though no motives, however good, can sanctify a bad action, no action however good can be acceptable to God, if its motive and principle be not pure. There were, it is true, several things which were blameworthy in the conduct of Asa, which was here reproved. He ought not to have made a league at all, we apprehend, with a heathen prince; but certainly not to have induced him to violate the league which he had already made with Israel. But that which rendered his conduct so displeasing to God, was, the distrust from which it sprang. He had not long before been delivered by God from far greater danger; and yet now, instead of applying to God for help again, he placed his dependence on an arm of flesh. In the reproof administered to him on this occasion, the general providence of God, and his tender care of all who trust in him, is strongly asserted: and it is a subject well worthy of the most attentive consideration.

Let us consider,

I. When the heart may be said to be "perfect towards God"—

As for absolute perfection in this world, it exists only in the deluded imaginations of some visionary enthusiasts. Nevertheless there is a perfection to which we should aspire, and which we may all attain, which consists in integrity, where "the heart is right with God." This may be said to be the case

1. When our trust in God is entire—

The heart of an unconverted man has no disposition to trust in God; nor indeed has he any just ground for trust in him, since God is his enemy. But after a man has been awakened to a sense of his sins, and has sought for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ, and has even some comfortable evidence that he has obtained mercy, yet he finds it exceeding difficult to repose his confidence in God, to the extent that the Scripture warrants him to do so. He cannot believe that God is so attentive to his concerns, so ready to administer to his wants, and so all-sufficient for his necessities, as he is represented to be in the Holy Scriptures. In proportion as he grows in the knowledge of God, his trust in God is enlarged: and when he comes to realize the idea, that there is nothing, whether great or small, that is not ordered by God, nor any situation which he cannot, or will not, overrule for our good, if only we put our trust in him; and when, in consequence of this conviction, his whole care for body and for soul, for time and for eternity, is cast on God, and he rests on God's promises "without staggering at any of them through unbelief;" then he honors God as he ought, and his heart may be said to be perfect towards God. The difference between a person who has not attained this perfection, and one who has, may be seen in Elisha and his servant: the one, though well instructed, and habituated to serve God, is troubled when he comes into circumstances of great and unexpected trial; while the other is composed, seeing the horses of fire and the chariots of fire forming an impregnable bulwark all around him, and God himself engaged for his support 2 Kings 6:15-17.

2. When our desire to serve him is supreme—

Many are the considerations which arise in the mind to influence us in the discharge of our duty. Inclination, interest, passion, the fear of man, the hope of applause, will often bias our judgment, and lead us astray. The truth is, that in all wrong conduct the heart is more to blame than we are ready to imagine: it is the film in the eye that disguises and distorts the objects: "if the eye were single, the whole body would be full of light." And here again the difference between Christians of different stature is very apparent: those of lower attainments being open to impression from a vast diversity of objects, while those of higher attainments keep their eyes steadily fixed on one object. It is surprising how clear the path of duty becomes, when a man discards every question but this, "What will most please my God?" But this question must be asked, not only in reference to things positively good and evil, but in reference to things in which we seem at liberty to adopt either alternative. Where this principle fully occupies the mind, and operates with promptness and decision, swallowing up every inferior consideration Acts 4:19-20; Acts 21:13, there the heart is perfect towards God, and the man "stands perfect and complete in all the will of God."

Let us mark,

II. What tender regard God shows for persons of that character—

"He despises not the day of small things;" but those who thus honor him, shall be most abundantly honored by him:

1. He will show himself strong in their behalf—

There is nothing that he will not do for them, either in a way of providence, or of grace. Are they in difficulties or trials of any kind? We say not, that he will work miracles for them as for Israel in the wilderness, or for his servants the prophets; but we do say, that what he did visibly for them, he will do invisibly for all who trust in him: and we conceive it of great importance to observe, that the miracles of former ages were not intended only for the comfort of those in whose behalf they were wrought, or for the confirming of the messages delivered by them, but also for demonstrating to the very senses of men what a minute attention he would pay to the concerns of all his people, and what effectual support he would impart unto them in every time of need. As the imputation of righteousness to Abraham by faith was not recorded for his sake alone, but for that of believers in all ages Romans 4:22-24, so the miracles wrought, whether for him or others, were not wrought for their sakes alone, but for ours also, who shall experience similar interpositions, only in a less visible way: for them he accomplished ends without means; for us he will accomplish them by means: nor have we any more reason to be anxious about events than the most favored of his servants had in the days of old Philippians 4:6.

Assuredly too will he afford us under spiritual trials the assistance of his grace. The promises, "My grace is sufficient for you;" and, "I will never leave you nor forsake you;" are as valid at this day as they were in the days of Paul and Joshua: nor can there be any temptation whatever which we shall not be enabled to surmount, if only we trust in him 1 Corinthians 10:13.

2. He will search out all occasions for such displays of his power—

We have not to awaken him by our cries, or to prevail upon him by our pleadings, as though he were of himself either inattentive to us, or adverse to undertake our cause. It is not for this end that our prayers and tears are required; but for the impressing of our own minds, that all our help must come from him. His eye is upon us from the first moment that we begin to think of him; yes, his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to find out the objects, as it were, who feel their need of him. Whether they be in a cottage or a dungeon, he will fly to their aid, and delight to make known towards them "the exceeding greatness of his power Ephesians 1:18-19," and "the exceeding riches of his grace Ephesians 2:7." While Satan, their great adversary, "goes to and fro through the earth" "seeking whom he may devour," our God will surely not be less vigilant in our defense. His whole heart and his whole soul are engaged for us Jeremiah 32:40-41, nor will he lose one whom he has given to his beloved Son John 10:27-29. Luke 12:32.

As an improvement of this subject, we will suggest a few words,

1. Of warning—

Let those who neglect God consider that his eyes are over them no less than over the righteous; but it is in order to bring upon them all the evil that he has denounced against them Amos. 9:4. Proverbs 5:21; And let those who profess to know him, but in works deny him, remember, that it will be of little profit to "have a name to live, if they are either dead, or dying" in his sight Revelation 3:2; Above all, let those who, like Asa, are in the main "perfect before God," beware how they resent the reproofs that may be given them for any failures in their duty verse 10; for, though they should be saved at last, they little know what dereliction or punishment Both of these are seen in verse 12. they may suffer for their fault before they die.

2. Of encouragement—

Let not any say, "The Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me." "Can a woman forget her sucking child? She may; but God never will" forsake the meanest of his people Isaiah 49:14-15. Think not of the greatness of your difficulties, but of the love, and power, and faithfulness of your God: Then in the midst of your warfare, you may already begin the shouts of victory Romans 8:33-39; Only believe, and you shall assuredly "see the glory of God John 11:40."

 

 

2 Chronicles 17:9

 

DISCOURSE 408

THE ROYAL EDICT

ADVERTISEMENT.—The author feels it necessary to prefix to this Sermon some short account of the occasion on which it was delivered.

The author was at Amsterdam, (in June 1818,) partly with a view of re-establishing there an Episcopal Chapel, in which there had been no service for seven years, but principally with a view of seeking the welfare of the Children of Israel. He went thither rather to explore than to act. (See Nehemiah 2:12-16.) But just previous to the 18th of June, he understood that the Third Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was to be kept throughout the Netherlands, as a day of thanksgiving: and just at that time also he quite accidentally heard, that the King of the Netherlands had a year before issued an Edict, requiring all the Jews to educate their children in the knowledge of their own Scriptures, and calling upon all his Christian Subjects to aid in this good work. Despondency, not unlike to that which paralyzed all exertion at Jerusalem, in Nehemiah's days, so universally prevailed, that no one had risen to the occasion; the very Commissioners, who had been appointed to carry the Edict into effect, had published a Report, in which they gave it as their opinion, "that the Lord's time was not come;" and there was great danger that the gracious designs of the Monarch would be altogether frustrated. The author therefore judged this a fit occasion for calling the attention of the Public to the Edict; and accordingly, after devoting the Morning Service to the more appropriate subject of the day, he employed the Evening Service in an endeavor to forward this good work. Considerable attention was excited to the subject by means of the Sermon; which was therefore instantly printed in Dutch, French, and English, for the purpose of its being circulated throughout the Netherlands: and he has reason to hope, that active exertions were afterwards made in many places, to promote, what every benevolent mind must ardently desire, the edification and welfare of the Jewish People.

So good an example having been set by the Emperor of Russia and the King of the Netherlands, the author hopes that the attention of our own Governors also, both in Church and State, may be called to this long-neglected People; and that, now the British Public has been invited by authority (the King's Letter) to aid in supporting Missions to the Heathen World, the claims of the Jewish Nation, to whom under God we owe all the light that we ourselves enjoy, will not be overlooked. It is with a view to this great object, that the author sends forth the Sermon in this country; where, if the foregoing explanation had not been given, its relevancy and use might have been justly called in question.

2 Chronicles 17:9. And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.

ON a day set apart for thanksgiving to God for mercies received, it is peculiarly proper to consider what we may render unto the Lord for all his benefits. Certainly, if any event ever deserved repeated annual commemoration, it is that which has freed the world from the most grievous tyranny that ever it endured. Of the bitter cup which was put into the hands of every nation in Europe, this nation The Netherlands. drank very deeply: and the change which it has experienced, in the restoration of their rightful Monarch, and in the establishment of a free Constitution, calls for their devoutest acknowledgments to Almighty God. Doubtless we may with justice pay some tribute of honor to those who by their counsels and their arms effected the overthrow of the Usurper: but it is God alone who gives victory to kings, and to whom the glory of this great victory must be primarily ascribed: and he who accounts a day consecrated to this service superfluous, shows, that he is far from justly appreciating the blessings that have been conferred upon him. The monarch himself has given to his people a very decided evidence, that he feels the depth of his obligations to the God of his salvation: and it will be your own loss if you do not cultivate a similar spirit, and improve the occasion to the honor of your God.

But it is not to thanksgiving only that your Monarch invites you: he calls you, by a special Edict, to unite with him in seeking the welfare of your Jewish Brethren, who, in their struggle with the enemy, signally approved their fidelity to their legitimate Sovereign. Their welfare he in his turn studies to promote; and he desires to combine the energies of all his subjects in efforts for their good. Methinks he is like Jehoshaphat of old, who, well knowing that piety must be founded in knowledge, and happiness in piety, sent forth the Princes of his empire, with a select number of Priests and Levites, to instruct his people in the knowledge of God's blessed word.

His edict on this occasion, and the manner in which it was carried into effect, will form the subject of my present discourse.

I. Then, we notice the edict of King Jehoshaphat—

This was such as became a great and pious monarch: and we shall find it not unprofitable or unsuitable to the present occasion, to enter into a distinct consideration of it. We observe then, that it was a kind and benevolent edict; a wise and politic edict; a good and beneficial edict.

Mark the benevolence displayed in it. He sought the present and eternal welfare of his subjects. He knew, that as men are raised above the beasts by the exercise of reason, so are they elevated in the scale of rational beings, in proportion as their intellectual powers are cultivated and enlarged. Man destitute of knowledge, is a mere savage; but when instructed in the various branches of science, he becomes refined, and civilized, and capable of contributing to the general good. In the very cultivation of knowledge there is much pleasure arising to the mind; and in the application of that knowledge to useful purposes there is an exquisite delight. We need only observe persons when employed in their several vocations, how happy they are, how contented, how cheerful, oftentimes unconsciously proclaiming their happiness, like the birds of the air, in festal songs, or consciously, and with devotion, in songs of praise.

But it was not mere intellectual improvement which Jehoshaphat sought to convey; he wished his people to be instructed in the knowledge of that God whom they professed to fear and worship. This alone could make them truly happy: this alone could impart to them sound wisdom or solid consolation. He therefore gave particular directions that they should be taught "in the Book of the Law of the Lord," and this throughout the whole land. O happy people, whose governor so employed the authority with which he was invested! And happy that monarch, who so improved his influence, not for his own personal aggrandizement, but for the best interests of the people committed to his charge! In so doing, he approved himself to be indeed what every governor should be, the friend and father of his people.

Nor was the policy of this measure at all inferior to its benevolence. A people well instructed in moral and religious knowledge will view government as an ordinance of God, and will learn to obey the constituted authorities, not so much from fear of their wrath, as for conscience sake towards God. They will view their governors as God's viceregents upon earth; and will consider allegiance to them as an essential part of their duty to him. Hence will spring up love in their hearts, and a real delight in manifesting, on all proper occasions, their loyalty to their king: they will form a bulwark around his person in case of necessity, and even glory in laying down their lives for him as their greatest benefactor.

The benefits arising from this edict were incalculable. Such was the effect of it, that the fear of Jehoshaphat, and of Jehovah as his protector, fell on all the nations that were round about him; so that none, however hostile in their hearts, dared to make war against him verse 10. Doubtless this resulted chiefly from an impression made upon their minds by God himself: yet it was also produced by a dread of that energy which an united people were ready to put forth at any instant, at the call of their beloved monarch. At the same time that peace was thus secured, prosperity reigned in every part of the empire; and, as the immediate fruit of it, Jehoshaphat, as well as the people, "had riches and honor in abundance verse 5." In his own mind too he reaped the fruits of his own benevolence. God smiled upon him, and manifested himself to him, and enabled him to walk with "his heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord verse 6."

Such was the edict of the pious Jehoshaphat,—benevolent, politic, beneficial. And what, I would ask, is the Edict which has been issued by the highest authority in this kingdom? Do we not see in it the same blessed characters as in that which we have been considering? It was "in the third year of his reign verse 7." that Jehoshaphat sent forth teachers to enlighten and instruct his subjects. The very instant he felt himself at liberty from the more urgent and pressing calls of duty, (such as the fortifying of his land against foreign enemies, and the correcting of some great internal abuses,) he engaged in this good work of diffusing light and knowledge through all classes of the community. In like manner the sovereign of this kingdom has scarcely had time to repair the ravages of war, and to establish his empire, too long weakened and impoverished by a cruel usurpation, before he stands forth as the friend and father of his people, and more especially of that portion of them who have in every age and place been most treated with neglect and disdain, to have them educated in scriptural knowledge and in the fear of God. It is much to be lamented, that the Jewish people have not in general been so attentive either to the learning or morals of their children as might be wished: and hence arose a necessity for some authoritative admonition on the subject. Yet, if I may say it without offence, this neglect has not been more reprehensible in them, than has been the indifference with which the Christian world has regarded it. The monarch (may God recompense it richly into his bosom!) has risen up to remedy the supineness both of the one and the other, and to call forth the united energies of all to correct and terminate this evil. Yet, while he thus consults the best interests of his subjects, with what paternal tenderness has he guarded against wounding the feelings of any, or exciting their religious prejudices! The Scriptures of the Old Testament are alone to be used in the schools that shall be established; even those Scriptures, which Jews as well as Christians believe to have been given by inspiration of God, and to contain truth without any mixture of error. In this is marked the policy, no less than the benevolence, of the edict; for it is not by constraint, but by conciliation and kindness, that good is to be done to any, and more especially to those who have shown themselves now, for so many centuries, proof against all the efforts of intimidation or force. In this kingdom they form no small body, and, I may add, no unimportant portion of the community. It is well known how extensive is their influence in the affairs of commerce; and how, by their activity, they contribute to enrich the state. Hence it is now generally seen and felt, that they are entitled to the same respect as any other subjects of the realm; and while, as in the present instance, they see how deeply their monarch feels interested in their welfare, they cannot but on their part be sensible of the privileges they enjoy under his paternal government, and testify their gratitude to him by every possible expression of loyalty and affection.

What the ultimate effect of these measures will be, may be conjectured from the blessed results of the edict of Jehoshaphat: all will feel themselves happy under the government of such a prince; and he, while he is respected abroad, and beloved at home, will have the happiness of seeing his labors crowned with prosperity throughout his dominions, and with peace in his own soul.

II. The manner in which Jehoshaphat's edict was carried into execution is now to be noticed—

The promptness with which his commands were executed deserves the highest praise. All were ready to co-operate in this good work as soon as it was proposed. "Princes, and priests, and Levites verse 7, 8," all addressed themselves to it instantly, with one heart and one soul. None accounted their dignity so high, or their functions so sacred, but they thought it an honor to be employed in such a service, and found a delight in fulfilling the wishes of their revered monarch: all entered into the work with zeal, and prosecuted it with diligence; and hence a rapid change was effected both in the temporal and spiritual condition of the whole nation. And what may not be effected in this kingdom also, if a similar zeal be exercised by "the princes and priests" (the magistrates and clergy) of the land? With them it must begin. Those who move in a lower station can effect nothing, if they be not aided and countenanced by the higher orders, whose rank in life, or sacredness of character, will give a tone to the general feeling, and combine the energies of the whole kingdom. If it be said, that those for whom the benefit is designed do not feel a desire after it, this only shows how much they need it, and how earnestly we should all embark in a cause proposed by such high authority, and recommended by the soundest dictates of wisdom and piety.

That our obligations to unite in this labor of love may the more distinctly appear, I would beg leave to suggest the following considerations.

First, Loyalty to the king demands our concurrence with him in this good work, and a holy emulation among us to carry into effect his benevolent designs. What can the greatest or best of men effect, (what could Jehoshaphat himself have done?) if there be none to act in subserviency to them, and to follow their directions? As the most potent monarch upon earth would in vain proclaim war, if there were no soldiers found to enlist under his banners and to execute his commands, so it will be in vain that the design of benefitting the Jewish people was ever conceived in the mind of the king, or that his edict respecting them was ever issued, if his subjects do not put forth their energies in obedience to his call. In truth, a backwardness to co-operate with him in this blessed work would seem like a reflection cast upon him, as recommending a measure that was unworthy of attention. I do not mean to insinuate that such an idea really exists in the minds of any; for I am perfectly convinced it does not: but certainly in appearance it is open to this construction; and every subject of the empire is concerned to act in such a way, as to cut off all occasion for a reflection like this. I say, loyalty alone, even if we had no higher motive, should be sufficient to call forth our exertions in this cause.

But let me next observe, that gratitude to the Jewish nation demands it at our hands. How great, how manifold are our obligations to them! Behold Moses and the prophets, what instruction have they given us, in reference to the way of life and salvation! Without the moral law, as revealed by Moses, we should never have known to what an extent we need a Savior; nor, if the prophecies had not so fully designated the promised Messiah, could we have ever so fully known that Jesus was the Christ. Of whom did the Lord Jesus Christ himself come as pertaining to the flesh, but from the loins of David, and of the seed of Abraham? Yet to him are we indebted for all that we either have, or hope for, in time or in eternity. And who were the Apostles, but Jews, who for our sakes went forth preaching the word, and counted not their lives dear to them, so that they might but lead us to the knowledge of Christ, and make us partakers of his salvation? From them too we have received the lively oracles, which are the one source of all spiritual knowledge, and the one foundation of all our hopes. Does all this call for no recompense at our hands? Knowing as we do the vast importance of education, should we not endeavor to impart it to those from whose ancestors we have received such innumerable, such inestimable benefits? Yet behold, these are the people whom for many, many centuries, we have treated with more neglect and contempt than any other people upon the face of the earth: the savages of the most distant climes have received more attention from us than they. Surely it is high time that the Christian world awake to a sense of their duty, and begin to show to the Jews somewhat of that love, which their forefathers exercised towards us in our Gentile state. We are debtors to them to a vast amount, and it is high time that we begin to discharge our debt. And how can we discharge it better, than by enabling them to read and understand those very oracles, which they have preserved with such fidelity, and which testify so fully of their promised Messiah?

Further: A love to the rising generation should lead us to avail ourselves of the present opportunity to promote their welfare.—It is truly afflictive to see how low and degraded is the state of multitudes, especially of the Jewish nation, purely through the neglect with which they are treated in their early youth: and still more grievous is it to reflect on their ignorance of those things which belong to their everlasting peace. To counteract this, we should endeavor to qualify the whole of their population for good and useful employments; and, through the medium of useful instruction, to make them holy, and to make them happy. We need never be afraid that there will not be a sufficient number of poor to fill the lower stations: do what we will, there will never be wanting persons, who, through their own fault or misfortunes, are necessitated to undertake the lowest offices of life. And, if they have been previously instructed in the Scriptures of Truth, they will have a fund of consolation ever open to them in their deepest afflictions; they will learn from the inspired volume, in whatever state they are, there-with to be content; and in the prospect of the eternal world, they will find joys with which a stranger intermeddles not, and which the world can neither give nor take away. We feel the force of these considerations in reference to the poor of our own communion: how is it that we feel it not in reference to our Jewish Brethren? This is a partiality unworthy of us; and we should rise as one man to wipe off this disgrace from our own character.

This brings me to the last consideration which I propose to mention; namely, that a concern for the honor of our holy religion should operate to unite us all in executing the Royal Edict.—What must a Jew think of our religion, when he sees how little it has wrought for us in the production of love? We may tell him of a Messiah, who has loved us, and laid down his life for us: but what credit will he give us for our principles, when he sees how little our practice corresponds with them! May he not well say to us, "Physician, heal yourself?" Show by your conduct the superiority of your principles, before you call on me to embrace them. It is by love that we must win them: it is by showing kindness to them that we must efface from their hearts those prejudices which, with too much reason, they entertain against us. We must exhibit in our own person the loveliness of Christianity, before we can bring them to investigate the grounds of our faith, or to imagine that they can improve their own condition by embracing it. May I not then call upon you as Christians to unite in the good work that is now before you, that you may thereby serve and glorify your Lord and Savior? As Christians, you believe that there is no other way to the Father but by Christ John 14:6; and no other name but his, whereby any human being can be saved Acts 4:12. Where is your piety, where is your love to Christ, where is even common humanity, if you will not avail yourselves of the present opportunity to remove from before your Jewish Brethren the stumbling-blocks, which for so many ages have been laid in their way?

Do any ask, What shall we do? I answer, search out among the Jews some persons of probity and talent to commence schools among them; and do you yourselves aid to the utmost of your power in the support of them; provide them with all necessary books for instructing children in the first rudiments of knowledge; provide them with Bibles also, both in the Dutch and Hebrew languages, that they may be thoroughly instructed in the knowledge of their own religion, and learn to walk in the steps of their father Abraham, and of all the holy prophets.

Begin too, without loss of time, Adult Schools. You will find many among the house of Israel who will be glad to avail themselves of your instructions. Let those who are benevolent among you dedicate an hour in a day to the instructing of a few who may be desirous to learn; and carefully avoid everything which may give unnecessary offence. Confine yourselves to the Old Testament, which they venerate, as well as you. Let those who can teach only in the Dutch language give instruction in that: and let those who either understand, or have leisure to attain, the Hebrew tongue, draw their attention to that. In particular, let it be the united endeavor of all to qualify masters for this good work.

And let it not be thought, that this is the duty of men only. The Royal Edict has particularly, and with great wisdom, recommended it to females, who may be of infinite service in conveying instruction to their own gender. This age is distinguished above all others for the activity of females in the service of God, and in the performance of every good work. Were I able to declare the proportion of good that is done in Britain by the female gender, it would appear incredible: I believe from my soul that it far exceeds one half in all the societies raised since the commencement of the present century, in the Bible Society, the Missionary Societies, and the Society for Promoting the Knowledge of Christianity among the Jews: yes, let the ladies of this country exert themselves, in a prudent, modest and discreet way, and the effects will soon appear; the Royal Edict will not be a dead letter, but will produce incalculable good to the whole nation; and the agents in this benevolent work will themselves receive quite as much benefit as they impart, their benevolence being, in proportion as it is exercised, its own reward.

 

 

2 Chronicles 19:2

 

DISCOURSE 409

JEHOSHAPHAT'S CONNEXION WITH AHAB REPROVED

2 Chronicles 19:2. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Should you help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon time from before the Lord.

IT is happy when pious children rise up in the places of their parents, and, unmoved by the sufferings which their fathers have experienced, dare to tread in their steps with fidelity and zeal. Hanani, the father of Jehu, had been cast into prison for faithful reproof which he administered to King Asa 2 Chronicles 16:7-10; yet does Jehu give a similar reproof to Asa's son and successor, Jehoshaphat: and, us he was enabled to temper his reproof with seasonable commendation, he succeeded in convincing the monarch of his fault, and in stirring him up to a more becoming conduct.

The conduct here blamed, was, Jehoshaphat's uniting himself with Ahab against the king of Syria: but the terms in which the censure was conveyed, are of more general import, and may be applied to all alliances with the ungodly. We will endeavor therefore to improve them, by showing,

I. What is that intimacy with the ungodly which God forbids—

We are not to suppose that all connection with them is forbidden; for then, as the Apostle says, "We must needs go out of the world," since the necessities of our nature constrain us to keep up some sort of fellowship with them. Moreover, there is an attention to them which compassion itself demands, and which our blessed Savior himself manifested to such a degree, as to incur the reproach of being "a friend of publicans and sinners." Nor are we to forget, that courtesy is one of the most amiable and important of Christian graces. "Be pitiful, be courteous," is the command of God himself: and they who are grossly deficient in relation to this duty, as too many professors of religion are, have greatly mistaken the true genius of Christianity, which is, in every possible modification of it, a religion of love.

Yet is there a very broad line of distinction to be drawn between the extremes of unmeasured union with the world, and a contemptuous abstraction from it. Though the righteous are not to despise the ungodly, they are carefully to avoid,

1. An alliance with them—

Under the law, all intermarriages with the heathen were strictly forbidden: and under the Gospel the same law applies to the ungodly: the Apostle's direction respecting those who are seeking a matrimonial alliance, is, "Let them marry, only in the Lord 1 Corinthians 7:39." In many places of Scripture are the evils arising from unequal marriages of believers with unbelievers, strongly marked Genesis 6:2-3 and in Jehoshaphat's own son; 2 Chronicles 21:6; we must not wonder then that such contracts are expressly forbidden 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.

2. A conformity to them—

They who are of the world, both speak of the world, and act agreeably to its dictates: they have no higher objects in view, than "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." But these are wholly unsuited to the Christian's state: they are in direct opposition to that holy and heavenly course which he is commanded to pursue 1 John 2:15-16; and therefore he is enjoined "on no account to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, that he may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God Romans 12:2."

3. An unnecessary association with them—

We should not choose them as our friends and companions: for "how can two walk together, except they be agreed?" We almost of necessity imbibe the spirit of our associates; and therefore we should select for our acquaintance those who will help us forward, and not those who will retard us, in our heavenly course. We can never too attentively consider that instructive declaration of Solomon, "He who walks with wise men, will be wise; but a companion of fools will be destroyed Proverbs 13:20."

That such intimacy with the ungodly is not prohibited by God without reason, will appear, while we show,

II. Why it is so displeasing to him—

God was greatly offended with Jehoshaphat, and severely punished him for his fault. It was in consequence of his alliance with Ahab that his eldest son Jehoram slew all his younger brethren 2 Chronicles 21:4, and that all his grandchildren were slain by Jehu 2 Kings 10:13-14 and especially 2 Chronicles 22:7-8. And in every instance, such intimacy with the ungodly is offensive to him;

1. On account of the state of mind it implies—

It is evident that any person professing godliness, and at the same time affecting the society of the ungodly, must be in a very degenerate state. Such a state of mind indicates in a very high degree, a want of love to God—a want of aversion to sin—a want of self-knowledge—and a want of common prudence.

How low must be his love to God! Would any man who loved his parents and his family select for his intimate friend a man that was the avowed enemy of them all? Yet the character of the ungodly is, that they are "haters of God Romans 1:30; Romans 8:7;" how then can any one who truly loves God, take such a person for his bosom friend, or maintain, except from necessity, any fellowship with him?

And small indeed must be his aversion to sin, when he can find pleasure in those who belong to "a world that lies in wickedness," and whose whole life is a continued and voluntary course of sin.

His self-knowledge too must be at a very low ebb, if he think that he can frequent such company without having both his principles and his practice greatly vitiated.

Even to common prudence he is almost an utter stranger: for would any man on the brink of a stupendous precipice go unnecessarily to the utmost edge of it, where it was exceeding rough and slippery, rather than pursue a path which was comparatively both safe and easy? Yet this is his conduct, who chooses to mix unnecessarily with a tempting and ensnaring world: and the absurdity of it is strongly marked in the expressions of our text, where an appeal is made to the common sense and reason of mankind; "Should you love them that hate the Lord?"

2. On account of its pernicious tendency—

We form very erroneous calculations on this subject. We are ready to think that we shall ingratiate ourselves with the world, and recommend religion to their favorable acceptance: but the very reverse is the case; we lower ourselves in their estimation, and make them think better of their own religion than they would otherwise do. They take for granted that religion sanctions all that conformity to their customs that they see in us; and consequently that they are much nearer to the standard of true religion than they really are: nor are they a whit more reconciled to those practices which they do not choose to follow, and which, in spite of all our efforts, they will account over-righteous, unnecessary, and absurd. It will be found almost invariably that little, if any, good accrues to the ungodly from such sacrifices, and that great injury is sustained by those who make them.

In the chapter preceding our text, we may see the experiment fairly made. Jehoshaphat having joined affinity with Ahab, paid him a friendly visit, and was hospitably received by him 2 Chronicles 18:1-2. Presently Ahab proposed to him an union of their forces in an attack on the king of Syria; to which proposal Jehoshaphat, unwilling to refuse him, accedes; but, being a pious character, recommends that an inquiry should be first made of God for his direction. To this Ahab apparently agrees; but consults none except his own idolatrous prophets 2 Chronicles 18:3-5. Jehoshaphat, not quite satisfied with their advice, asks if there be not a prophet of Jehovah by whom their inquiry may be made? Ahab acknowledges that there is; but that he cannot endure that prophet, because he never prophesied good concerning him, but evil. This aversion Jehoshaphat tries to soften; and for a moment prevails 2 Chronicles 18:6-8; but, as soon as Micaiah has delivered his message from the Lord, Ahab is filled with rage against him, and orders him to be put in prison, and to be fed with the bread and water of affliction: and Jehoshaphat, contrary to God's revealed will, proceeds with Ahab to execute the plan proposed 2 Chronicles 18:16-17; 2 Chronicles 18:25-28. Now here is an exact representation of what generally takes place in such connections: the compliances that are required by the ungodly, are too faintly refused; while the barriers interposed by the godly, produce no adequate effect. The two parties may not unfitly be compared to persons pulling against each other on a steep declivity: the one who is on the more elevated site, may think he shall prevail; but a moment's experience will suffice to show him, that his adversary draws against him with a ten-fold advantage, both as it respects the comparative force which he is able to exert, and the greater facility with which a descending motion may be produced. Thus it is between the godly and the ungodly, when too intimate a fellowship exists between them: the conscience of the one is ensnared and violated, while the other retains all his principles, dispositions, and habits.

3. On account of its opposition to his revealed will—

Nothing can be plainer than God's declaration respecting the friendship of the world: it is actually a state of "enmity against God:" yes, the very desire to possess its friendship is constructive treason against God himself; and actually constitutes treason, as much as the holding of forbidden fellowship with an earthly enemy constitutes treason against the king James 4:4. See the Greek. It is in vain to dispute against such a solemn declaration as this, or to think that we can ever reconcile such opposite interests as those of "God and Mammon." We must hold to the one, or to the other: and if we choose the friendship of the world, then must we expect to be dealt with as the enemies of God. If we are found associated with the goats in this world, it is in vain to hope that we shall be numbered with the sheep in the world to come Matthew 25:32-33.

ADDRESS—

The character of Jehoshaphat was on the whole good: "good things were found in him; and he had prepared his heart to seek God verse 3." Now it is to persons of this character more particularly that our subject must be addressed: for the ungodly, when mixing with the world, are in their proper element; and the established Christian feels but little temptation to go back to worldly pleasures, or to worldly society. But the temptation to young and inexperienced Christians is great. Be it remembered however by all, that the true disciples of our Lord "are not of the world, even as he was not of the world." They cannot say to an ungodly man, "I am as you are;" for they are as different from him as light from darkness. "By the cross of Christ, they are crucified unto the world, as the world also is to them Galatians 6:14." Let me entreat you then, Brethren, not to "be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, but to come out from among them, and be separate 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:17;" and endeavor to be in reality, what all the Lord's people are by profession "a city set upon a hill," and "lights shining in a dark place."

 

 

2 Chronicles 20:2-4

 

DISCOURSE 410

PRAYER THE BEST MEANS OF DEFEATING INVASION Fast-day Sermon, Oct. 19, 1803.

2 Chronicles 20:2-4. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There comes a great multitude against you from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon-tamar, which is En-gedi. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

THERE is scarcely anything that more awfully proves men's fallen state than their readiness to devour one another. There is not a nation under Heaven where the are of war is not cultivated; and he who attains the highest proficiency in that are, and is crowned with most success in destroying his fellow-creatures, is deemed the greatest benefactor to his country, and is rewarded with all the honors that can be heaped upon him. Under these circumstances it is not optional with a nation whether they will have a military force: they are compelled to maintain armies, and to preserve their lives and liberties by the same means that others use to subjugate and overwhelm them. Yet there are other means of self-defense, which, though they do not supersede the use of arms, are more effectual than numerous levies, or military skill. What these means are, the text informs us. Jehoshaphat was invaded by three confederate armies; and, though taken by surprise, and consequently not having an hour to lose in mustering his forces, he devoted a day to humiliation and prayer for the divine aid. This to many would seem absurd: but to those who believe in the all-governing providence of God, it will appear the most rational and most efficacious method of defense, which it was possible for him to adopt.

In considering this account of Jehoshaphat, we shall point out,

I. His feelings on the approach of an invasion—

We have no reason to think that Jehoshaphat was defective in courage; yet he "feared." But what was it that he dreaded? was it merely his own personal danger? No; he feared,

1. The calamities that were coming on the nation—

Fear even of personal danger is by no means incompatible with real courage. It is an affection planted in the human breast by God himself, and is necessary to put us on our guard, and to stir us up to use the means of safety. It is then only to be deemed a weakness, when it incapacitates us for deliberate counsel, or manly exertion. But when the danger is public, and the welfare of a whole nation is at stake, then it is criminal not to fear: thoughtlessness and indifference then become most inexcusable, inasmuch as they manifest an atheistical security with respect to themselves, and an utter want of humanity towards others. Who can reflect on the miseries that an invading army may occasion, and not tremble for the land that is exposed to them? We confess, that one of the worst symptoms that appear in our land, at this present moment, is, the general, and almost total, want of this feat. It should seem as if we thought it out of the power of man, or even of God himself, to hurt us. We are really sleeping, while our enemies are watchful; and folding our arms in security, while the gathering storm is ready to burst upon us. Would to God that we had more fear of the approaching danger! and then we should have less cause to fear when it shall have actually arrived.

2. The displeasure of God in them—

This it is which makes an invading army terrible. This renders even the weakest insect, a locust, or a caterpillar, an object of dread Alluding to the plagues of Egypt. We are assured that "men are God's sword;" and that whatever be the motive that actuates them, it is he who gives them their commission, it is he who sends them to "avenge the quarrel of his covenant Leviticus 26:25. 2 Kings 24:2-3." Now Jehoshaphat had particular reason to apprehend the divine displeasure, having incurred it by making an alliance with Ahab 2 Chronicles 19:2; and doubtless he considered the invaders as persons sent of God to inflict the punishment he deserved. And was not this just ground for fear?

Here again we cannot but lament that the generality among us leave God out of their thoughts: they declaim against the ambition of him who would reduce us, as he has done one half of Europe, to a state of vassalage; but they never associate with his plans the idea of God's displeasure. To say that "God had stirred him up against us 1 Samuel 26:19. 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23. 1 Chronicles 5:26 and 2 Chronicles 21:16," would he looked upon as absurd: to suggest that he was an instrument in God's hands, lifted up to punish our sins, would be deemed a weak enthusiastic notion, a dream of a distempered imagination. But this is true, whether we all believe it or not: and it is this, much more than either the number of his forces, or the inveteracy of his malice, which renders him formidable. Were he far less equal to the contest than he is, our multiplied iniquities which have incensed God against us, might well make him an object of terror. And the less we fear him as the instrument of God's wrath, the more likely we are to be given over to his power.

Corresponding with Jehoshaphat's feelings on account of the invasion were,

II. The means he used to defeat it—

Doubtless he did not neglect any prudent means of defense which his circumstances would admit of. But, together with these,

"He set himself to seek the Lord" by fasting and prayer—

Jehoshaphat well knew that all things were subject to God's control; that the events of war were in his hands verse 6, 15; and that it was equally easy with him to "save by many or by few 1 Samuel 14:6." He knew that God was ever ready to forgive those who confessed and forsook their sins, and to interpose for the preservation of those who trusted in him. Under this conviction he not only fasted and prayed himself, but "proclaimed a fast," in order that all his subjects might join in these holy exercises, and, by their united importunity, prevail on God to spare them. It might have been thought, that to consecrate a day to such a service, when there seemed not an hour to spare, was impolitic: but he was aware that the greatest preparations without God would avail nothing; and that, if his favor and assistance were secured, no enemies could ever prevail against him. In this holy service therefore he engaged with earnestness; and all his subjects, male and female, old and young, concurred with him verse 13.

This was, in truth, the most effectual means he could employ—

If we consider how successfully these means had been employed in former times, the wisdom of his conduct will immediately appear. God had on many occasions given direction to his people, where, and when, and how, to attack their enemies 2 Samuel 5:23-25. He had strengthened them miraculously for the combat 2 Samuel 23:8-12; and crowned them with success beyond all human expectation 1 Samuel 14:13-16. He had invariably done this in answer to their humble and earnest supplications Prayer was the cause of Othniel's victory, Judges. 3:9 and Ehud's, Judges. 5:15 and Barak's, Judges. 4:3 and Gideon's, Judges. 6:6 and Jephthah's, Judges. 10:10; and had as constantly withheld his supports, when they refused to humble themselves before him. There was one example in particular, with which he was well acquainted, and from which he could not fail to derive encouragement; it was that of Moses when attacked by Amalek: Moses sent Joshua into the valley to fight, while he himself remained on the mountain to pray; and it soon appeared that the success of the engagement did not depend on the skill or valor of Joshua, but on the holding up of the hands of Moses: when they were let down through weariness, Amalek prevailed; but on their being held up until sunset, victory was decided in favor of Israel Exodus 17:11-13. This was sufficient to justify and encourage Jehoshaphat in the proclaiming of a fast: and the event strongly recommends to us the use of similar means in any similar emergency. God heard and answered his prayer; and did not suffer him even to risk his life in battle: he caused dissension to arise in the confederate armies, insomuch that two of those armies combined to destroy the third, and then destroyed each other, and left all their spoil for a prey to those whose country they had invaded verse 22–25.

INFERENCES—

1. What reason have we for thankfulness on account of the appointment of this fast!

Many, forgetful of Jehoshaphat's example, deny the right of the civil magistrate to proclaim a fast: and multitudes who acknowledge the propriety of such an appointment, are as regardless of the duties of this day, as if it had not been consecrated to any religious service. But there are many who really improve this occasion in devout and earnest supplication to God: and we doubt not but that more will have been done this day towards the preservation of the kingdom than could have been effected in any other way.

2. Of what signal use to a nation are the godly and praying few!

They are often regarded as persons that trouble and endanger the state: but it has been on their account that the nation has not been long since made as Sodom and Gomorrah Isaiah 1:9; and, if the present days of trouble be shortened, it will be for their sake Matthew 24:22. These are the people who alone have interest with God; and who bring down his blessing on the land. To represent the country as indebted to them for its safety and success, is deemed the height of arrogance and folly. But let any one inquire what saved Jerusalem from the Assyrian hosts Isaiah 37:21-22, or, in the instance before us, from the confederate armies? Was it not prayer; prayer chiefly, prayer solely and exclusively? Let atheistical scoffers then deride the idea as they please; but it is a fact, an undeniable fact, that the despised few are the greatest benefactors of their country; and that our hopes in the present contest are founded more on their prayers than on all the efforts of an arm of flesh.

3. How much may they do for their country, who are ready to think themselves incapable of rendering it any essential service!

Females and infirm persons may suppose themselves of no use in the present contest. But will not their petitions come up with acceptance before God? Shall not the prayer of faith, by whoever offered, prevail? Let none then imagine that they cannot benefit their country; but let all unite in weeping and supplication, and "give no rest unto our God, until he arise for our help, and make our Jerusalem a praise in the earth Isaiah 62:6-7."

 

 

2 Chronicles 20:20

 

DISCOURSE 411

FAITH THE MEANS OF NATIONAL AND PERSONAL PROSPERITY

2 Chronicles 20:20. Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper.

A BELIEF in the providence of God is able to compose the mind under the greatest difficulties. The Scriptures abound with displays of the efficacy of this principle. In this passage before us we are told, that three confederate armies came up against Jehoshaphat: yet, while he acknowledged that "he had no might against them," he was enabled by faith to commit his cause to God, and to go forth in triumph, as much as if he had already gained the completest victory. The words of our text are his address to his army when leading them forth to meet the enemy. One would have expected that he would rather have exhorted them to be strong and courageous: but, feeling in himself the blessed influence of faith, he rather exhorted them to the exercise of that divine principle, and assured them that by means of it they should attain success.

It is our intention to show,

I. What is implied in the faith here recommended—

Doubtless there are many particulars which might be enumerated if it were expedient to enter fully into the nature of faith. But, if we consider to whom, and on what occasion, the address was made, we shall see at once that there were two prominent ideas contained in it; namely,

1. A renunciation of all false confidences—

This is indispensably necessary to the exercise of faith. God is a jealous God, and "will not give his glory to another." He is rather concerned to defeat, than to prosper, the exertions of those who lean to their own understanding, or trust in an arm of flesh; because they practically deny his agency, and would be encouraged by success to harden themselves in their infidelity See Isaiah 30:1-3; Isaiah 31:1-3.

This self-renunciation is, if possible, still more necessary in relation to the concerns of the soul. If we trust at all in our own wisdom, goodness, or strength, God will consider us as abandoning all hope in him. However good the thing may be which we make even a joint ground of confidence before him, instead of contributing to our welfare, it will make the Gospel of no effect to us, and Christ will profit us nothing Galatians 5:2; Galatians 5:4.

2. A simple affiance in God—

In the instance before us, the people were not to fight, but to stand still and see the interposition of God for them. But we are not therefore to neglect the proper means of self-preservation: we must use the means, but not trust in them: God alone must be our trust and our confidence: and we should commit ourselves to him, without doubting either his ability or willingness to help us.

Thus in reference also to our spiritual interests, we should never limit his mercy or his power. His promises should be the ground of our hopes, and the measure of our expectations.

Having endeavored to ascertain the true nature of faith, let us consider,

II. Its influence on our welfare—

It has a favorable aspect upon,

1. Our national prosperity—

When a nation is enabled to exercise faith in God, there is good hope that its deliverance is near at hand. For faith conciliates his favor: he is honored by it; and he will surely put honor upon it. Faith engages his protection. He has promised to be a wall of fire round his people, and as a munition of rocks: and, when they plead his promises, he will not fail in the execution of them. Faith also calls forth his aid. He has told us that his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of his people; and he has proved in ten thousand instances how ready and effectual is the support which he will afford to those who call upon him.

2. Our personal welfare—

In allusion to the circumstances of the history before us we may observe, that faith will secure us victory over all our enemies. Sin, Satan, death and Hell shall all be overcome, if only we believe in Christ: yes, we shall be more than conquerors through him that loved us. Faith also will enrich us with the most abundant spoils. Jehoshaphat and his army were three days occupied in gathering the spoils, so wonderfully were they enriched by the very people who had sought only their destruction. And shall not we find ourselves benefitted even by the assaults of our enemies? Yes, we shall have deeper discoveries of the love, the power, the faithfulness of our God, and be more amply furnished for our future conflicts. Faith moreover will bring us to a quiet possession of our inheritance. Jehoshaphat had rest and quiet throughout his realm by means of that exercise of faith. But we shall obtain the undisturbed enjoyment of Heaven itself. As soon as faith and patience have had their perfect work, we shall be freed from enemies, and "not a dog shall wag his tongue against us" any more forever.

Thus prosperous, thus established, shall the weakest be, provided they believe in God, and give implicit credit to his word.

We would further address you on this subject,

1. As members of the community—

The state has a right to expect of you all the aid which you can afford her under the pressure of her present troubles. Will any of you say, 'I am unable to render any effectual assistance?' Pause before you replies in such a way. Can you exercise faith in God? Can you commit her affairs to him? Say not then, 'I can do no good:' for whether you be old or young, male or female, healthful or infirm, you can render the most important services. God will hear your prayer, and respect your faith. It was not by the sword, but by the simple exercise of faith, that three confederate armies were totally destroyed. Fight then with the same weapon: entreat your God to direct the counsels of our governors, and to prosper their endeavors; and we shall yet have fresh evidence, that the injunction in our text was never given or obeyed in vain.

2. As members of the Church—

Far be it from us to express indifference respecting good works. We know you must abound in them; and we desire you should abound in them to the glory of God. But they can proceed from nothing but a living principle of faith; and therefore, from a regard to the interests of morality, we repeat the exhortation in the text. It is not by self-righteous, self-confident exertions that you are to become holy, but by exercising faith in Him, who is our "righteousness and our strength." Live then by faith on the Son of God; so shall you derive from him all needful supplies of grace, and progressively advance, both in an enjoyment of his presence and a fitness for his glory.

 

 

2 Chronicles 22:3-4

 

DISCOURSE 412

THE DANGER OF FOLLOWING EVIL COUNSEL

2 Chronicles 22:3-4. He walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. Why he did evil in the sight of the Lord like the house of Ahab: for they were his counselors after the death of his father to his destruction.

THOUGH Jehovah is undoubtedly the Governor of the universe, it is certain that there is a mighty being always exerting himself in opposition to him; and with such great apparent success, as to be justly designated "the God of this world." In the contest that is maintained between them, each has, if I may so speak, his partisans and agents, who, under their respective heads, labor to execute their master's will, and to promote the interest of him to whom they belong. Jehovah employs holy men, whose hearts he has touched with his heavenly grace; and whom he sends forth as his ambassadors, to instruct our fallen race, and to rescue them from the dominion of the great usurper. Satan, on the other hand, has his servants also, whom he employs to deceive mankind, and to rivet on them the chains with which they are already bound. In this, however, he differs from that Almighty Power against whom he is arrayed; that, whereas Jehovah delights to make use of the weakest instruments, and "by things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are," Satan is constrained to select the most powerful agents to carry on his cause; well knowing that, without them, he has no hope of effecting anything. When, in his efforts to rob Job of his integrity, he destroyed all his children, he forbore to destroy the wife of Job, that by her means he might tempt that holy man to "curse God and die." When he would divert the Lord Jesus Christ from his purpose to redeem the world, he employed the Apostle Peter to dissuade him from subjecting himself to the sufferings that were to come upon him. Thus he acted in reference to the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Jehoshaphat was a pious king, and served Jehovah faithfully. But Satan wished to reduce Judah, as well as Israel, to idolatry; and, for this end, stirred up Jehoram's wife to tempt him to it 2 Kings 21:6, and afterwards to give the same impious counsel to her son Ahaziah; thereby leading both of them "to their destruction."

The history before us will naturally lead me to point out,

I. The influence of evil counsel—

Good counsel, alas! has, for the most part, but little effect. We cannot doubt but that Samuel, knowing as he did the bitter consequences which a want of parental authority had entailed on Eli, was careful to instruct his children in the ways of God, and to reprove in them the first appearances of evil. But, notwithstanding all his efforts, his sons turned aside from the paths of judgment, and rendered the very government of Jehovah himself odious in the eyes of all Israel 1 Samuel 8:1-5. Nor can we doubt but that Jehoshaphat, though in some respects faulty, strove to maintain the authority of Jehovah in his family. But his sons were more easily led to imitate his errors than his piety. He himself had joined in an alliance with Ahab, and had consented to a marriage of his son with Ahab's daughter, whose counsels weighed both with her husband and her son far more than any advice of his: yes, though God had signally interposed to thwart his efforts, when combined with those of Ahab, his son and grandson courted the same alliance, and brought on themselves, and on all connected with them, the heaviest judgments 1 Kings 20:35-37 with 21:14, 15 and 22:4.

But let us mark this matter more distinctly,

1. In the case before us—

To what was it that Ahaziah's mother tempted him? It was to idolatry. But can we conceive that the counsel of any one, however dear, should have power to draw a person to idolatry? yes, that it should prevail with a person who had been educated in the knowledge of the one true God? Hear the account given of idolaters by the Prophet Hosea: "My people ask counsel of their stocks, and their staff declares unto them." Can we conceive it possible that any person who had heard of all the wonders which Jehovah had wrought for his people in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and in Canaan, should ever be seduced to such infatuation as this? Of ignorant savages we may imagine anything: but of God's own peculiar people, and of him who was at the head of them, the grandson of the pious Jehoshaphat, we cannot believe it! or the apostate must at least have been bereft of reason. Alas! not so: the man has his mother for his counselor; and her advice is quite sufficient to draw him from the Most High God to the worship of stocks and stones! I say again, if this fact were not attested on the authority of God himself, we could not credit it; we could not conceive it possible that evil counsel should possess such an influence as this.

2. In our own case—

It is well known how generally the rising generation are counseled by their friends and relatives to follow the world rather than God, and to attend to the concerns of time rather those of eternity. I speak not here respecting any particular doctrines of religion which may be supposed to have an injurious effect, and therefore to be an object of jealousy: but I speak of all serious religion, irrespective of any peculiar doctrine: I speak of the fear of God; of a holy anxiety about the soul; about a diligent preparation for death and judgment. Of these things, speculatively considered, every one professes to approve: yet no sooner does any person begin to experience them in his soul, than his own dearest friends, his mother, his wife, his sister, his "friend that is as his own soul," will begin to caution him against being "righteous over-much," or, in other words, against being righteous at all. If the person reply, 'But I have a soul; and it will be called into judgment, and be doomed either to Heaven or Hell, according to the state in which it is found: and should I not prepare for that great account?' the answer will be, 'No; you have no need to fear: only do as others around you, and you have nothing to be afraid of: God will never enter into judgment with persons who live as you have done.' Thus all the most blessed counsels of Jehovah are set at nothing: Isaiah 55:1-3. Revelation 3:18. These should be cited, with a short comment. and poor fallible men will set their word against the word of Jehovah, and will assure those of ultimate impunity, whom God, in the most solemn manner, dooms to everlasting perdition.

But can it be supposed that any one will follow such counsel, and be led by it to prefer the body to the soul, the creature to the Creator, time to eternity, and Hell to Heaven? It cannot surely be, that any one in his senses can be so influenced, either by friends or enemies. Methinks, the answer that would instantly be given to all such counselors would be, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you." But there are few, very few, in whom this fortitude is found. And if a person can only say, My father or "my mother so counseled me," he will cease to think that he "does wickedly," or that he has reason to fear the displeasure of his God.

But let me faithfully warn you of,

II. The danger of following it—

This unhappy king was soon made to feel the bitter consequences of his folly: for God "fixed his eyes upon him for evil," and in one short year brought him down "to his destruction." His end, in this view, is worthy of notice. He went with Jehoram, the son of Ahab, to fight against Hazael, king of Syria. Being wounded in the battle, he went to Jezreel, to be healed of his wounds. While he was there, on a visit to Jehoram, king of Israel, he went forth with Jehoram to inquire into the reason of the apparently hostile approach of Jehu: and finding Jehu too powerful for him, and his friend the king of Israel slain by him, he fled to Samaria, and hid himself there: but, being found, he was taken, and brought to Jehu, and put to death. And all this was ordered of the Lord, as we are expressly told: "The destruction of Ahaziah was of God, by coming to Joram. verse 5–9." In like manner will every one find, that in "despising God's counsel," he only ensures his own destruction Psalm 107:11.

In two ways will a compliance with evil counsel operate to a man's destruction:

1. By the habits which it will induce—

A person, in yielding to evil counsel, thinks perhaps, that he will only follow it on a particular occasion, or to a given extent. But who shall say where a man on a precipitous descent shall stop? Perhaps the advice given was only to avoid singularity; and, for this end, to avoid the ministry of those who might awaken his conscience, or the society of those who might lead him to God. By following this advice, he is kept from attaining a principle of true piety, which alone can preserve him from any evil. He loves not the word of God; and therefore he employs his leisure in some foolish vanity: he has no pleasure in communion with God; and therefore he associates with those who are like-minded with himself: he affects not Heaven; and therefore is satisfied with the things of time and sense.

It may be, that he is never particularly tempted to the commission of any flagrant evil; and therefore he goes on respectably in the eyes of the world; but without any real delight in God, or any serious preparation for eternity: but if he be tried by any violent temptation, he is carried away, like the dust before the wind, and falls a prey to his great enemy. Behold the gambler, the adulterer, the duelist! each, in his calling, was deemed a man of worth, until, by his want of principle, he was betrayed into the evils by which he fell. But had he, in the first instance, listened, not to the counsels of ungodly men, but to the voice of God in his word, he had escaped the snares which were laid for his feet, and avoided the destruction that has come upon his soul. Nor is it into occasional sin only that men are drawn by a want of religious principle, but frequently into a contempt for all religion; as the Psalmist intimates, when, in a triple climax, he describes a man, first "walking (transiently) in the counsel of the ungodly (who have no vital piety); then standing in the way of sinners; and, at last, sitting in the seat of the scornful Psalm 1:1."

2. By the judgments which it will entail—

Men may promise us impunity in the ways of sin: but it shall be found, at last, "whose words shall stand, theirs or God's Jeremiah 44:28." God has said, "Evil shall hunt the wicked man, to overthrow him Psalm 140:11." The hunted deer thinks himself at a distance from any enemy, and that he has no ground for fear: but his step has left a scent behind him; and that, once found, is traced with fatal precision, until he is overtaken, and destroyed. So the judgments of God, at whatever distance they may be thought to be, follow the sinner, until at last "his sin finds him out Numbers 32:23," and brings down the wrath of an offended God upon him. In vain may he "make a covenant with death and Hell: his covenant with death shall be disannulled; and his agreement with Hell shall not stand: when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, he shall be trodden down by it Isaiah 28:18;" yes, "though hand join in hand," and there be a confederacy of the whole universe for his protection, "he shall not be unpunished Proverbs 11:21." "Let no man deceive himself: God is not mocked; nor will be: for whatever any man sows, that shall he also reap: he who sows to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: and he who sows to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting Galatians 6:7-8."

Address,

1. Those who are exerting their influence against the Lord—

Who has not, at one time or other, been guilty of this sin? Who has not either derided serious piety himself, or forborne to vindicate it when derided by others, and thus sanctioned, by silence at least, the counsel of the ungodly? We may think lightly of this evil: but the rebuke given to Peter, when, from a love to his Master, he would have dissuaded him from suffering, shows clearly enough the light in which our conduct has been viewed by Almighty God. In every such act we have taken part with the devil, and done his work: and we may well expect to hear from him that indignant reproof, "Get you behind me, Satan; you are an offence unto me; for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." Consider, then, I pray you, Brethren, what you are doing, when you "counsel any one to do wickedly," or to refrain from obeying any command of God: you "cast a stumbling-block before your brother, and destroy a soul for whom Christ died Romans 14:15," You also bring the deepest guilt upon your own soul; and will have the blood of those, whom you have ruined, required at your hands. Reflect a moment on the state to which both you and those who have followed your advice will soon be reduced. It is said that the wicked will be "bound in bundles, and cast into the fire Matthew 13:30." By this I understand, that they who have encouraged each other in sin will be so brought into contact with each other in the eternal world, as to increase each other's torment to all eternity by their mutual recriminations. The mother will then execrate the folly that her son committed in listening; to her counsels, in opposition to the word of God; while the son will cast the most bitter reflections on her, for so abusing her influence to the ruin of his soul. Let these considerations be laid to heart by those who imagine that they are only exercising love: for truly it is such a love as Satan himself approves; and such a love as all, who either exercise it or obey it, will bitterly bewail.

2. Those who yield to influence so exerted—

Do not imagine, that, in guarding you against a compliance with the counsels of a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, I would willingly interrupt the harmony of the domestic circle, and still less that I would lessen in your eyes the obligations of parental authority. No: in everything that is not contrary to God's commands, parental authority ought to be regarded with the deepest veneration, and obeyed with the greatest readiness. To honor our parents is "the first command with promise:" and the blessing of God will always come on those who duly respect it. But there is an authority paramount to that of any creature; and our blessed Lord has expressly told us that no creature under Heaven must be put in competition with him: "He who loves father or mother, or son or daughter, more than me, is not worthy of me Matthew 10:37." It will be no excuse that you have yielded either to the endearments or authority of love, if, in so doing, you have violated any command of God, or withheld from him any service which you might have rendered. Let it be granted, that, in withstanding the solicitations of your friends, you grieve and offend them: is it not better than to grieve and offend your God? Or, if by means of it you suffer the loss of an earthly inheritance, is not that a better alternative than to lose your own soul? for, "what shall a man take in exchange for his soul?" Learn, then, Beloved, to regard, in the first place, the commands of God. Learn to seek, above all things, his favor; for "in his favor is life;" and "his loving-kindness is better than life itself." If the advice given you be good, you will do well to follow it, as Timothy did that of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice 2 Timothy 1:5;" but if it be evil, "We ought to obey God rather than men Acts 5:29," must be the principle to which you must inviolably adhere.

 

 

2 Chronicles 24:2

 

DISCOURSE 413

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF JOASH

2 Chronicles 24:2. And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.

IN order to display more fully his own truth and faithfulness, God often permits events to arise, which seem to render the accomplishment of his promises almost, if not altogether, hopeless. This was particularly visible in his conduct towards the posterity of Abraham in Egypt, in that he forbore to rescue them from their captivity, until the period assigned for their deliverance was brought to the very last hour. We behold a striking interposition also in behalf of the descendants of David, to whom God had promised, that his seed should continue to sit upon the throne of Judah. More than once had they been in imminent danger of utter excision 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 22:1, before Athaliah usurped the throne: and she was bent upon destroying them all 2 Chronicles 22:10; but God would not suffer his promise to fail 2 Chronicles 21:7. It should seem that Joash, the youngest son of Ahaziah, was actually with his brethren when they all were slain, and by some means, being only an infant, was hid among them, so as to escape the general slaughter. From that state he was rescued by his aunt, and was hid, together with his nurse, in a bed-chamber 2 Kings 11:2, until he was seven years old: at which time Jehoiada the priest, who had married his aunt, put to death the usurper, and established Joash on his father's throne.

One might have hoped, that a person so signally preserved, should, like Moses, have proved a great blessing to his age and nation: but, hopeful as his beginnings were, his reign was evil, and his end calamitous.

We propose,

I. To take a brief view of his history—

A sudden and total change having taken place in his conduct about the middle of his reign, it will be proper to consider his history,

1. During the life of Jehoiada—

At first, as might be expected, he was under the entire management of Jehoiada, who was his instructor, and acted towards him as a father 2 Kings 12:1 with 2 Chronicles 24:22. But it was not only during his minority that he was thus observant of Jehoiada, but for many years after he had attained to manhood, even at loge as Jehoiada himself lived. Now in this we admire his humility; for he was a king, possessed of arbitrary power; and yet, because he was convinced of the skill, the integrity, and the piety of his instructor, he still continued to consult him on all occasions, and to follow his advice without reserve. In this conduct also he evinced his wisdom; in that he preferred the sage advice of an experienced counselor, before the less matured dictates of his own mind, or the judgment of sycophants around his throne. Even piety itself seems to have possessed his mind at this period: for when he saw to what a dilapidated state the temple was reduced by the impious rage of Athaliah verse 7, he set himself to repair it; and even reproved Jehoiada himself, and all the Levites, for their tardiness in executing this important work verse 5, 6.

Who from such beginnings would not augur well of the remainder of his reign? From such a view of him we are ready to say, 'O that our princes, our nobility, our youth of every rank, were thus observant of pious instructors, thus intent on "doing what was right in the sight of the Lord!" '

But our views of Joash will be greatly changed, if we consider his history—

2. After Jehoiada's decease—

Instantly did a mighty change appear in him. Having lost his pious counselor, he began to listen to the advice of young unprincipled sycophants verse 17. O what a misfortune is it to any man to connect himself with ungodly associates! How many are there, who, while under the care of pious parents or godly instructors, have promised well, who yet, by means of ungodly companions, have been drawn from every good way, and been led to disappoint all the hopes that have been formed concerning them! We cannot too earnestly caution all against the influence of bad advice, by whoever it be given, even though it be by their nearest friends or relatives 2 Chronicles 22:3-4. Every counsel must be tried by the unerring word of God; and to those who would lead us in opposition to that, our answer must invariably be, "Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you."

Released, as it were, from the restraints of man, he soon cast off all fear of God, and abandoned his temple and service for the service of groves and idols verse 18. Nor, when God sent him prophets to testify against his evil ways, would he regard them at all: yes, when Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada himself, was sent to him, instead of attending to his admonitions, he gave commandment to the people to stone him to death; which commandment they executed, even in the court of the temple itself.

To what excesses will not men run, when once they give ear to ungodly counselors, and knowingly violate all the dictates of their own conscience! It not unfrequently happens, that backsliders and apostates become the bitterest persecutors; and that they who "walk in the counsel of the ungodly, soon learn to stand in the way of sinners, and come at last to sit in the seat of the scornful Psalm 1:1."

We wonder not at the melancholy end to which these transgressions brought him. Within the short space of a year was he, notwithstanding "his very great host," subdued by "a small company of Syrians," who destroyed all the princes, his advisers, and sent the spoil of the city and temple to Damascus verse 23, 24; and Joash himself, being seized with multiplied disorders, was assassinated in his bed by two of his own servants verse 25. Unhappy man! yet more unhappy still, if we contemplate the fearful state to which he was driven from the presence of his offended God. But such is the end which, if not in this world, certainly in the world to come, awaits those who "leave off to behave themselves wisely," and "turn from the holy commandment delivered to them."

Let us, from this brief view of his history, proceed,

II. To make some reflections on his character—

From his character in its commencement, we observe, How great is the benefit of a pious education!

From what appeared in his latter days, we may judge what he would have been, if he had been left to himself in early life. What pernicious habits would he have contracted, and what multiplied evils would he have perpetrated! Instead of doing for several years "what was right in the sight of the Lord," it is probable that he would have "done evil from his youth." To be restrained from such enormities, was a mercy both to himself and to the whole nation. That he turned this blessing afterwards to a curse, is deeply to be lamented; though the proper tendency of a pious education is not a whit the less apparent. Let all be thankful for the advice given them, and the restraints imposed upon them in early life. Little do any of us know to what an extent of wickedness we might have been carried, if those admonitions or corrections, which were once irksome and painful to us, had not been administered. Indeed the more irksome such restraints appear to us, the more reason we have to be thankful for them; since the very impatience which we feel, demonstrates clearly our need of them. An aversion to them argues a disposition that is hateful and ruinous Proverbs 12:1; Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 15:10; Proverbs 15:31-32; and those who, from an undue tenderness, neglect to reprove their children, lay up sorrow for themselves, as well as for the objects of their ill-judged lenity Proverbs 29:15. Let parents consider, that they are accountable to God for the authority vested in them, and for the talents committed to their care: and let them remember, that if it is not always found that "a child trained in the way he should go will not in more advanced life depart from it," yet it is generally true; and that such a promise affords ample encouragement for their most strenuous exertions.

From his character toward the close of life, we observe, How awful is the state of those, who, after hopeful beginnings, turn aside from the paths of piety and virtue!

In one view, it is a blessing to have been kept from evil for a time; but in another view, the instructions that have been given us, the convictions we have felt, and the obedience we have rendered to the voice of God, will serve but to aggravate the guilt of our subsequent misconduct, and to bring upon us an accumulated weight of misery. As the instructions given by our Lord to the Jews served only to enhance their guilt, and render their state in the future world "less tolerable than that of Sodom and Gomorrah," so all our advantages, professions, and attainments, will, if renounced, make "our latter end worse than our beginning: for it were better never to have known the way of righteousness, than after we have known it to depart from it 2 Peter 2:20-21." While this thought primarily applies to those who, like Joash, have burst through the restraints of education, it speaks powerfully to those who have turned back from a religious course, and relapsed into a state of worldliness and sin. To what they will come at last, God alone knows: but the downward road is very precipitous; and they who provoke the Holy Spirit to depart from them, will most probably go on from bad to worse; until, having filled up the measure of their iniquities, they be made distinguished monuments of God's righteous indignation.

From his whole history in a collective view, we observe, How necessary divine grace is to produce any radical change of heart and life!

Education may change the exterior conduct, but the heart will remain the same: and when the restraints that operated at first are removed, the dispositions of the mind will break forth into outward act. The lamp which is not supplied with oil, will go out at last; and, not uncommonly, the restraint which obstructed the stream of nature for a while, will, like a dam broke down, give occasion for the greater and more fatal inundation. Nothing but the grace of God can convert the soul: and every change, short of true conversion, will but deceive us to our eternal ruin. The redeeming love of Christ must be felt in the soul: nothing but that will have a constraining efficacy to renew and sanctify us after the divine image. Whatever therefore any may have done in compliance with the advice of others, know, that we must have a principle of life within ourselves, and "be renewed in the spirit of our minds," and be "new creatures in Christ Jesus:" "Old things must pass away, and all things become new." Nothing but this change will prove effectual for a consistent walk; nor without this can we ever behold the face of God in peace.

Address,

1. Those to whom the care of young persons is entrusted—

Whether you are parents, or instructors only, be not discouraged because you see not all the fruit that you could wish: but continue to sow in hope; for you know not which attempt shall prosper, or when the Angel at Bethesda's pool shall make your labors of love effectual.

2. Those who are yet under the authority or instruction of others—

Do not think hardly of the restraints imposed upon you: they are all beneficial, and intended for your good; and the day is coming when you will see reason to bless your God for those very things which are now irksome to you. Your advancement in all that is good is the richest recompense your instructors can receive: and, in repaying them, you will greatly enrich yourselves.

 

 

2 Chronicles 24:14

 

DISCOURSE 414

THE RE-OPENING OF THE TEMPLE BY KING JEHOASH

2 Chronicles 24:14. And they offered burnt-offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada.

THE temple of God, which "had been broken up" and "made desolate" by the sons of Athaliah, was now repaired and opened by King Jehoash. Long had he labored to attain this object; but the priests and Levites were averse to it, insomuch that for three-and-twenty years he was unable to accomplish this desired measure 2 Kings 12:6. At last he reproved even Jehoiada himself, his relative, his preceptor, and the very man to whom, under God, he owed both his life and his crown; yes, even him and all the priests that were under him did this young king reprove, for being intent only on their own interests, while they utterly neglected the house of God 2 Kings 12:7. As for the priests, they would have waved their own gains, if only they might be excused the trouble of advancing the honor of their God 2 Kings 12:8. But Jehoiada devised an expedient, which, while it relieved the priests from a part of their burdens, gave to the people generally an opportunity of showing what their wishes were in relation to this matter. He made "a chest, with a hole in the lid;" and put it beside the altar, to receive the gifts which should be voluntarily contributed for the furtherance of this good work 2 Kings 12:9; and God so wrought on the hearts of the people, that a sufficiency was soon obtained; so that the temple being repaired, they could resume with comfort the worship of their God 2 Chronicles 24:11-13.

In my text there are two things to be noticed:

I. The reformation made—

Of course, the temple being desolated, the service of it would be neglected. Now, therefore, when the repairs of the temple were completed, the service of it was resumed.

Of all the sacrifices that were presented to God, those of burnt-offerings were the most ancient and dignified—

This was the offering which procured for Abel such a manifest token of God's approbation and acceptance Genesis 4:4-5. And whereas it is said that "Abel offered it by faith Hebrews 11:4," it seems that it must have been of divine appointment; and most probably was appointed immediately after the Fall, when beasts were slain, and our first parents were clothed with their skins Genesis 3:21. Under the Mosaic economy, they were offered every morning and every evening throughout the year; and on the Sabbath-day they were doubled: and, being entirely consumed upon the altar, they were peculiarly fitted to represent the desert of men on account of sin, and the sufferings of Christ in their behalf.

Consider them in this point of view. Behold a spotless victim slain, and his body consumed upon the altar, as a sacrifice for the sins of men! methinks, the offerer could not but see that death was his deserved portion, even the second death in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. At the same time, viewing this sacrifice as a typical representation of the Lord Jesus, what an idea does it convey of his sufferings under the curse due to sin, even the wrath of an avenging God! Surely it was a most instructive ordinance: and, being repeated "continually," the people enjoyed the full benefit of the Mosaic dispensation, and God was glorified in the midst of them.

Among you, also, the same sacrifice is now renewed—

The Jews possessed the shadow; but you enjoy the substance. In the Gospel that is ministered unto you the same truths are held forth, but with infinitely clearer evidence, and more consoling power. You are told that you deserve the wrath of God, not by a mere shadowy exhibition, but by a faithful statement of your sins, and an explicit declaration of God's threatened vengeance against you. You are informed, also, that there is mercy for you through the intervention of a Savior, who has offered himself a sacrifice for your sins: but you have not to see this held forth under the image of a slain beast: you are instructed, that the Son of the living God himself has become incarnate: that, having approved himself spotless, and been acknowledged to be so even by his most inveterate enemies, he offered himself a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savor, and has been accepted in your behalf; so that all who believe in him may henceforth be justified from all things. These two great doctrines, of your own personal desert of punishment, and of your redemption through Christ, are "continually" set before you. Whatever be the immediate subject of discourse, these are either taken for granted as acknowledged truths, or are rendered prominent, as the occasion may require. These truths every minister of our Church is bound to make the "continual" subjects of his ministration: and I thank God, that, from the first moment that I ever ministered among you, "I determined to know no other 1 Corinthians 2:2."

But, if we rejoice at the reformation made, our joy is damped by what is spoken of,

II. The term of its continuance—

It was only "during the days of Jehoiada" that this reformation continued—

King Jehoash had, from his infancy, been instructed by Jehoiada; and during the life of that aged priest he was kept steadfast in the ways of God 2 Kings 12:2. But no sooner was that pious monitor removed, than Jehoash listened to the voice of evil counselors, deserted the worship of his God, and abandoned himself to idolatry verse 17, 18; yes, and slew the very son of Jehoiada, whom God had sent to remonstrate with him and reclaim him verse 20–22. What an awful picture does this give us of human nature! But, in every age, man has shown himself prone to depart from the living God. Moses warned the Israelites, that, after his departure, they would, notwithstanding all the wonders that had been wrought for them, forsake the Lord Deuteronomy 31:27; Deuteronomy 31:29. Even Paul himself, whose ministrations were so powerful, foresaw that, after his removal, the good work which he had begun among the Ephesian elders would be greatly impeded, and that many among them, who had run well for a season, would be hindered in their way, and be turned at last from the faith which they had professed: "I know this," says he, "that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch: and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one, night and day, with tears Acts 20:29-31."

And who shall say how long the work that has been begun among you shall continue?—

It is not three, but three and forty, years, that I have had the happiness of watching over you, and of endeavoring, according to the grace given me, to advance your spiritual welfare Preached in Sept. 1825. But I tremble to think how soon the instructions now given you may be forgotten, and the hopeful appearances among you may vanish. But, as Peter says, "I will not be negligent to put you in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth: yes, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me. Moreover, I will endeavor that you may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance 2 Peter 1:12-15."

Know, then, that you are sinners, deserving of the wrath of God: But know, that "God has laid help for you upon one that is mighty;" and that, through the sacrifice which Christ has offered for you on the cross, every one of you may obtain both pardon and peace: Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ is both "able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him;" and, "of those who come to him, not so much as one shall ever be cast out": O, treasure up these truths in your hearts; for "they are your very life Deuteronomy 32:46-47." Without the knowledge of them you never can be saved: and with the experimental knowledge of them in your souls you can never perish. Seek, then, to realize them more and more in your secret chamber; that, whether he who now ministers them unto you be alive or not, you may have the comfort of them in your own souls, and find them, as you most assuredly shall, "the power of God to your everlasting salvation 1 Corinthians 15:2. Romans 1:16."

 

 

2 Chronicles 25:9

 

DISCOURSE 415

AMAZIAH'S CONFLICT BETWEEN DUTY AND INTEREST

2 Chronicles. 25:9. And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give you much more than this.

IT is humiliating to reflect, that move attention was often paid to the messengers of the Most High by ungodly men under the Jewish dispensation, than is generally paid to them even by the godly in the present day. At one time we read of a whole army stopped and disbanded by one single declaration of a prophet 1 Kings 12:21-24. At another time, a great national reformation was effected by the very same means 2 Chronicles. 15:8-15. In like manner, when Amaziah king of Judah was going with an army of four hundred thousand men against the Edomites, one word from a man of God prevailed on him to dismiss one fourth of their number, because, as being idolaters, they were under the displeasure of the Most High. He was indeed concerned about the subsidy which he had paid them for their assistance: but that only serves to show more strongly what implicit obedience he was disposed to pay to the commands of God, when he could so easily be induced to sacrifice his temporal interests, and to release from their obligations so large a portion of his army. The difficulty however which he started, and the solution of that difficulty by the prophet, deserve particular attention. Let us consider,

I. The difficulty started—

Amaziah had hired one hundred thousand Israelites as auxiliaries in this war, and had paid the money for their equipment; and, when he was required to discharge them, he naturally concluded that he should lose all that he had advanced. Hence he expressed to the prophet the difficulty that was in his mind. Now,

This is a common difficulty in the minds of men—

Circumstances of necessity will sometimes arise, where duty and interest appear to clash with each other. Sometimes they actually exist, as in the instance before us; and sometimes they are only apprehended as likely to exist. It sometimes happens that a person has been placed by his parents in a line of business where he cannot get a livelihood without continually violating the laws of the land and the dictates of his conscience. What is to be done in such a case? His property is embarked; and cannot be disposed of without a considerable loss. And shall that be done? Shall such a sacrifice be made to God? It is desirable indeed to maintain a conscience void of offence; but is it to be done at such an expense?

It sometimes happens also that a person is educated for the ministry, with certain expectation of preferment: but when the time for his ordination arrives, he finds no disposition for the holy employment, no real determination to give himself wholly to the service of the sanctuary. What then shall he do? To go to God with a lie in his right hand, and profess that he is moved by the Holy Spirit to take on himself that sacred function, when he is moved only by the temporal advantages annexed to it, is very painful: and to contract a responsibility for the souls of hundreds and of thousands, when he has scarcely any concern about his own, appears to him a very dangerous step. But what must be done? He has been educated for it: he finds it difficult to turn to any other line: and, above all, the provision designed for him will be lost: and how can these difficulties be surmounted?

When the evils are in prospect only, their operation is exactly the same. One man feels that it is his duty to become a faithful follower of Christ. But his parents will be offended; his friends will be alienated: his prospects in life will be destroyed: and how can he endure to make such sacrifices as these? A few pence he would readily lose; but the loss of so many talents would be ruinous; and he knows not how to combat evils of such magnitude as this.

But the difficulty referred to would be no difficulty, if only we viewed things in their true light—

If we should suppose an angel sent down to sojourn for a time on earth, would he find any hesitation whether to prefer his interest or his duty? Nor did the Apostle Paul hesitate even when life itself was at stake: "I am ready," says he, "not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Lord's sake." Nor should we find any difficulty if we formed a proper estimate of things around us. Should we regard our temporal interests, if we reflected on the extreme emptiness and vanity of everything here below? Should we hesitate in our choice of evils, if we considered the impossibility of ever being acknowledged by Christ, without forsaking all, even life itself, for him? Above all, would we suffer the whole world to stand in competition with Christ, if we considered what wonderful things he has done and suffered for us?: Truly, the loss of all things compared with the loss of his favor, would be only as a feather in a scale against a talent of lead; and, like Paul, we should "count all things but loss, that we might win Christ;" and instead of repining at the injuries sustained, should regard them rather as grounds of mutual congratulation; saying with Paul, "If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all: for the same cause also do you joy and rejoice with me Philippians 2:17-18."

But we cannot suggest a better view of this matter than that which is contained in our text; in which we have,

II. The difficulty solved—

We are contented that men should lean to the side of interest, if only they will consider wherein their true interest consists. If God cannot do more for them than the world can, let them seek the world; or, if he cannot compensate all that they can lose or suffer for him, let them seek the world. But we fear not to say, whatever be the sacrifice which they make for him, "The Lord is able to give you much more than this;"

1. In this world—

It is a certain truth, that God does often recompense the services or sufferings of his people even with worldly prosperity: "Godliness has in this respect the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come 1 Timothy 4:8." This very consideration is urged by God himself as a motive to charity Proverbs 3:9-10; and our text suggests it as an argument for submitting cheerfully to losses in the path of duty. And it is curious to observe, that the loss sustained by Amaziah in obedience to God's command, was not only recompensed by present victory, but was restored in a three-fold proportion to his grandson Jotham; the same sum being paid to him for three successive years by the Ammonites, which Amaziah his grandfather sacrificed to the Lord on this occasion verse 11 with 2 Chronicles 27:5. But it is not three, or thirty-fold that we are to expect, but "an hundred-fold" of whatever we sacrifice for the Lord Mark 10:29-30; and is not this an ample compensation?

It is true, the Israelites whom he dismissed on this occasion did him great injury in their return home verse 13; and this might almost seem to contradict the promise in our text: but we apprehend that this very circumstance was permitted by God, on purpose to show Amaziah how great a ruin he had been delivered from; since these Israelites were not hearty in his cause, and would have turned against him when once they saw the Edomites prevail, and would thus have utterly completed his destruction. Other reasons might be assigned for this dispensation: it might be supposed to be a punishment on Amaziah for hesitating to obey the divine mandate, and for placing his interest in competition with his duty: or it might be intended to guard him against the idolatry into which he was about to fall, by suffering the most idolatrous part of his own dominions to participate in the judgments inflicted on the Edomites. But we apprehend, that the reason first assigned, is that which was more immediately in the mind of God, when he permitted to dark and mysterious a judgment to fall on one who was obedient to his command, yes to arise, as it were, out of that very obedience.

But, waving all consideration of temporal recompense, God can infinitely more than counterbalance all temporal losses by the richer effusion of his Spirit on the soul. If he suffer us to be deprived of earthly wealth, are we any losers, if he communicate to us a proportionable increase of spiritual riches? Cannot he, by the consolations of his Spirit, raise us far above all temporal distresses, and, by opening a prospect beyond the grave, make us to rejoice and glory in all the sufferings that can be inflicted on us here? Behold the Apostle Paul, how he "took pleasure in infirmities, and reproaches, and necessities, and persecutions, and distresses, for Christ's sake," because they tended to his spiritual welfare 2 Corinthians 12:10; and others, his companions, "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in Heaven a better and an enduring substance Hebrews 10:34." Thus may we expect it to be with us in this world: "if our afflictions abound, so shall also our consolation abound by Christ;" and the very sense of having sought the glory of God will make every pain a pleasure, and every loss a gain.

2. In the world to come—

"If we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him:" and who can declare the full import of that promise? Truly, the reward that awaits the faithful followers of Christ hereafter, no words can express, no imagination can conceive. It will be in vain to attempt any description of the glory and felicity of Heaven: but I will ask, Whether one single plaudit from our Judge will not overbalance all that we can either do or suffer in a hundred years? How indignant shall we be in that day, to think that we permitted the things of time and sense to warp our judgment, or embarrass our practice! One glimpse of the Savior's glory will repay whole years of trouble: and no sooner shall we be received into his bosom, than we shall adore him for every trial that weaned us from the world, and for every loss that facilitated our progress towards the heavenly kingdom. Let us only take eternity into our estimate, and we shall instantly say with the Apostle, "I reckon (I compute) that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us Romans 8:18."

Address,

1. Those who are yet undecided in the course they shall take—

Strongly as we have condemned the conduct of Amaziah for hesitating between the calls of interest and of duty, we yet will venture to propose him as an example, changing only the object of your concern. Are you tempted to violate a duty, or to draw back from suffering, ask yourselves immediately, 'But what shall I do for the favor of my God? what shall I do for the peace of my conscience? what shall I do for the salvation of my soul? How can I bear the loss of all these?' Let, I say, your hesitation be on this side: let the consideration of your eternal interests rise in your mind as instinctively and forcibly, as that of temporal interests does in the mind of a worldling: and then we shall have no fear but that your obedience to God's word will be prompt, uniform, and unreserved. You will "buy the truth" at any price, "and never sell it" for a thousand worlds.

2. Those who have been enabled to give up all for Christ—

Whatever you may have lost or suffered, have you ever for a moment repented of the sacrifices you have made? No: if your hearts are right with God, you will feel yourselves indebted to God in proportion to the losses you have sustained for him; seeing that the privilege of suffering for him is an inestimable gift Philippians 1:29, and the highest honor that can be conferred upon a child of man Acts 5:41. 1 Peter 4:12-14. Go on then, Beloved, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might:" and let it be seen in you, that "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses," but that "in God's favor is life;" and that, with "his love shed abroad in your heart," "though you have nothing, you are yet possessing all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

 

 

2 Chronicles 25:16

 

DISCOURSE 416

THE SIN AND DANGER OF DESPISING GOD'S COUNSEL

2 Chronicles 25:16. And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Are you made of the king's counsel? forbear; why should you be smitten? Then the prophet forbear, and said, I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this, and have not hearkened to my counsel.

WHEREVER "the heart is not perfect with God," a compliance with the divine will may be occasional and partial, but it never can be uniform and unreserved: when circumstances occur that require the sacrifice of a bosom lust, the heart will rise against the commandment, and trample under foot the authority of God himself. Herod would comply in some things with the injunctions of John the Baptist, but, when a separation from Herodias was insisted on, he broke through all the restraints of conscience, and inflicted death on his monitor as the penalty of his fidelity. Not unlike to Herod was King Amaziah; who obeyed the voice of a prophet requiring him to dismiss his hired troops, and to rely on God to compensate his loss, but was filled with indignation against one who expostulated with him on the subject of his idolatry. It should seem, that in proportion as a man is degraded in his own eyes by the conduct reproved, he will, if not truly penitent, swell with resentment against the person that undertakes to reprove him. The hiring of troops to augment his army appeared a prudent and commendable measure: but to take for his gods those worthless idols, over whom he himself had prevailed, was folly in the extreme. Hence, when reproved for it, he burst forth into a rage, and quickly terminated his conference with the inspired messenger.

From hence we shall take occasion to show

I. What is the conduct of the generality in reference to the counsels of God—

God still, as formerly, sends his servants to testify against prevailing iniquities; and still, as heretofore, are his messages rejected. In Amaziah we see a striking picture of rebellious man—

Nothing could be more just than the reproof given him. To renounce Jehovah, who had interposed so wonderfully in his behalf, and to substitute in his place those idols which had not been able to protect their own votaries, was an infatuation, of which we should scarcely have conceived him capable. Yet behold how he resented the prophet's expostulation! He regarded the admonition as an insult, and as an interference with his royal prerogative; as though God himself was not at liberty to counsel him. He moreover menaced the prophet, with an evident reference to Zechariah, whom for a similar offence his father had put to death 2 Chronicles 24:20-21. Thus he authoritatively silenced the messenger of Heaven; and determinately persisted in his impious idolatry.

No less reasonable than the expostulations made with him, are those which in God's name we make with you from time to time—

They principally relate to two points; Your rejection of God as the supreme good; and, your neglect of Christ as the only Mediator between God and man.

And is there not ground, abundant ground, for remonstrances on these points? Though Jehovah is acknowledged in words as the true God, is he loved, and served, and honored, as God? Do we give him our whole hearts, and "cast all our idols to the moles and to the bats?" Say whether "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life" be not in reality preferred before him, and whether we do not provoke him to jealousy by these, and other "idols which we set up in our hearts?": And though we confess Christ to be the Savior of the world, say whether we seek him, and rely upon him, and plead his merits at the throne of grace, and renounce with abhorrence all dependence on our own wisdom, strength, or righteousness? Alas! it is manifest, that the regard paid to him among us, is by no means what it ought to be, and that all his love to us is repaid, for the most part, with cold indifference and mere formal acknowledgments.

We ask then, Whether, as servants of the Most High God, we have not reason to complain, reprove, expostulate? and whether our most earnest representations ought not to be taken in good part?

Yet is our testimony, like that of the prophet, too often rejected with disdain—

In public indeed we are permitted to speak with some degree of plainness: yet even there a faithful discharge of our duty is sure to bring upon us no little measure of odium and reproach. If we exhort, reprove, rebuke, with all authority, as we are commanded to do, many, especially of the higher ranks, will consider themselves as insulted; and will either endeavor to silence us, or, if unable to effect that, will withdraw from a minister that is so offensive to them. Their advice to us is like that of the Jews of old; "Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits; make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us," or, at least, do not set him before us in his real character Isaiah 30:8-11,. And, when they cannot prevail, they tell us plainly, if not in words, yet more strongly in deed, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you Jeremiah 44:16."

And what if we presume to speak to men in private? What indignation do we then excite! If there we should say to them, "I have a message unto you from the Lord;" and should then proceed to add, in reference to their contempt of God as their chief good, "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not Isaiah 55:2." and then, in reference to their contempt of Christ as their Savior, "How shall you escape, if you neglect so great salvation Hebrews 2:3." we should soon find whether the spirit of Amaziah does not prevail at this day, as much as ever. It is worthy of observation, that those very persons who will take the most indecent liberties with us, decrying to our face all our views and conduct as the grossest absurdity, will not suffer us to speak in ever so gentle terms to them against their views and conduct: and, if we presume to bear a faithful testimony against the iniquities that prevail around us, we are instantly silenced by reproaches, and are cast out as the very pests of society See Jeremiah 29:24-27."

That we may be the better able to appreciate such conduct, we now proceed to show,

II. In what light it is to be viewed—

The world themselves uphold one another in this conduct, as innocent at least, if not also highly laudable: but, wherever it is found, it must be regarded,

1. As a symptom of obduracy—

The prophet needed no other evidence than this to convince him, that Amaziah was a hardened sinner before God. We do not say that every neglect of divine warnings argues the same degree of obduracy; but, in proportion as such neglect is willful, deliberate, and persevering, it betrays a spirit of rebellion, and a determined hostility against the God of Heaven. And here let us ask ourselves, whether we have not throughout the course of our whole lives set God at defiance, neglecting daily what we knew to be right, and practicing habitually what we Knew to be contrary to the divine commands? Let each of us enter into the secret recesses of his own heart, and say, Whether his own will, rather than God's, have not been the determining principle of all his actions, and whether self have not been the rule, the measure, and the end even of those things wherein he has professed to serve his God?: Truly, if to "tremble at God's word" be that which characterizes the first beginnings of grace in the soul, the state of those who can live so carelessly in a willful opposition to it must be awful indeed.

2. As a ground of dereliction—

God's secret "determination" to withdraw from Amaziah all further communications of his grace, was justly inferred from the measure of obduracy now visible in his conduct. And though we cannot certainly dive into the secrets of the Almighty, we may often form a very probable judgment respecting them from what we see with our eyes. We know how God has acted in former times, and how he has told us that he will act: "My people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me," says he; "so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust Psalm 81:11-12." Repeatedly is the same awful truth declared respecting the heathen world, notwithstanding their sins were far less aggravated than those committed by persons enjoying the light of revelation Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28. What then must we expect, who dwell under the meridian light of his Gospel? Have not we reason to fear that he will say, "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone Hosea 4:17." Yes, indeed: "His Spirit will not always strive with man Genesis 6:3;" and if we continue to "rebel and vex his Holy Spirit, he will turn to be our enemy, and fight against us Isaiah 63:10." If once we prevail to quench the motions of his Spirit, our state will be awful beyond all expression: "Woe to them," says God, "when I depart from them Hosea 9:12."

3. As a prelude to destruction—

Trace the conduct of Amaziah from this moment, and behold his end! He would not listen to the counsels of God, and he is instantly given over to other counselors verse 17. He sends a challenge to the king of Israel, who dissuades him from entering into an unnecessary and destructive war. The parable used on this occasion intimated to him his insufficiency to cope with Israel, and the certain issue of so unequal a contest verse 18, 19; but "he would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom verse 20." To battle he went, and was defeated, and taken; and his capital became an easy prey to the conqueror, who plundered it of all its wealth, and broke down a portion of the wall which had been erected for its defense verse 21–24. From that time he lost all the affection and confidence of his subjects, who at last conspired against him; and, when he "had fled to Lachish for safety, sent after him and slew him there." The whole of this is traced to God as its author, on account of his impious rejection of the divine counsels verse 27.

And what may not be expected by us also, if we "reject the counsel of God against ourselves?" Surely we shall be left to follow the infatuated devices of others, or of our own hearts, until we bring upon ourselves the destruction we have merited. Hear, how awfully this is declared by God himself: "If we receive not the love of the truth that we may be saved, God will send us a strong delusion, that we may believe a lie, and finally be damned, because we believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness 2 Thessalonians. 2:10-12." And by us is this sentence more especially to be expected, because of the many and faithful warnings which we have despised; for "he who, being often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy Proverbs 29:1." The gathering of clouds does not more certainly portend rain, than a contempt of God's messages gives reason to expect his everlasting displeasure.

Learn then,

1. In what manner we should attend the ordinances of religion—

We should "be doers of the word, and not hearers only, if we would not deceive our own souls James 1:21-24."

2. What obligations we owe to God for his long-suffering towards us—

Long has "he stood at the door of our hearts, knocking Revelation 3:20," and has been refused admission Son. 5:2-3; O let us bless his name, that he has not yet given us over to judicial blindness, and final impenitence Acts 28:25-27. Still has our Great Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, interceded for us Luke 13:6-9; and still does our "God wait to be gracious unto us." O that "today, while it is called today, we might hear the voice" that yet sounds in our ears, and that "the long-suffering of our God might lead us to repentance Romans 2:4."

 

 

2 Chronicles 26:5

 

DISCOURSE 417

CONNECTION BETWEEN DILIGENCE AND PROSPERITY

2 Chronicles 26:5. As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.

THE dispensation under which the Jews lived being of a temporal nature, their advancement in respect of temporal prosperity was, for the most part, proportioned to the regard which they, and their rulers, showed to God. The account given of Uzziah may serve almost as a general history of God's conduct towards them Leviticus 26:3-45; when he walked humbly before God, "he was marvelously helped until he was strong verse 8, 15;" but when, by his pride and disobedience, he had provoked God's heavy displeasure, he was given over to "destruction." The dispensation under which we live is altogether spiritual; and God observes the same rule of procedure towards us in spiritual things, as he maintained towards them in temporal things.

Respecting the prosperity of our souls the text calls us to notice two things;

I. Its dependence on God—

However diligent Uzziah was in seeking the Lord, it was God, and God alone, that "made him to prosper," And whatever means we may use, our advancement in the divine life must be traced to the same source. Our first inclinations to good originate with him. The continuance and increase of holy dispositions is in like manner the effect of his grace. If he were for one moment to suspend his communications, we should be as incapable of bearing fruit to his glory, as a branch is when severed from the tree. Let it only be inquired wherein prosperity of soul consists A subjugation of our passions; a victory over the world; an abiding sense and enjoyment of the divine presence; and it will immediately appear, that he must be the author of it in all its parts.

II. Its connection with our diligence—

The fruits of the earth are given us by God; yet he bestows his bounties on those only who use the proper means for the attainment of them. So does he also require exertion on our part in order to our spiritual advancement. The means are inseparably connected with the end: they are connected in God's decree Ezekiel 36:37. Matthew 7:7-8.—in the very nature of things—and in the experience of all the saints; and the more diligently we use the means, the more will both "grace and peace be multiplied unto us."

From this subject we may derive matter,

1. For reproof—

How awfully does this reprove the careless sinner! for if all our prosperity of soul be inseparably connected with diligence in the ways of God, it is obvious that they who neglect the word of God and prayer must be in a perishing condition. The backslider too must feel himself condemned by the fact recorded in the text. It is plainly intimated that Uzziah, through his remissness, experienced a sad reverse. And such a reverse will all experience who relax their diligence in the ways of God. Let us watch therefore against secret declensions: and, if we have already declined, let us "repent, and do our first works Revelation 2:4-5," and "strengthen, by exertion, the dying remnants" of grace within us Revelation 3:2.

2. For encouragement—

We cannot command success, either in temporal or spiritual pursuits; yet in both it is found true, that "the diligent hand makes rich." In some instances indeed God is found of them that sought him not; and persons may use the means of grace without receiving any sensible increase of grace or peace. Nevertheless this is not God's usual mode of proceeding; nor does he ever continue either to bless the indolent, or to withhold his blessing from the diligent. He never will suffer any to seek his face in vain Isaiah 45:19. Let this then encourage all to persevere in the use of means, "knowing assuredly that their labor shall not be in vain in the Lord."

 

 

2 Chronicles 26:15-16

 

DISCOURSE 418

THE BAD EFFECTS OF PROSPERITY

2 Chronicles 26:15-16. He was marvelously helped, until he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction.

IT not unfrequently happens, that, after the most promising appearances of abundance, the hopes of the harvestman are disappointed: some blast, or some destructive insect cuts off the fruits before they arrive at maturity, so that "the mower fills not his arms with them, neither he who binds up the sheaves his bosom." Thus also it is too often found in the moral and religious world: persons begin to "run well, and continue for a season; but are at last hindered," and "come short of that rest" which they had professed to seek. This is particularly found in those whose hopeful conduct has been chiefly occasioned by external influence. We have seen in Joash, that "he did that which was right all the days of Jehoiada the priest;" but after his decease, he turned aside to wickedness, and brought the heavy judgments of God both on himself and all his people 2 Chronicles 24:2; 2 Chronicles 24:17-18. Thus it was also with his grandson, Uzziah. For many years "he sought after God verse 5;" and was very signally blessed, and prospered of the Lord during all that time: yet, through the influence of that very prosperity, he fell, and perished miserably under the hand of an avenging God.

The words of our text will naturally lead us to set before you,

I. The proper tendency of prosperity—

Doubtless, prosperity cheers the mind; but its proper tendency is,

1. To puff up with pride—

It is difficult to succeed in any enterprise, or any labor, without arrogating to ourselves a considerable portion of credit on account of it: "We sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag Habakkuk 1:16.": That this is the common influence of prosperity, appears from the cautions given to the Israelites respecting it, in an instance where it should seem to be impossible for them to do otherwise than give the whole honor to God Deuteronomy 8:11-14. But pride, though so unsuitable to a fallen creature, is, alas! too powerful a principle in every child of man. Behold Nebuchadnezzar in the summit of his glory Daniel 4:30-32; Daniel 5:20; or Uzziah, when he had been "marvelously helped, until he was strong:" how forgetful were they of the obligations which they owed to God! Even the pious Hezekiah fell, through the influence of pride, though afterwards he humbled himself for this transgression. Indeed it is very rare that persons elevated by the acquisition of wealth or honor retain their former simplicity: they rise in their own esteem, in proportion as they are looked up to by others, and account the homage that is paid to them a tribute due to their superior worth.

2. To harden in iniquity—

It is not towards men only that prosperity affects our conduct, but even towards God himself. We can scarcely attain any considerable advancement in the world, but presently we become "presumptuous, and self-willed:" we allow ourselves a greater latitude to follow the inclinations of our own hearts: and, if checked by any faithful monitor, we will not endure his expostulations or reproofs; but, like Uzziah, are "wroth with him" for performing his duty, instead of being grieved at ourselves for transgressing our own. We think ourselves at liberty to act as we please; and that neither God nor man has any right to call us to account. This is most justly depicted by the Psalmist Psalm 10:4-6; Psalm 10:11; Psalm 10:13; and is traced by him to prosperity, as its proper source Psalm 73:3-9; Psalm 73:11-12; Ah! how many such instances have we seen, of men once apparently modest and humble, but afterwards, like "Jeshurun, waxing fat and kicking, and forsaking the God that made them, and lightly esteeming the rock of their salvation Deuteronomy 32:15." We are apt to envy such persons, when we behold their prosperity: but we shall see little reason to do so, if we duly consider the effects produced by it on their minds Psalm 73:3; Psalm 73:16-19.

Rarely indeed has any spiritual good arisen from prosperity: but how awful is it to reflect on,

II. Its frequent termination—

Behold how it terminated in the case before us!

Uzziah, not content with the pomp of royalty, would usurp also the priestly office: and, when reproved for his presumption, was filled with indignation against his reprovers. But "while ha was wroth with the priests, the leprosy rose up in his forehead verse 19;" and immediately "they thrust him out of the temple; yes, himself also hastened to go out, because the Lord had smitten him verse 20." Thus it is with many who "once made a fair show in the flesh;" "being lifted up with pride, they fall into the condemnation of the devil 1 Timothy 3:6." From their scenes of earthly happiness they are cast headlong into the lowest abyss of misery, like the rich man in the parable, whose surviving brethren, misled by his example, were following him thither with hasty strides Luke 16:22-23; Luke 16:27-28. But, if we could conceive by any means that such an one had found his way into Heaven, the very transaction that took place in the temple would be renewed there; the inhabitants of those blessed mansions, indignant at his presumption, would instantly "thrust him out Luke 13:28;" yes, "he himself would haste to go out," not being able to endure the countenance of his offended God Isaiah 33:14. Compare the three verses following; which show that the godly alone can dwell with God. Let it not be thought that this is an uncommon termination of prosperity: for both Scripture and observation teach us to regard it as its frequent and ordinary result Proverbs 1:32, with Matthew 19:23-26.

Let us learn then from hence,

1. To be moderate in our desire after earthly things—

We may desire prosperity, because it is a gift of God to men verse 5; and is particularly promised to those who love him Psalm 1:3; Psalm 122:6. But we should desire it only in submission to the will of God. We know not what will be its ultimate effect upon our souls. We know not what advantage it will give to our corrupt nature to break forth, and to plunge us into everlasting misery. Let us be diligent in our earthly calling, whatever it may be; but, as to any anxious concern about it, "let our moderation be known unto all men Philippians 4:5." "Our affections must not be set on things below, but on those which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God."

2. To be patient and resigned under any trials that may come upon us—

Trials are "not at the present joyous, but grievous;" but they are promised by God as the choicest fruit of his paternal love Hebrews 12:6-8. Even Paul himself needed a thorn in his flesh, "lest he should be exalted above measure 2 Corinthians 12:7." Who then are we, that we should think trials unnecessary for us? They are the furnace, that is to purify us from our dross Isaiah 27:9, or the pruning-knife, that is to render us more fruitful in good works John 15:2. We know how profitable it was to Manasseh to be taken among the thorns 2 Chronicles 33:11-12; and we have reason to hope that our afflictions also shall be sanctified to our good Hebrews 12:10, and that we shall at the close of them adopt the language of David, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted Psalm 119:71."

3. To be thankful for the high honor conferred upon us—

To none of the Jewish kings was given the united honor of royalty and priesthood: that was reserved for Christ alone, who was to be "a Priest upon his throne Zechariah 6:13;" who yet, though a king, "glorified not himself to be made a High-priest, but was called to it of God, as was Aaron Hebrews 5:4-5." But that honor has our adorable Savior procured for us: "He has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto our God forever and ever Revelation 1:5-6." Yes, we are "a royal priesthood 1 Peter 2:9;" and "by the new and living way which he has opened for us through the veil, we may draw near" even to the very throne of God himself Hebrews 10:19-22; and our doing so in faith will rid us from the leprosy, instead of bringing the leprosy upon us; and, instead of arming the angels against us, will make them to rejoice Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22. Let us then improve our liberty, and "offer up spiritual sacrifices to our God from day to day, assured, that they are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ 1 Peter 2:5."

 

2 Chronicles 28:10

 

DISCOURSE 419

A SENSE OF SINFULNESS A GOOD CORRECTIVE OF EVIL PASSIONS

2 Chronicles 28:10. Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God?

IN viewing the various dispensations of Providence, we should regard the Supreme Disposer of all events not merely as a mighty Sovereign ordering everything according to his own will, but rather as a moral Governor, who has respect to the welfare of his creatures, and consults the best interests of the universe. Towards individuals indeed his dealings may not accord with our ideas of retributive justice, because there is another world wherein the seeming inequalities of his present conduct towards them will all be rectified: but towards nations, as this is the only time when they can be dealt with in their national capacity, he conducts himself more visibly according to their moral habits, rewarding them when they walk agreeably to his will, and punishing them when their violations of his commands are general and flagrant. We must not however imagine, that the persons whom he makes use of as instruments of his displeasure, are more righteous than those whom he sends them to correct; for he may, and does, use what instruments he pleases: but the persons corrected, will always be found to have brought upon themselves his judgments by their own willful and obstinate impiety. This is a truth so obvious and incontrovertible, that even idolaters themselves receive it with the greatest facility, and are sometimes influenced by it to a great extent. The Israelites, at the time that the Prophet Oded was sent to them, were sunk in the grossest idolatry; yet, when informed by him that their victory over Judith was the result of a divine appointment on account of Judah's sins, and that the excessive cruelty with which that victory had been accompanied would bring the divine displeasure upon them also, they instantly sacrificed both their interests and their resentments, and yielded obedience to the prophet's admonitions. The expostulation in our text came home with power to their consciences; "Are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God?" May we also feel its force, while we,

I. Urge you to institute the proposed inquiry—

The circumstances under which this inquiry was proposed naturally lead us to consider it,

1. In reference to the nation at large—

Doubtless there are great enormities in other lands: the grossest superstitions and the most flagrant impieties testify against the great majority of those who bear the Christian name. But while we of this land boast of our superior light and morals, what abominations are found among us! Let us not think that because the evils once perpetrated in the slave-trade have been in a measure suppressed, the blood of thousands and tens of thousands does not yet cry to God against us for our insatiable avarice, and our cruel injustice. For centuries yet to come, we need bewail the guilt that has been contracted by our impious traffic in human blood. Besides, the light with which we have been favored beyond other nations, only renders our misimprovement of it the more criminal: for though certainly there are many in the land who highly value and adorn the Gospel, there is with the generality a neglect and contempt of serious religion; so that real piety is branded with infamy among us, more than infidelity or ungodliness itself. Truly, on a view of all ranks and orders among us, we have as much reason to be ashamed and confounded before God, as any who may have experienced his heaviest judgments.

2. In reference to ourselves in particular—

We are all ready enough to mark what is amiss in others, and even to ascribe the calamities of others to the intervention of an offended Providence. But it would be well for all to search out and examine their own faults, rather than to be uncharitably condemning the faults of others. The self-righteous, self-applauding moralist can spy out the failings and infirmities of those who profess a stricter system of religion; but let me ask such an one, are there not in you, even in you, sins against the Lord your God? Have you not a beam in your own eye, while you are noticing with such severity the mote in your brother's eye? Look and see whether your religion of which you think so highly be not a mere form of godliness without the power of it? See whether the Bible be dearer to you than gold and silver, and be relished by you more than your necessary food? See whether your heart be broken and contrite before God, so that you often weep before God on account of the sins you have committed against him? See whether Christ be precious in your sight, so that all your hope, all your desire, all your delight are centered in him alone? In a word, see whether all your faculties and powers are consecrated to the service of Him who lived and died for you? Truly, if you would consult the records of your conscience in relation to these things, you would see little reason, and feel little inclination too, to cast stones at others.

On the other hand, professors of religion also are but too often guilty of this same fault, being filled with an overweening conceit of their own excellencies, and a contemptuous disregard of their less spiritual neighbors. But I would ask the professed follower of Christ, are there not sins with you too, as well as with the Pharisaic formalist? Are there not great and crying evils in the religious world, which prove a stumbling-block to those around them? Are not a vain conceit, an obtrusive talkativeness, an inattention to relative duties, and a disregard of just authority, often indulged under the cloak of religion? Are there not often found among professors of religion the same covetous desires, the same fraudulent practices, the same deviations from truth and honor, as are found in persons who make no profession? Are there not many whose tempers are so unsubdued, that they make their whole families a scene of contention and misery? Yes; though the accusations which are brought against the whole body of religious people as hypocrites are a gross calumny, there is but too much ground for them in the conduct of many.

But where these observations do not at all apply, we must still renew the question, even to the most exemplary among us, "Are there not sins with you also," even such as would justify God in taking vengeance upon you? Think of your manifold short comings and defects; yes, think of "the iniquity even of your holiest things;" and, instead of exalting yourself above others, you will call yourself "less than the least of all saints," or rather "the chief of sinners."

But, that the inquiry may be suitably improved, we will,

II. Point out the ends for which it should be made—

There is not any part of Christian experience which would not be deeply affected by the knowledge of our own hearts: but, as our observations on this subject must of necessity be few, we shall con fine ourselves to those which arise from the passage under our consideration.

We should inquire then into our own sins,

1. To make us estimate aright the distinguished mercies given unto us—

Let us reflect on the peaceful state of this nation during the whole period in which we have been engaged in war, while every nation in Europe has in its turn sustained the heaviest calamities March 1814, when the North of Germany was 10 desolated and distressed; and how shall we adore that Providence that has protected us!

Let us contemplate also the numbers who have from time to time been cut off in their sins, though they had neither attained to our age, nor committed our iniquities: O what reason have we to adore the mercy that has spared us, and that still waits to be gracious to us! May we not well be astonished, that while so many have been taken, we are left; and that while they are gone beyond redemption, we are yet on praying ground? If we know little of ourselves, we shall feel but little gratitude for this mercy: but, if we are duly sensible of our own extreme vileness, we shall be overwhelmed with a view of his goodness to us, and shall sink, as it were, under a sense of our unbounded obligations.

2. To moderate our resentments to our offending brethren—

The former idea was implied in the prophet's address to Israel; but this was plainly expressed. The cruelty exercised by them was extreme: and, to deter them from prosecuting their inhuman projects, was this suggestion made: for how could they proceed with such rigor towards others, when they who deserved so much heavier judgments had experienced such lenity from the hands of God?

Certain it is, that we feel keenly for the most part the injuries that are done to us; and that we are but too apt to indulge a vindictive spirit. But the evils that a fellow-creature can do to us are nothing in comparison of those which we ourselves have committed against God: how then can we proceed with severity against a fellow-servant for a few pence, when a debt of ten thousand talents has been remitted unto us? Surely we shall be afraid lest God should mete to us the measure which we have dealt out to others, and that, we "having shown no mercy to others, should have judgment without mercy ourselves James 2:13."

3. To stir us up to imitate the compassion of our God—

What a marvelous exercise of compassion was that which arose from the prophet's admonition! The princes of the congregation were led to protest against the measures now about to be adopted by the victorious army; and that army, with the spoils and captives in their hands, renounced immediately all their views of interest and resentment, and made use of the very spoils, whereby they had expected to be enriched, to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and comfort the distressed, and honor those whom they had so deeply degraded "Anointing them.": they even put on donkeys the sick and feeble; and themselves took them back to the borders of their own country. This was what they now saw to have been the conduct of God towards them, and they desired to tread in his steps.

And what has God done for us? Even when we were enemies, he gave his only dear Son to die for us: yes, and notwithstanding all our continued impieties, he stretches out his hands to us all the day long, and importunes us to accept his offered salvation. Thus, if we know how contrary to our deserts these mercies are, we shall be ready to act towards our brethren: instead of rendering evil for evil, we shall "feed our enemy, or give him drink," in hopes of melting him into love by heaping kindness upon him, just as the workman fuses his metals by an accumulation of fire upon them Romans 12:14; Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19-20. There is in this last verse an astonishing beauty in the word øþìéæå, which imports the feeding him as a helpless infant; and corresponds exactly with the tender and respectful care exercised by the Israelites on this occasion, verse 15; he will not "be overcome of evil, but will overcome evil with good Romans 12:21."

Let this subject teach us,

1. To cultivate the knowledge of our own hearts—

It is that, and that alone, which will bring us to act aright in any part of our duty. Without a sense of sin we can never be humbled before God; and without humility we can never exercise a just measure of forbearance and of kindness to man. Then only, when we are sensible of having "been forgiven much, shall we love much."

2. To keep our minds open to conviction—

It is surprising how soon this whole multitude was convinced of sin. Let us learn from them not to dispute with our reprovers, or to vindicate ourselves at the expense of truth: let us rather desire to find out our errors, that they may be rectified, than to cloak them, and hold them fast.

3. To follow instantly the convictions of our own minds—

The Israelites fulfilled to the uttermost what they apprehended to be the mind and will of God: they did not plead for their interest, on the one hand, nor were they deterred by a fear of shame, on the other: they saw their duty, and performed it instantly without reserve. O that our reproofs might thus meet always an obedient ear! This ready obedience was their highest honor: let us regard it as ours also: and let us beware, lest this host of benevolent idolaters rise up in judgment against us, to our utter confusion, and our eternal condemnation.

 

 

2 Chronicles 28:22

 

DISCOURSE 420

THE CONDUCT OF AHAZ IN HIS DISTRESS

2 Chronicles 28:22. In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz.

IT is a common sentiment with men in health, that they will repent and turn to God in a time of sickness: they imagine that trouble will of course dispose their minds for the exercises of religion, and that they may therefore safely postpone all serious attention to their eternal interests, until that hour shall arrive. But there is no necessary connection between affliction and true piety: "the sorrow of the world works death;" and consequently must rather be adverse to, than productive of, "godly sorrow, which alone works repentance to salvation, not to be repented of 2 Corinthians 7:10." If indeed trouble be accompanied with the grace of God, it then operates like the ploughing up of fallow ground for the reception of the seed: but of itself it only hardens the heart against God, and calls forth into activity the most malignant passions of the soul. This cannot be more strikingly illustrated than in the conduct of Ahaz; in speaking of which we shall notice,

I. The evil imputed to him—

This was doubtless exceeding great. Ahaz having provoked God by his great and multiplied iniquities, was given up by God into the hands of the Edomites first, and then of the Philistines, as the just punishment of his sins. The Assyrians too, whom he had hired as his allies, eventually, "instead of strengthening him, helped forward his distress verse 16–20."

And what was the effect of these troubles on his mind? Did he humble himself before his God, and implore mercy at his hands? No; but renounced his God altogether, setting up the gods of Syria in opposition to him, and shutting up the doors of his temple, and destroying the vessels that had been consecrated to his service, and building altars in every corner of Jerusalem, and, in every city of Judah, making high places, to burn incense unto other gods verse 23–25.

We must confess that such impiety far exceeds what is commonly found in the world at this day; but in lower degrees it is found to obtain among us also. All of us have a measure of trouble inflicted on us by God on account of sin; and in a variety of ways have we misimproved the divine chastisements. The very evil imputed to Ahaz of trespassing yet more in his distress, may be committed by us in our troubles,

1. By indifference—

Nothing is more common than to overlook the hand of God in our trials, ascribing them either to chance, or to second causes only, and regarding them as merely the usual events of life. In such a state of mind we meet them with a kind of stoical apathy, making the best of existing circumstances, and trying, by the expedients of pleasure, business, company, or occupation of some kind, to divert our thoughts, and alleviate our pains Isaiah 22:12-13. This is, as the Scripture expresses it, to "despise the chastening of the Lord Proverbs 3:11." And how offensive must such conduct be! When he speaks, and we will not hear Job 33:14; when HIS hand is lifted up, and we will not see it Isaiah 26:11; what is this but, in effect, to say, "The Lord does neither good nor evil Zephaniah 1:12." This indifference is well described by the prophet, in relation to Israel of old: "It (God's anger) has set him on fire round about, yet he knew it not; and it burned him, yet he kid it not to heart Isaiah 42:25." But, however such conduct may be countenanced by an ungodly world, it will surely be visited with God's heavy displeasure Psalm 28:5.

2. By obstinacy—

Some, while they are not altogether unconscious from whence their afflictions proceed, are yet determined to go on in their own way: "they refuse to receive correction, and make their faces harder than a rock, and refuse to return to God Jeremiah 5:3. Isaiah 57:17." Thus it was with the Jews of old; "The people turns not unto him that smites him; neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts Isaiah 9:13. And on this ground it was that the prophet uttered that heavy complaint against them; "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers! Why should you be stricken any more? you will revolt more and more Isaiah 1:4-5." Happy would it be if this rebellious spirit had been confined to them: but it is no less prevalent among us: there are many for whose reformation successive strokes have proved ineffectual; and who are yet as far from God as if no such means had ever been used to bring them to repentance: yes, like Pharaoh, they seem only to have been hardened by the plagues inflicted on them. The Lord grant that they may see their error, before they be given over to judicial blindness and final impenitence!

3. By murmuring—

How often do we hear people complaining of their lot, as if their sufferings were intolerable and undeserved! However clearly God marks their sin in their punishment, they reflect not on themselves as the sinful causes of their misery, but on him as the severe and unprovoked author of them Exodus. 16:35, 41. Ezekiel 18:25; Ezekiel 18:29. Thus Isaiah, foretelling the effect of God's chastisements on the Jews, says, "They shall pass through the land hardly distressed and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that, when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their God and their king Isaiah 8:21." And what shall we say of such a disposition? what shall we say of him who by "his own foolishness perverts his way, and then in heart frets against the Lord Proverbs 19:3." This we must say, that he manifests the very dispositions of Hell itself: for of the unhappy spirits that are there confined, we are told, that "they gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores, and they repent not of their deeds Revelation 16:9-11."

4. By despondency—

As on the one hand we are apt to "despise the chastening of the Lord," so, on the other hand, we are ready to "faint when we are rebuked of him Hebrews 12:5." We have no idea of chastisements proceeding from love; and, beholding nothing but wrath in them, we conclude, that it is in vain to call upon God, and that he will never be entreated of us. Thus even from despondency we derive arguments for continuance in sin: "There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go Jeremiah 2:25." Of this God himself complains Jeremiah 18:12-13; and well he may, since it is a limiting of his power, as though he were not able to deliver Isaiah 1:2; or a denial of his mercy, as though he had "forgotten to be gracious, and his mercy were clean gone forever Psalm 77:7-9." True it is, that despondency is often indulged under an idea that it is an expression of humility: but it is as offensive to God as any of the dispositions before specified, and tends, even more strongly than any of them, to bind our sins upon us.

That we may be the more afraid of following the steps of Ahaz, let us consider,

II. The stigma fixed upon him—

There is an extraordinary force and emphasis in the expression, "This is that king Ahaz"—

It is as though God intended to point him out to the whole world as a prodigy of folly and wickedness: this is that infatuated man, who presumes to "strive with his Maker, like the clay quarreling with the potter Isaiah 45:9," or "briers and thorns setting themselves in battle array against the devouring fire Isaiah 27:4." This is that ungrateful man, who, when I have been chastening him with parental tenderness in order to prevent the necessity of executing my everlasting judgments upon him, has only multiplied his transgressions against me; breaking through every hedge which I made to restrain him, and throwing down every wall which I erected to impede his course Hosea 2:6. This is that impious man, who, in the madness of his heart, has determined to banish me from the world, and to blot out the remembrance of me from the earth.

As the expression is emphatical with respect to him, so it is most instructive with respect to us—

It clearly shows us that "sin is a reproach to any people Proverbs 14:34." We may vindicate it, and applaud it; but we only "glory in our shame Philippians. 3:19;" for it makes a man as loathsome "as a sepulcher that is full of all impurity Matthew 23:27." Sin is fitly characterized as "filthiness of the flesh and spirit 2 Corinthians 7:1;" and in that light it is viewed, not by God only, but by all who are taught of God. Examine the fore-mentioned sins, of indifference, of obstinacy, of murmuring, and despondency, and they will all be found odious in the extreme; so that a man under the dominion of them may well be pointed out as an object of universal abhorrence: "This is that king Ahaz Psalm 52:7." It is possible indeed that an ungodly man may pass through life without any such stigma fixed upon him: but he will not escape it in the last day, when all the most secret sins shall be revealed: then will that declaration of Solomon be fully verified, "The wicked man is loathsome, and comes to shame Proverbs 13:5;" however cautiously he may have veiled his wickedness from the eyes of men, or even obtained the applause of man for his pretended virtues, he will "awake to shame and everlasting contempt Daniel 12:2."

From this subject we may learn,

1. The great design of God in our troubles—

God does not willingly afflict the children of men. He is a tender Parent, who seeks the welfare of his children, and "chastens them for their profit," to humble them, and to prove them, and to make them "partakers of his holiness Isaiah 27:9. Hebrews 12:10." Hence it is said, "Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O Lord Psalm 94:10." Let us then contemplate our trials in this view. From whatever quarter they may come, let us acknowledge the hand of God in them; and bless his name, as well when he takes away, as when he gives Job 1:21.

2. Our duty under them—

Every rod has a voice to us, which we should endeavor to understand Mic. 6:9; and, if we cannot immediately discern its true import, we should go to God, and say, "Show me why you contend with me Job 10:2." And, when we have found out "the accursed thing that troubles our camp Joshua 7:11," then we should "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of our God James 4:10," and with meek submission say, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him Mic. 7:9." We should even be thankful for the fire that purges away our dross, and not so much as wish to be delivered from it until we can come out of it purified as gold.

 

 

2 Chronicles 29:10-11

 

DISCOURSE 421

THE USE OF COVENANTING WITH GOD

2 Chronicles. 29:10-11. Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that his fierce wrath may turn away from us. My sons, be not now negligent.

A TRULY pious man will not be satisfied with serving God in his closet. He will exert his influence to bring others also to a sense of their duty. The public exercise of the ministry indeed belongs to those only who are duly called to it Hebrews 5:4; but all who are possessed of authority (parents, masters, magistrates and kings) should use it for the promoting of virtue and religion. Christians of every rank and description should exhort one another Hebrews 3:13. We have a noble example set before us in the conduct of Hezekiah. As soon as he came to the throne, he set himself to restore the service of the temple, and called upon all, both ministers and people, to make a solemn covenant with their God.

The royal proclamation for the observance of this day Fast-day, March 1798, speaks, in effect, the language of the text. From which I will take occasion to show,

I. When we have reason to apprehend that God's anger is waxed hot against us—

We cannot in all cases determine how far a dispensation may be sent in anger or in love: but in general we may say, that God is incensed against us,

1. When our sins are multiplied against him—

Sin is invariably the object of God's abhorrence Habakkuk 1:13. Psalm 5:5. This truth is so evident that it needs not any confirmation. For, what lamentable depravity pervades every part of the nation! There is no iniquity, however heinous, which is not practiced without remorse. If we look into our own bosoms, what reason for humiliation may we find! What ingratitude for mercies received, and what impenitence for sins committed! What rebellion against God, what contempt of his Son, what resistance of his Spirit, have we not occasion to deplore! And shall not God be avenged of such a nation as this? Yes, there is not one among us that does not deserve to be made a monument of his wrath.

2. When his judgments are multiplied upon us—

God often sends temporal afflictions to his people in love Hebrews 12:6. But spiritual judgments are a certain token of his wrath. Blindness of mind, obduracy of heart, and obstinacy in sin, are among his heaviest judgments Isaiah 6:9-10. And have none of us reason to fear that these are now inflicted on us? But it is by temporal judgments chiefly that he punishes nations. It was from these that Hezekiah judged of God's anger against the Jews verse 8, 9. And are not these multiplied upon our land at this time? Surely the displeasure of God can scarcely ever be more strongly displayed, than it is in the calamities under which we now groan Of course, these strong expressions must be modified according to circumstances.

But that none may yield to desponding fears we shall point out,

II. How it is to be averted—

Repentance towards God and faith in Christ are the means prescribed by God. But it is not a slight and superficial use of these means that will suffice; we should solemnly devote ourselves to God in a perpetual covenant—

Not that we should attempt to renew the covenant of works. That would make void the Gospel, and seal our eternal condemnation Galatians 3:10. Nor should we think to add any thing to the covenant of grace. That was once made with Christ, and is ordered in all things and sure Hebrews 8:6. But we should patiently and deliberately renounce all our former ways. We should seriously give up ourselves to God as his redeemed people; and entreat him to perfect us in any way which he shall see fit.

Such covenants as these have often been made by the most eminent saints—

Under the Old-Testament dispensation they were judged acceptable to God. Omitting many other instances, we may notice the solemn covenant of Asa 2 Chronicles. 15:12-15. We may notice also that which was entered into by Josiah 2 Kings 23:3. Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of the making of such covenants as characteristic of the gospel times Isaiah 44:5. Jeremiah 50:4-5. Paul highly commends the conduct of the Macedonians on account of their having thus given themselves up to God 2 Corinthians 8:5; and recommends a similar practice to all Christians of every age and nation Romans 12:1.

Nor can we doubt of their acceptableness to God—

Hezekiah manifestly supposed that God would accept him in this duty The text. It was recommended to Ezra in circumstances where there was but little hope remaining Ezra 10:3. And God himself expressly enjoined it as the means of averting his displeasure Jeremiah 4:4; not that we are to suppose that there is anything meritorious in such an act; but it tends, of itself, to the humiliation and confirmation of our souls, and will be both accepted and remembered by our covenant God and Father Deuteronomy 29:12-13.

These means being at once so scriptural and so important, let me now in conclusion urge upon you the adoption of them—

We admire the tender and affectionate address of Hezekiah to the priests. And with similar concern would we now invite you to the performance of your duty. "Let this now be in all your hearts:" for,

I. There is no time for delay—

Many are "negligent" at present in expectation of a more convenient season; but who can assure himself that he shall be alive on the morrow James 4:14. or that, if he be, he shall have an inclination to that from which he is now averse? or that God will grant him the aids of his Spirit, which are now contemned? The voice of God to every one is, Seek me today, while it is called today Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 3:15. With respect to the nation, who can tell how soon the cloud that hangs over us may burst, and overwhelm us utterly? Let us follow the example of the repenting Ninevites Jon. 3:5-9. If "it be in our hearts to make a covenant," let it instantly be done Psalm 119:60. Let me address all of you as a father, and entreat all of you as "my sons" and daughters to "neglect your duty no longer;" but "now" while we are yet speaking, to surrender up yourselves to God with full purpose of heart.

2. If we neglect this duty, we cannot hope to escape the wrath of God—

Sodom was destroyed, because they laughed at God's threatenings as idle tales: and the strongest empires, in succession, have fallen a sacrifice to their sins. Who then shall protect us, if we continue to provoke the Majesty of Heaven? But, whatever be the fate of the nation, we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ: and there none will be acknowledged as his people, who have not voluntarily taken him for their Lord and Savior. If then you have any regard for your eternal welfare, neglect him no longer; but, in the penitent language of the prophet, devote yourselves to his service Isaiah 26:13.

3. If we heartily engage in this duty, we have nothing to fear—

Were such a covenant general through the nation, God would soon remove his judgments. But whatever come upon the land, God's faithful people shall be objects of his favor. Though they may be involved in the general calamities, they shall be comforted with the divine presence Psalm 34:18-19. They need not therefore be agitated with fear on account of God's displeasure in this world; nor have they anything to dread in the eternal world Malachi 3:17. Let us then enter into this matter with our whole hearts, and pray day and night for grace to perform our vows. Unfaithfulness to our engagements will incense God still more against us, and provoke him to inflict yet heavier judgments upon us Jeremiah 34:18-20. It were even better never to have vowed, than to vow and not pay Ecclesiastes 5:5. 2 Peter. 2:21. He however, who puts it into our heart to make, can enable us to keep, our covenant Jude, verse 24. Let us then engage simply in dependence on the divine strength; but found all our hopes of acceptance on that better and unchangeable covenant, which Christ has entered into on our behalf.

 

 

2 Chronicles 29:20-29

 

DISCOURSE 422

RESTORATION OF THE TEMPLE WORSHIP BY HEZEKIAH

2 Chronicles. 29:20-29. Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord. And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he-goats, for a sin-offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the Lord. So they killed the bullocks, and the priests received the blood, and sprinkled it on the altar: likewise, when they had killed the rams, they sprinkled the blood upon the altar; they killed also the lambs, and they sprinkled the blood upon the altar. And they brought forth the he-goats for the sin-offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them; and the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt-offering and the sin-offering should be made for all Israel. And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king's seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets. And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar. And when the burnt-offering began, the song of the Lord began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished. And when they had made an end of offering, the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshiped.

AMONG the most eminent of the kings of Judah was Hezekiah. Of several indeed is it said, that they did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; but it was a high commendation of Hezekiah, that he did so "according to all that David his father had done." He came to the throne under the greatest disadvantages. His father had exceeded in wickedness all the kings that had been before him; and had caused all public acknowledgment of Jehovah to cease from the land. Under such circumstances it might have been supposed that Hezekiah, at the age of twenty-five, would have been infected with the prevailing impieties of his father's court, or, at all events, that he would not have dared to stem the torrent of iniquity that had borne down all before it: but no sooner was he placed upon his father's throne, than, even in the first year, and the very first month of his reign, he ordered the temple to be opened, and all the defilements that were in it to be removed, and the worship of the Most High God to be restored. Though there was not that alacrity among the priests that might have been expected, the work was soon executed, and in sixteen days the temple, with all its vessels, was prepared and sanctified for the service of God. The very next day, Hezekiah, having his heart set upon the blessed work, "rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the, Lord." The service which they performed on this occasion is related in the words which we have read: and it will serve as an excellent pattern for us on this occasion On the re-opening of a Church after it had been shut up for repair, in 1802.

There are three things in particular to which we would call your attention:

I. Their numerous sacrifices—

For the sin of a priest or of the whole congregation one bullock only was prescribed to be offered by the law Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:14; but the impieties of the nation having exceeded all bounds, and been of long continuance, Hezekiah judged that seven bullocks, and an equal number of rams, and lambs, and he-goats, should be sacrificed as a sin-offering to the Lord: and of all of them in succession it is particularly recorded, that "their blood was sprinkled on the altar." When the he-goats were offered, it is further noticed, that "the king and the congregation (by their representatives) laid their hands upon them." Such was the way in which "an atonement was offered, and reconciliation made for all Israel."

And who does not here see the gospel method of reconciliation with God through the great Sacrifice which was once offered on Mount Calvary? This it was which the sacrifices under the Law shadowed forth; and this it is which opens a way for our restoration to the divine favor. "We are reconciled to God through the blood of the cross." By this one offering there is a new and living way consecrated for us through the veil; and by it sinners of every description may draw near to God with full assurance of faith.

But here let me particularly call your attention to those two points, the sprinkling the blood upon the altar, and the laying of their hands upon the victims. Never must we draw near to God on any occasion without adverting to these significant emblems, or rather without realizing that which was here figuratively proclaimed. We must sprinkle the altar of our God with the Redeemer's blood: we must actually bear in mind, and expressly declare before God, that all our hope of acceptance with him is through the atoning blood of Christ. That sentiment must be so fixed in the mind, and rooted in the heart, as never to be lost sight of for one moment. The repetition in our text shows us what must be continually repeated by us in every approach of our souls to God. As "without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins," so without an express affiance in that blood as the only ground of our hopes there can be no application of that remission to our souls: O that this might be duly borne in mind by every one of us! But we must also with deep penitential sorrow transfer our sins to the sacred head of Jesus. "On him were the iniquities of all laid by God himself;" and we also must lay our iniquities upon him in the exercise of humble faith. It is by the mutual transfer, if I may so speak, of our sins to him, and of his righteousness to us, that we are to be freed from all our guilt, and to be made righteous in the sight of a holy God: "He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we (who had nothing but sin) might be made the righteousness of God in him 2 Corinthians 5:21.": When Christ is thus kept in view in all our transactions with God, we need not fear but that God will be gracious unto us, and seal upon our souls a sense of his forgiving love.

Let us next notice,

II. Their joyful praises—

Together with their humiliation, they offered unto God their praises and thanksgivings agreeably to the laws which had been prescribed by God himself. In this also are they worthy of our constant imitation: "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God Philippians. 4:6," says the Apostle: and what God has so joined we ought not to put asunder.

But here also there are two things worthy of more particular notice: "When the burnt-offering began, then the song of the Lord also began:" and "all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished." There was no need to wait: their hearts might well be tuned to praise the very moment they looked to their burnt-offerings as the means of reconciliation with God: nor, as long as they continued so to do, was there the smallest occasion for relaxing in the expressions of their joy. So the very moment we look to the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, and plead with God the merit of his blood, we may begin to rejoice in God as our reconciled God and Father. It is said, "All that believe are justified from all things;" not all that are strong in faith, or, all that have exercised faith for such a length of time; but all who believe (provided their faith be sincere) are from that very moment justified from all things, and may instantly "rejoice in hope of the glory of God Acts 13:39 with Romans 5:1-2." John, speaking not to fathers only, or to young men, but to the weakest babes in Christ, says, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake 1 John 2:12." There are many who think it a mark of humility to put away from them all joy, until, as they imagine, the progress of their sanctification shall justify the entrance of it into their souls. But this is altogether founded on ignorance and error. A sinner is not to look into himself for his warrant to rejoice in God: the mercy, the love, the truth, and faithfulness of God, together with the ability and willingness of Christ to save all who come unto God by him, are the proper grounds of joy, irrespective of any change actually wrought in us. We say not that a believer may not afterwards have much joy in the testimony of his own conscience that he has made a progress in the divine life; (for Paul himself experienced this joy 2 Corinthians 1:12;) but the affiance of his soul on Christ interests him in all that Christ has done and suffered for him, and gives him an immediate title to partake of the fatted calf, which his heavenly Father has prepared for him. "Being delivered from the horrible pit, and having his feet set upon the rock, a new song instantly should proceed from his mouth, even praise and thanksgiving to our God Psalm 40:2-3." Nor should that song ever cease; because the efficacy of his Redeemer's sacrifice will never cease. We are bidden to "rejoice in the Lord always," yes "again and again to rejoice:" and indeed, humiliation and joy must be united in all our services to the very end of time: as they will be united even in Heaven itself, where we shall cast our crowns at the Redeemer's feet, and sing to all eternity, "To him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen."

At the close of that solemn service we particularly notice,

III. Their reverential obeisance—

When they had made an end of offering, "the king and all that were present with him bowed themselves, and worshiped." This remarkable termination of their worship indicated a grateful sense of the inestimable privilege which they had enjoyed of drawing near to God—a humble acknowledgment that they, and all that belonged to them, were the Lord's—and a determination of heart henceforth to dedicate themselves unreservedly to his service.

And thus it is that we should close our worship, whensoever we draw near to God in his public ordinances See that admirable pattern, 1 Chronicles 29:14. It is painful to see persons going from the house of God without a due sense of the awful solemnities in which they have been engaged. The light and airy manner with which persons renew their conferences with each other upon the common topics of the day, demonstrates, that their worship has been by no means such as God requires: had they really felt as redeemed sinners ought to feel, the savor of that fellowship with Heaven would not so soon be lost. O, if men did but reflect on the mercy given to them, in being permitted to sprinkle the blood of Christ upon the altar, to transfer all their guilt to him, and to receive from him the gift of his unspotted righteousness; if they duly considered what a right the Lord Jesus Christ had acquired over them in having bought them with his blood, and how much they are bound to glorify him with their bodies and their spirits which are his; methinks they would depart from the house of God with a holy solemnity upon their mind, and would continue in their way homeward secretly to commune with their God, and to harrow in by meditation and prayer the seed which has been sown upon their hearts. For want of this, even religious people often lose all the benefit of the ordinances which they have been privileged to enjoy. Earnestly would we entreat all persons to attend to these suggestions; and to bear in mind, whether they enter into the house of God or depart from it, that it is the God of Heaven and earth with whom they have to do, and to whom they must shortly give an account of all these privileges which by the generality are so lightly esteemed.

How the people remembered the vows that were upon them, was evident from the liberality with which they immediately presented their offerings to the Lord If any Collection be made on the occasion, the zeal and liberality of the worshipers, verse 32, 33. may well be proposed as a pattern. Or, if the occasion required, the different Officers of the Church or Parish might be exhorted, from the example of the Priests, and of the Levites in particular, to exert themselves in their respective callings to serve and honor God. O let us give up our whole selves to him a living sacrifice: and from a constraining sense of redeeming love, let us henceforth live, not unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again.

 

 

2 Chronicles 29:31

 

DISCOURSE 423

AFTER CONFIRMATION

2 Chronicles. 29:31. Then Hezekiah answered and said, Now you have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the house of the Lord.

RELIGION is the brightest ornament of every state. Solomon was never more truly encircled with glory, than when he led the devotions of his people at the dedication of the temple: nor was Hezekiah at any period of his reign more honorably employed, than when he was purifying that temple from the abominations which had been introduced into it by his father Ahaz. The exhortation in our text was delivered by him to the whole congregation of Israel, after that the sacrifices for the purification of the temple had been offered. And to you who are of the younger part of our audience they may with great propriety be addressed, after the services which you have this day been called to perform.

With a more immediate view to your benefit, we will consider,

I. The act in which you have been engaged—

You have been to the bishop to be confirmed: and this is,

1. A solemn act—

From the levity of too many who attend on these occasions, it may be thought to be a ceremony of no importance. But it is a most solemn transaction between God and your souls. You have this day been taking upon yourselves the vows which were made in your behalf at your baptism; and have been devoting yourselves to God as his servants: and, whether you have been sincere or not in the performance of the duty, the consequences of it will be very important: if you have given yourselves to the Lord in sincerity and truth, he has accepted you to his favor, and numbered you among his children: but, if you have lied unto God with your lips, you have riveted upon your souls your former iniquities, and provoked God to give you up to greater obduracy Isaiah 28:22. Romans 1:21.

2. A reasonable act—

The first-fruits of everything were the Lord's: nor could any man appropriate them to his own use without the greatest impiety. Thus are the first-fruits of your time and strength to be given up to God. It is generally thought that the Jewish children at about twelve years of age went up to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord in a more solemn manner: and we know that our blessed Lord went thither at this age, that he might in a more peculiar way than he had ever before done, engage in the services of "his Father's house." We cannot do better than follow his example in this particular. As soon as we have arrived at an age when we are capable of understanding and executing the vows that are upon us, we should go up to the house of the Lord, and there solemnly acknowledge our obligations to serve our God, and implore from him the grace and strength that shall be needful for us. This, we are expressly told, is "a reasonable service Romans 12:1."

3. An irrevocable act—

It was an established law, that if anything whatever had been devoted to the Lord, it could not be recalled. Least of all then can you be liberated from the engagement which you have this day entered into, and which would have been binding upon you, even though you had never obeyed the call of your diocesan in relation to it.

But confirmation is to be the commencement of a new and more determined course of devotedness to God. I will therefore proceed to mark,

II. The duty which yet remains to be performed—

The act in which you have this day been engaged must be,

1. Continued—

The whole remainder of your lives is the time for the performance of your vows. There never will arrive a period when you are absolved from them, or when you are at liberty to relax your attention to them. Every morning and evening were the sacrifices offered in the temple, and a double number on the seventh day: so must every day begin and end with fresh surrenders of yourselves to God; and the Sabbath in particular must be a day of more than ordinary communion with him. "If you look back, after having put your hand to the plough, you are not fit for the kingdom of God:" yes, "if you draw back, it is to certain and everlasting perdition Luke 9:62. Hebrews 10:38-39."

2. Progressive—

After all had been done that was necessary for the purification of the temple, Hezekiah called on the people to present sacrifices and thank-offerings unto the Lord: and, in consequence of this exhortation, they were presented in great numbers. The sacrifices which God desires of you, are, not sheep and oxen, but the offering of a free, a contrite, a devoted heart See Romans 12:1. before cited. And, as the first offerings which were presented, were from duty and necessity, and the last from a superabundant zeal for God, and gratitude to his name, so are your surrenders of your hearts to God to be daily more willing, more grateful, more entire Isaiah 44:3-5. Jeremiah 50:4-5.

APPLICATION—

1. To the young, we recommend the counsel of Hezekiah—

Never think you can do enough for Him, who has bought you with his blood.

2. To the more advanced we recommend his admirable example—

Whatever influence you have, use it diligently for the Lord.

 

 

2 Chronicles 30:1-11

 

DISCOURSE 424

HEZEKIAH'S ZEAL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD

2 Chronicles. 30:1-11. And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel. For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the Passover in the second month. For they could not keep it at that time, because the priests had not sanctified themselves sufficiently, neither had the people gathered themselves together to Jerusalem. And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation. So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, and according to the commandment of the king, saying, You children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and he will return to the remnant of you, that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. And be not like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as you see. Now be you not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he has sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. For if you turn again unto the Lord, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if you return unto him. So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.

INFLUENCE is a talent of vast importance; but it is often most abused, where it exists in the highest degree. Kings and princes are rarely to be found among those who are foremost in the work of reformation: and, where their exertions are used, they are actuated as much by political principles as by those which are religious. Here however we see a monarch uniting with all his princes in a work of piety, in which politics bore no part at all. Hezekiah, not content with calling on his own subjects to serve the Lord, sought to bring his very enemies to the same blessed state, even those enemies who not long before had "smitten them with a great slaughter," even "with a rage that reached up to Heaven 2 Chronicles. 28:5; 2 Chronicles. 28:9." The account is so circumstantial and so beautiful, that I have comprised it all in my text; which will lead me to show,

I. The efforts he used in the service of his God—

The object he sought to accomplish was one of primary importance—

The Passover was the greatest of all the Jewish feasts, as the mercies which it was intended to commemorate were the greatest that had ever been given to that people. The destruction of the Egyptian first-born was, as you know, confined to them. The Israelites throughout the whole land were exempt from the judgment inflicted on all others without exception. In order to their deliverance, they were to kill a lamb, and sprinkle the posts and lintels of their doors with its blood: and then the destroying angel was to pass over their houses without inflicting a stroke either on man or beast that was so protected. In commemoration of this wonderful event the Passover was to be kept with great strictness in all future ages. But it had been shamefully neglected during the reign of his father Ahaz; and was now therefore appointed to be kept with peculiar solemnity. This ordinance above all others typified our redemption through the blood of Christ. The appointment of God was, that it should be kept at Jerusalem: and this command was as binding upon the ten tribes of Israel as it was upon Judah and Benjamin. He summoned all therefore, as well the tribes of Israel who were not under his government, as the two tribes who were his immediate subjects, to engage in this holy duty: and he spared neither trouble nor expense to attain his end.

The way in which he endeavored to accomplish his end was peculiarly amiable and praiseworthy—

Though a king, he used not so much the language of authority as of affectionate counsel and entreaty: "Turn again," said he, "unto the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel." "Be you not stiff-necked, as your fathers were." He reminds them of the bitter consequences of their past departure from God, consequences which they could not but trace to that source, since the very judgments which God's prophets had denounced against them were actually visible in the desolations that were come upon them, a great part of their nation having been already taken captive by the king of Assyria. He then urges every argument that could influence an sincere mind. He assures them, that God would still be gracious to them, if they would but return to him: yes, that he would even restore to their own land those who had been taken captive, if they would but seek him with their whole hearts. In a word, he entreats them to "yield up themselves unreservedly unto God," in an assured expectation, that, if they returned to him in a way of penitential sorrow, he would return to them in a way of love and mercy.

Now the whole of this affords as bright a pattern of wisdom, and piety, and love, as is to be found in all the Jewish records.

Let us then proceed to contemplate,

II. The success with which those efforts were attended—

This was far from being so complete as might have been expected. Some only "mocked his messengers, and laughed them to scorn"—

However closely we examine the message which he sent, we shall find in it nothing that could give just occasion for ridicule or contempt. But ungodly men, even in self-defense, deride everything which savors of piety. They have done so in every age. When Lot entreated his sons-in-law to escape out of Sodom, "he seemed," we are told, "as one who mocked to his sons-in-law," so ridiculous were his exhortations in their eyes. In precisely the same way were all the messages delivered by the prophets regarded; until God was provoked to give up his people to utter desolation 2 Chronicles. 36:16. It might be supposed that the infinite perfections of our blessed Lord should disarm such malice; and that his words at least would be universally received. But many who heard them regarded him only as a deceiver and a demoniac. The very Pharisees, who from their knowledge of the Scriptures might have been supposed to form a more correct judgment, derided him as much as others; because they were addicted to the sins which he reproved Luke 16:14. The holy Apostles shared the same fate with their Divine Master; and when most "speaking the words of truth and soberness" were most virulently derided as babblers and as fools Acts 26:24-25. And thus it is at the present hour. Every man who seeks to reclaim a world that lies in wickedness will be reproached and persecuted, and, generally speaking, will be persecuted in proportion to his fidelity.

Some however complied with his exhortations—

Among the tribes of Judah and Benjamin there was a great unanimity in turning to the Lord, because "the hand of God was with them, to give them" an obedient heart. And from among the tribes of Israel also many "humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem." These kept the feast with great joy and gladness verse 21; yes, so did they delight in the pious work, that when they had fulfilled the week which God had appointed for the celebration of the feast, they were anxious of themselves to continue it another week verse 23, notwithstanding the protracting of the period interfered with the pressing engagements of the harvest. Say whether this was not a rich compensation to Hezekiah for all the ridicule which the despisers of his piety had cast upon him? Yes, if one soul be of more value than the whole world, no doubt but that the welfare of so many souls was in his eyes an abundant recompense for all his toil and labor.

That we may not confine our thoughts to the events of that day, but may render them profitable to our own souls, I shall consider myself as a messenger sent on a similar occasion to you, not from an earthly monarch, but from the King of kings—

You would I call to keep a passover unto the Lord: for "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." O consider the benefits you derive from his blood sprinkled on your souls!: Think of yourselves as the very first-born whom he has redeemed unto God, and who are Lord's peculiar portion: Think how grievously this mystery has been neglected by you and by all around you: And how manifest is his indignation against the despisers of his love and mercy! See, and tell me, are not the great mass around you enslaved by sin, and carried captive by the devil at his will?: Have not you yourselves too much reason to fear his displeasure on account of your multiplied iniquities? Turn then unto him in penitence and prayer; yes, turn unto him with your whole hearts. I would urge this by every consideration that is proper to influence the human mind. Think how gracious your Redeemer is, and ready both to receive you to mercy, and to deliver you out of the hands of your spiritual enemies: Think too how awful will be the consequence of continuing to rebel against him: "Be no longer stiff-necked," but turn to him, and "yield yourselves entirely to him." "This is your reasonable service Romans 12:1;" and if ungodly men deride and mock your piety, let it suffice you that you shall at least have the approbation of your God.

And to you who have influence let me say, Exert that influence in behalf of all to whom it can extend. Use it abroad as well as at home; among enemies, as well as friends. Seek to recover the dispersed of Israel and of Judah to the service of their God, that they may participate with you the mercies purchased for them by the blood of the Paschal Lamb.

 

 

2 Chronicles 30:18-20

 

DISCOURSE 425

GOD'S CONDESCENSION TO THE UPRIGHT

2 Chronicles. 30:18-20. Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.

HERE is the fruit of holy zeal. Not a month had Hezekiah been invested with royal authority, before he set himself to repair the evils which had been committed by his father Ahaz. Almost incredible were the abominations which had been wrought by that wicked prince, "destroying the vessels of the sanctuary, and shutting up the very doors of the temple, and erecting altars in every corner of Jerusalem 2 Chronicles. 28:2-4; 2 Chronicles. 28:24;" and now Hezekiah, his son, gave orders for the re-opening of the temple, and sanctifying it afresh in all its parts: and in the short space of eight days it was accomplished. He then determined to keep the Passover, which had been neglected and suspended for many years: and, not content with summoning his own subjects to observe that blessed ordinance, he sent messengers to all the ten tribes of Israel, to invite them to unite with him in the observance of it. The greater part of that apostate nation poured contempt upon his message: but a large number yielded to his entreaties, and came to join in that divine service. God had appointed, that, if any, by being on a journey, or sick, were incapacitated to attend that ordinance on the fourteenth day of the first month, he might come with the same acceptance on the fourteenth day of the second month. Of this concession Hezekiah availed himself, to bring together as many as possible from among the ten tribes, as well as of his own subjects. But multitudes from among the ten tribes, being called so suddenly, had not time to sanctify themselves from the pollutions which they had contracted: and no alternative was left them, but to serve God in a less acceptable manner, or to neglect his service altogether. To the former they were encouraged by King Hezekiah: but, perceiving God was offended with them for coming in so unfit a way, he prayed to God for them, that his judgments might be removed from them, and that they might be restored to the divine favor. This prayer was heard and answered; and the answer given to it will afford me a fit occasion to consider,

I. The leading features of this history—

They are two:

1. The jealousy of God respecting his own ordinances and appointments—

It was ordained by God that none who were, by whatever means, in a state of ceremonial impurity, should eat of the paschal feast. But from the suddenness of the invitation given to those of the ten tribes, it happened that many were ceremonially unclean. This was ascertained after they had come up to Jerusalem: and, as this was the second month, no other opportunity would be afforded them to celebrate that ordinance for nearly a whole year; so that they must either be sent back to their own country, under a state of grievous disappointment, or be admitted without a suitable preparation. The latter was the alternative adopted: and God, in some way not known to us, but fully known to Hezekiah and the people themselves, expressed his displeasure against them on account of it God executed judgment on the Philistines who had taken captive the ark (1 Samuel 5:6-12.): and similar judgments were inflicted on the Church at Corinth, for an irreverent attendance on the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:30). And this he did, in order to show, that no man can be justified in the commission of presumptuous sin; and that no ordinance of his should ever be willfully violated by any man with impunity. (I apprehend that Hezekiah erred in not consulting Jehovah, as Moses and others had done, to obtain specific directions in this emergency.) It was no excuse to say, that this was a mere ceremonial enactment: it was ordained of God; and that was sufficient: for the history of all former ages had proved, beyond a possibility of doubt, that it was at the peril of man to violate, knowingly, any, even the least, of God's commandments. It was but a positive injunction (not a moral one) that Adam in Paradise Genesis 2:17, and that the Sabbath-breaker (who was stoned for his offence) Numbers 15:32-36, transgressed; and that Uzzah also, who was struck dead upon the spot, presumed to violate 1 Chronicles 15:13. These instances abundantly demonstrated the evil and danger of departing from any ordinance of God, however trifling that ordinance might be thought. And we have the very same intimation given to us under the Christian dispensation: for our blessed Lord has left it as his unalterable determination, that "whoever shall break one of the least of God's commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven Matthew 5:19," that is, be accounted the furthest from it. We must never, therefore, consider any commandment of God as small: for, whatever it may be, his authority is vested in it; and it must be obeyed at the peril of our souls James 2:10-11. If ever there was an occasion on which an ordinance of God might be overlooked, methinks, it was that very occasion to which my text refers: but if that could not be, without bringing on the transgressors the divine displeasure, much less can any be overlooked at this day, when only two ordinances, together with the Sabbath, are left for our observance.

2. The condescension of God towards the upright, under their manifold short-comings and defects—

The persons had really "set their hearts to seek God, the Lord God of their fathers, though they were not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." Though, therefore, God showed that this was no excuse for their transgression, he heard the prayer of Hezekiah in their behalf, and healed them, precisely as he healed Abimelech and his domestics, when the general integrity of the offender was made known Genesis 20:17-18. Thus does God show, that he is "not extreme to mark what is done amiss;" for, if he were, "who could ever stand before him?" Our blessed Lord apologized for his disciples at the very time that they were guilty of most criminal neglect: "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak!" And the same tender regard he will show to us also, under our manifold infirmities. He knows, that, though "the spirit lusts against the flesh, the flesh still continues to lust against the spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would Galatians 5:17;" and that, even when "we delight in the Law of God after our inward man," there is yet a law in our members warring against the law in our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members; so that even the best of men are often constrained to cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me Romans 7:22-24." Were we "to regard iniquity in our hearts, no prayer, whether of others or of our own, would be accepted by the Lord Psalm 66:18." "The retaining of even a right hand or a right eye," with deliberate determination, would exclude us from all hope of his favor Mark 9:43-48; but, if we be really upright before him, and with sincerity of heart bemoan our defects, "he will be our Advocate with the Father, and approve himself to us as the atoning sacrifice for our sins 1 John 2:1." He is appointed of God to "bear the iniquity of our holy things Exodus 28:38;" and he will so bear it, that, if mourned over and resisted, it shall never prevent our ultimate acceptance before God.

These being the principal features of the history, I proceed to notice,

II. The leading instructions to be derived from it—

I will here confine myself to two:

1. That we are not to confide in duties, because we perform them as well as we can—

The Israelites on this occasion did what they could: but this did not justify them before God. And, for argument sake, I will suppose that we also, in our respective spheres, have done the same. Still I must say, that, if this were the case, "we are only unprofitable servants," and have nothing to boast of in the sight of our Divine Master. But who, I would ask, has done as well as he could? The paschal feast, which commemorated the redemption of Israel from Egypt, typified our redemption from a far sorer bondage, by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: as the Apostle says, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. If this were a Sacrament Sermon, or for Easter-day, the appropriate hint here given should be somewhat amplified." Inquire then, I pray you, whether, in remembering this stupendous mercy, at the Lord's Supper, or at the period of our annual commemoration of it, or in the daily habit of your minds, you have been so careful to purge out all the old leaven of your corrupt nature, that, when inspected by the eye of the heart-searching God, you will be found "cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." Who must not shrink back from such an examination as this? Who can ever stand such a test as this? And, if we cannot, what remains for us, but shame and confusion of face in the presence of a holy God? If even holy Job could not endure such a scrutiny, if not even he could answer God for "one action of a thousand," and was constrained to acknowledge, that, "if he were to justify himself, his own mouth would condemn him Job 9:2; Job 9:20," assuredly nothing is left for us but, with the convicted leper, to put our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, crying, "Unclean, unclean Leviticus 13:45." Let me, then, affectionately guard you, my Brethren, against "trusting in yourselves as righteous," because of your diligence in any duties whatever. Do not mistake me; I would not decry diligence in duties: on the contrary, I would that every one among us were as diligent and abundant in them as ever the Apostle Paul was: but if we place any dependence on them before God, we totally destroy all their value, and render our very obedience a stumbling-block, over which we shall fall to our eternal condemnation. If we possessed all the righteousness of the Apostle Paul, we must renounce it all in point of dependence, and "seek to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, but his Philippians. 3:9."

2. Not to be discouraged from duties, because we cannot perform them so well as we would—

A truly pious man can be satisfied with nothing short of absolute perfection. But this is no reason that he should be discouraged in, and still less be diverted from, the path of duty. If God himself "do not despise the day of small things," much less should we Zechariah 4:10. Under the Law, it was forbidden to offer to the Lord, honey, or leaven, or any beast that was mutilated: yet, as a votive-offering, every one of them might be presented with acceptance See Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 22:23; Leviticus 23:17. This shows how God will condescend to the infirmities of those who endeavor to honor him according to their power. A burnt-offering, of whatever kind it were, must be perfect; because it could not otherwise atone for sin, or shadow forth the Savior, who was to die for the sins of the whole world: but, as a voluntary offering, its imperfections were overlooked; and the offerer was accepted of the Lord. Know you, then, Brethren, that, as where persons had not a lamb to offer, God accepted "two turtle-doves or young pigeons," and even a small portion of meal Leviticus 5:7; Leviticus 5:11, so will he receive at your hands the imperfect services you present, "accepting them according to what you have, and not according to what you have not 2 Corinthians 8:12." A clear distinction is to be made by you between the sins of infirmity, which still cleave to the most pious soul, and those which were committed in an unregenerate state with the full consent of his will. Respecting a person under the influence of the latter, Christ says, "If I wash you not, you have no part with me:" but respecting one that, in despite of all his exertions, is overtaken with the former, he says, "He who is washed, needs not, save to wash his feet; but is clean every whit:" that is, a man who has been bathing, does not need again the same total immersion which he has just recently experienced; but, however few his steps have been from the bath, he has contracted some defilement, from which he requires a fresh ablution. Thus a saint, that has been washed in "the Fountain opened for sin and for impurity," is cleansed, in a general view, from all his guilt: but, from his remaining infirmities, every step he takes in this corrupt world will more or less defile him: and if he habitually apply to himself the blood of Christ for that end, and cry to God for pardon in the Savior's name, he shall be regarded as pure in the sight of God, and shall to all eternity be accepted of him.

APPLICATION—

Thus, then, you see, Brethren, the just medium between presumption and despondency. You are no more to trifle with sin than if there were no mercy attainable by transgressors; and, on the other hand, you are no more to despair of mercy than if no judgment whatever had been at any time denounced against transgressors. Your faith must never so prevail as to exclude fear; nor is your fear ever to reign so as to prevent the exercise of faith. In the whole of your deportment, you are ever to keep in combined exercise, confidence with humility, and vigilance with composure.

 

 

2 Chronicles 30:22-23

 

DISCOURSE 426

DELIGHT IN ORDINANCE

2 Chronicles. 30:22-23. They did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace-offerings, and making confession to the Lord God of their fathers. And the whole assembly took counsel to keep other seven days: and they kept other seven days with gladness.

IN this chapter, and in that which precedes it, we are informed that Hezekiah, as soon as he came to the throne, set himself to repair the temple, which during the reign of his father Ahaz had been greatly neglected, and to restore the worship of Jehovah, which had been utterly superseded by the worship of idols. He lost no time in sanctifying the vessels which had been desecrated and defiled: and he appointed a feast unto the Lord, to be observed by all his people.

Now here we have,

I. A most valuable record—

That we may view it in all its parts, let us distinctly notice,

1. The feast appointed—

It was the Passover, and the feast of unleavened bread which was invariably connected with it. The feast of Passover commemorated the redemption of Israel from Egypt; and the feast of unleavened bread intimated the holiness which became the people who had been so redeemed. But the time for observing these feasts was past. The Passover should have been killed on the fourteenth day of the first month Exodus 12:6; and on the same day, at even, should the feast of unleavened bread have commenced Exodus 12:18; but it was not practical to get the temple ready by that time; and therefore Hezekiah applied to the nation at large the liberty conceded to individuals; in case they were incapacitated for the observance of the feast at the proper time, to observe it in the second month verse 1–4 with Numbers 9:10-11. Even this delay was not sufficient for all who were desirous of observing the feast; so that many came up to it without that measure of purification which the law required: and it was only in answer to Hezekiah's prayer that this violation of the law was pardoned verse 17–20. But the zeal of Hezekiah was truly commendable. Indeed, he was not satisfied with summoning his own subjects to the feast: he sought to bring also his brethren of the ten tribes to a participation of the same holy exercises and heavenly enjoyments: and, though "his messengers were laughed to scorn" and mocked by many, there were many who accepted his invitation, and availed themselves of the opportunity afforded them of serving and honoring "the Lord God of their fathers verse 10."

2. The observance of it—

A spirit of piety prevailed to a very great extent: all, king, princes, priests and people, seemed to vie with each other in their endeavors to exalt and honor God: and in their services we behold that which gives to every service its highest value—a due mixture of humiliation with their gratitude and joy: "they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace-offerings, and making confession to the Lord God of their fathers verse 22." This is a point deserving of most especial notice. Humility is the characteristic feature of the worship in Heaven: for all, whether saints or angels, fall upon their faces before the throne, while with united voices they sing praise to God and to the Lamb Revelation 5:8; Revelation 7:11. Such was the worship of all the assembly at this time; and it was productive of the most exalted joy verse 26; for every prayer they offered entered into the ears of the Lord of hosts, and descended in blessings on the heads of those who offered it verse 27.

3. Its continuance—

According to the original institution, the feast was to last but seven days: but so full of joy were their souls, that the whole assembly took counsel, after the example of Solomon, to protract it seven more days verse 23 with 1 Kings 8:65. And not only did Hezekiah and the princes concur in this proposal, but, by their extraordinary liberality, they enabled the congregation to carry it into effect: for Hezekiah gave them one thousand bullocks and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave one thousand bullocks and ten thousand sheep. During the whole of this time, even fourteen days, were the same holy exercises continued, none grudging the time that was lost to their worldly occupations, or becoming weary of an employment so foreign to their former habits.

And who does not see in all this,

II. A most instructive lesson?—

Surely here is a lesson,

1. To the higher ranks of society—

Behold the king and the princes exerting all their influence to diffuse throughout the land a spirit of piety; and not in their own land only, but throughout a nation that was hostile to them 2 Chronicles. 28:6; 2 Chronicles. 28:8. What an example was here to all, however exalted their rank, or powerful their authority! And can wealth or power be better employed than in such acts as these? But let it not be supposed that this example is instructive to kings and princes only: whatever be the measure of our property or influence, our obligation to improve them for the diffusion of religion is still the same; and our liberality should be "according to our power," whether it be more or less. True, indeed, if we engage with holy zeal in the service of our God, we may expect that an ungodly world will "laugh us to scorn and mock us." But we should rise superior to such treatment, and rejoice that we are "counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's sake." Our only thought should be, How we may honor God: and, if only He be glorified, we should not regard any sacrifice which we may be called to make for so desirable an end.

2. To the community at large—

Here we see how we should perform our religious duties. Not that it would be advisable for us to protract them to an inconvenient length; or to neglect our worldly callings, for the sake of prosecuting beyond reasonable bounds the services in which we are engaged. There is a season for everything; and every duty should be attended to in its season. We are to labor six days, so far as the necessities of ourselves and our families may require it, and to rest on the Sabbath-day: but we may, and must, carry the spirit of religion into everything, and in that sense protract our religious services to the latest hour of our lives. Nor should we grudge a reasonable portion of our time to religious ordinances, whether public or private. Beyond all doubt, we should consecrate a portion of every day to the immediate service of our God; and be willing, also, to it: but it is the service of the heart which God now chiefly requires; and that can never be carried to excess. We must, however, especially take care to combine with every service a due measure of penitential sorrow. We must never for a moment forget that we are sinners; nor ever offer to God any sacrifice of which penitential sorrow does not form a very essential part.

And now, what shall I say to you, my Brethren? Would to God that I could see you all in the very frame in which the whole people of Israel were on this occasion! And is there not abundant reason for it? Is not the restoration of divine ordinances, after so long a suspension of them, a blessing? Above all, Is not "Christ our Passover sacrificed for us? and is not this a call to keep the feast?" Let us, then, "keep it, not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Then may you hope, that "your joy, like Israel's, shall be full;" and shall be not only a preparation for future blessedness, but also a pledge of Heaven in your souls.

 

2 Chronicles 31:20-21

 

DISCOURSE 427

HEZEKIAH'S CHARACTER

2 Chronicles. 31:20-21. Thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

RELIGION, when set before us in the precept, is thought impracticable: but, when it is embodied in the life of some eminent saint, it commends itself to us as in the highest degree estimable, and its yoke appears to us both light and easy. In a person like Hezekiah, at the early age of twenty-five, (when the mind is too generally carried away by thoughtless gaiety,) presiding over a kingdom, with all possible means of sensual gratification at his command, it does indeed approve itself to us as lovely, and as worthy to be cultivated by every child of man. For the purpose of elevating your souls to the pursuit of it, I will propose to your consideration,

I. The character of Hezekiah as here drawn—

Many of the saints were eminently distinguished above their brethren by some peculiar grace, which they exercised in an extraordinary degree. Hezekiah excelled in faith: "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him 2 Kings 18:5." But in the passage before us, his character is drawn more at large. We behold,

1. The objects of his attention—

Placed at the head of an empire, he labored to promote the benefit of his subjects by a wise and just administration of his government. But his views were not confined to objects of temporal importance merely: he sought to repair the mischiefs of his father's reign, and to bring back his people to the knowledge and enjoyment of the only true God. He neglected not what was politically "good and right and true:" but he also strove to accomplish whatever was "good and right and truth before the Lord his God." The Passover, which had been instituted to commemorate the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and had been ordained of God to be observed every year at an appointed time, had long been neglected. He therefore called the priests and Levites to the performance of their duty 2 Chronicles. 29:4-5; he ordered them to sanctify the house of God, which had been profaned by all manner of abominations 2 Chronicles. 29:15-16, and to prepare all the offerings which were necessary for the occasion; he himself setting them an example by a most munificent contribution of cattle for that end 2 Chronicles. 30:24. Nor was he content with effecting this among his own people. He exerted his influence to bring also the ten tribes of Israel, over whom he had no control, to a sense of their duty, and to a concurrence with him in this holy work. In a word, he considered himself as a servant of the Most High God; and for the advancement of his glory he exerted all the influence which his high station gave him.

2. The manner of his exertion—

This is particularly specified; and, indeed, it deserves especial notice: "in every work that he began, he did it with all his heart." He did not satisfy himself with giving commands to others: he himself led the way, and enforced, by his example, the precepts which he issued. In the very first month after his coming to the throne of Judah, he set to work with all his might: and in the second month, the fourteenth day of the month, all was ready for the observance of the ordinance: and though his zeal brought upon him much obloquy and contempt from ungodly men 2 Chronicles. 30:10, he persevered with undiminished ardor, and kept such a Passover as had not been seen from the time of Solomon to that day 2 Chronicles. 30:26. It was in this way that "he began" the work of the Lord: and in this blessed course did he continue to the end of life. In fact, it was his zeal for the service of God which caused him to weep so bitterly, when he was informed by the prophet that the time was come for him to die 2 Kings 20:1-3. It was not that he was afraid of death: for he could "appeal to God that he had walked before him in truth and with a perfect heart:" but he saw that the reformation which he had begun was likely to be stopped as soon as he should be removed; and therefore he implored a prolongation of his term on earth, that he might consolidate and complete the work he had begun.

3. The issue of his labors—

In my text we are told, "he prospered." The kingdom, when he first assumed the reins of government, was in a most desolate condition; subjected, in fact, to the Assyrian monarch 2 Chronicles. 29:8; from whose power, however, he delivered it 2 Kings 18:7; and, from being grievously impoverished, he raised it to a high degree of wealth and power 2 Chronicles. 32:27-30. The moral change effected in it was most remarkable: at the time of his father's death, the land was wholly given to idolatry and all its attendant abominations: but in a short time, through God's blessing on his endeavors, all the vestiges of idolatry were swept away, not only from his own dominions, but from the tribes of Ephraim also and Manasseh, who were independent of him.

Having viewed the character here drawn, let us contemplate,

II. The instruction to be gathered from it—

Surely we may learn from hence,

1. The extent of our duty—

All of us should, doubtless, be peculiarly attentive to the offices to which, in our respective stations, we are called. From the king upon the throne, to the lowest subject in his dominions, this is required. As in the natural body, so also in the body politic, all, from the head to the foot, have their proper functions, which it becomes them diligently to discharge. But all, without exception, are bound, in the first instance, to serve their God, and to do whatever is good and right and true in his sight. "Whatever things are true," says the Apostle, "whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things Philippians. 4:8." Nor should our efforts terminate on ourselves: we should seek the best interests of all around us; and labor especially to bring them to the knowledge and enjoyment of their God. As Hezekiah called his people to the observance of the Passover, so should we endeavor to call men's attention to the Gospel, and to "Christ as our Passover that has been sacrificed for us." Never can influence be used for a more beneficial end than this: and every one of us, according to the measure of influence that he possesses, is bound to exert it in this way for the Lord his God.

2. The proper mode of engaging in it—

"Whatever our hand finds to do, we should do it with all our might Ecclesiastes 9:10." It is not by listless endeavors that we can hope to succeed: we must "strive for the mastery," if we would overcome our corruptions; and "fight a good fight," if we would subdue our enemies; and "run, as in a race," if we would obtain the prize that is held forth to us in the Gospel. All of these images imply the most strenuous exertion in the Christian life. Nor will it suffice to "begin" well: we must go on, and continue to the end, if we would secure the approbation of our God Galatians 6:9.

3. The certain issue of our endeavors—

Never did any one thus labor, without obtaining a successful issue. To those who strive to do the whole will of God, and prosecute their object with their whole heart, a failure is impossible. They must "prosper:" God will never suffer such persons to run in vain, and "labor in vain 1 Corinthians 15:58." As far as respects the benefitting of others, he may not indeed attain all he proposes to himself: but as far as respects his own soul, he cannot but flourish: he will necessarily grow in grace: "his peace also will flow down like a river:" "his joy will become unspeakable and glorified;" and his weight of glory will be in proportion to his attainments and his services.

Reflections—

1. How rare is this character!

Persons attending to their worldly callings, and prosecuting them with their whole hearts, and prospering in them, are to be found in every place. But where do we find persons laboring thus in spiritual things, and making "their profiting to appear unto all?" Look at the generality, and you behold no progress in them from year to year: and even among those whom, in the judgment of charity, we should call believers, there is, alas! far less of holy zeal and spiritual advancement than their profession requires.

2. How honorable is this character!

Let a person be really zealous for the Lord his God, and profane sinners will be sure to mock and deride him, as they did Hezekiah and his agents. But still they will honor him in their hearts, even as "Herod feared John," at the very time that he consigned him to prison and to death. But if not, still, at his departure, his loss will be felt and mourned as a public calamity. The Jews built the sepulchers of departed prophets, at the time that they persecuted and put to death the living ones. And it is no uncommon thing, in this day, to behold a repetition of that farce. As for the honor itself, it is of no value to the saints, whether dead or living: but it is a testimony for God, that his servants are indeed "worthy of all honor," and that "the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor."

3. How blessed is this character!

Compare Hezekiah with his father Ahaz, or his son Manasseh. They possessed the kingdom, even as he: but how differently did they exert their influence! They lived but for the gratification of their own malignant passions; whereas he lived only for the welfare of his people, and the honor of his God. And can any one doubt which of them was the happiest? Hear the mournings of Manasseh, and they will satisfy your mind: or, if you could now behold the state of Ahaz, it would leave no doubt who is the happier man—he who lives for God, or he who lives only for himself.

 

 

2 Chronicles 32:26

 

DISCOURSE 428

HUMILIATION FOR THE SIN OF THE HEART

2 Chronicles. 32:26. Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart.

THE best of men are liable to fall through temptation, but they will deeply bewail any sin into which they have been betrayed. Hezekiah was a man of very distinguished piety 2 Kings 20:3; but he was not sufficiently aware, that his integrity was the effect of divine grace, and not of human power. God therefore left him for a moment to the influence of his own heart verse 31. In consequence of this he soon gave a proof of his inherent depravity; but, on discovering his sin, he instantly humbled himself for it before God.

We shall show,

I. What were the grounds of Hezekiah's humiliation—

The sin committed by him does not in human estimation appear great—

The princes of Babylon sent to congratulate him on his recovery: he received them with all the kindness and courtesy that he could express, and showed them "everything in his dominions" that could afford them entertainment 2 Kings 20:13.

But his conduct was exceeding sinful in the sight of God; for in it,

1. He sought his own glory—

Hezekiah evidently thought of nothing else at that time. He wished to show how great a man he was, in order that his alliance might be courted, and his power feared. Now this would have been highly criminal in any man Proverbs 25:27, but it was especially so in him, at that particular juncture. He had just been at the borders of the grave; and therefore should have been more impressed with the vanity of earthly grandeur, and should have seen the folly and wickedness of priding himself in things so empty, so worthless, so transient.

2. He sought his own glory in preference to God's honor—

He had now a happy opportunity of magnifying the God of Israel. He might have told the ambassadors, what God had done for his nation in former times; he might have recited the wonderful restoration which God had at this time afforded to himself in particular, together with the stupendous miracle with which the promise of that recovery had been confirmed 2 Kings 20:11. It is worthy of remark, that the ambassadors were sent on purpose to inquire into the miracle wrought in the land in making the sun go back ten degrees. His neglect therefore win the more sinful. 2 Chronicles. 32:31; he might have commended Jehovah as an answerer of prayer 2 Kings 20:4-5; and in this way have exalted him above all the gods of the heathen; and surely the mercies that had been given unto him, demanded such a tribute: but he was pitifully occupied about self, and basely preferred his own honor before God's.

3. He sought his own glory before the good of his friends—

The ambassadors were showing great kindness to him: he should therefore have recompensed them in the best way. He should have instructed them in the knowledge of the God of Israel, and have told them how willing he was to become their God; thus, perhaps, he might have converted and saved their souls, and have spread the knowledge of the true God in Babylon; yes, eventually, he might have been instrumental to the salvation of thousands. But he utterly forgot the necessities of their souls, and was offering incense to his own vanity, when he should have been promoting their eternal welfare.

This was his sin; and God denounced a heavy judgment against him on account of it—

His riches were all to be taken away by the Chaldeans, his own children were to be made eunuchs in the king of Babylon's palace, and the whole nation to be led into a miserable captivity.

But, if his offence was great, his humiliation also was remarkable—

He heard with trembling the judgments which God threatened to execute. Instead of palliating his sin, he acknowledged at once the justice of the Deity in inflicting such a punishment on account of it: in concert with all his subjects, he implored forgiveness at God's hands; and, having obtained a respite of the sentence, meekly, and even thankfully, acquiesced in the determinations of Heaven Isaiah 39:8.

While we see in him much to shun, and much to imitate, let us show,

II. What grounds there are for similar humiliation among us—

Pride is deeply rooted in the heart of fallen man. We are prone to be lifted up on every occasion—

We are vain of any natural endowments of body or mind. The strong displays his strength; the beautiful, her beauty. A penetrating mind, or tenacious memory, are made grounds of self-admiration, and self-preference. Any acquired distinctions also become food for our vanity: the man of wealth, of honor, or of power, assumes a consequence from his elevation, and demands from others a homage as his due; the proficient in any are or science courts applause, and delights to have his talents admired. Even the gifts of grace, through the depravity of our nature, become occasions of pride: not only an ability to speak or pray with fluency, but even an insight into the corruption of the heart, is often exhibited more for the purpose of attracting admiration than of doing good. Whatever we have that elevates us a little above our fellow-creatures, our proud hearts are fond of displaying it, and pleased with the flattering attentions which it procures for us.

We indulge the disposition too to the neglect of God's honor, and of the eternal welfare of those around us—

How many glorious opportunities have we of speaking for God! What grounds of praising him might we find in the sacred records!: especially the wonders of redeeming love!: How many too might we find in our own experience! And what unspeakable benefit might arise to mankind, if we carefully improved these opportunities! But how rarely is our fellowship with each other made subservient to these ends! We for the most part waste our time in flattering attentions and unprofitable civilities, and are as intent on gratifying the vanity of ourselves or others, as if our social converse were capable of no better improvement.

How much then do we need to imitate Hezekiah's humiliation!

However innocent we may think such conduct, it is highly criminal in the sight of God; it renders us justly obnoxious to God's heaviest judgments Matthew 12:36-37. Should we not then humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes? Should not the forbearance he has exercised call forth our devoutest acknowledgments? And should we not adore his goodness even if he only delay to execute his threatened vengeance? Let us not attempt to palliate this common, but vile, iniquity, but rather unite in deprecating the wrath we have deserved.

Infer,

1. How watchful should we be against what are called little sins!

Hezekiah at first probably intended only to show civility to his friends; but through inattention to the motions of his heart, he fell into grievous sin, and brought on the whole nation the heaviest judgments. Let us learn then to mark the first risings of sin in our hearts; let us bear in mind how greatly we may offend God by a neglect of our duty: let us remember, too, that God notices and abhors sin in the heart, no less than when it is brought forth into open act; let us guard especially against the workings of pride and vain-glory: let us entreat him to sanctify our inward man 1 Thessalonians 5:23, and never to leave us to ourselves for one single moment.

2. How great is the efficacy of fervent prayer and intercession!

The judgment denounced against Hezekiah was to have been speedily inflicted; but he and Judah sought the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, and the Lord deferred the evil until the next generation. Thus will he do also in answer to our prayers. If we turned to him as a nation, he would prolong our national prosperity, and would blot out forever the personal guilt of every true penitent. Let us then humble ourselves for our abominations both of heart and life; so shall we find God as gracious unto us, as ever he was to his people of old.

 

 

2 Chronicles 32:31

 

DISCOURSE 429

THE WEAKNESS AND DEPRAVITY OF MAN

2 Chronicles. 32:31. God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

THERE is no character so excellent but there is some blot to be found in it. The most illustrious saints that ever lived, not only betrayed their weakness and sinfulness, but showed themselves defective in those very graces for which they were most eminent. We must not wonder therefore that Hezekiah, who was in some respects as distinguished a character as any that either preceded or followed him, became at last a monument of human frailty. It is probable that the peculiar manifestations of the divine favor towards him had excited an undue degree of self-delight in his mind: God therefore saw fit to try him, and, "in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who had sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land," (even of the shadow of the sun going backward ten degrees on the sun-dial of Ahaz,) "left him" to the natural workings of his own heart. The consequence was such as might be apprehended; he gave way to pride and vanity, and brought on himself the divine displeasure.

The words which we have read, will naturally lead us to observe, that,

I. Until we are tried, we have very little idea of the evil of our hearts—

Though we feel no difficulty in admitting that we are sinners, yet we can by no means acknowledge the truth of the representations given of us in the Scriptures. If we were told that we are all by nature haters both of God Romans 1:30; Romans 8:7. and man Titus 3:3, we should consider it as a libel upon human nature. When we read the history of the Jews, we are ready to think that they were incomparably more perverse than we should ever be: though if we had been in their situation, there is no reason at all to believe that we should have shown ourselves in any respect more obedient than they. If we have never fallen into any gross sin, we imagine that our moral conduct has arisen from the superior goodness of our hearts; and we suppose that we have no disposition to those iniquities which are practiced by others. We are not aware, that, if we had been subjected to the same trials as others, we should probably have fallen like them. How was Hazael shocked when he was told what enormities he would commit! "Is your servant a dog, that he should commit this thing 2 Kings 8:12-13." Yet, no sooner was he tried, than he did commit all the enormities that had been foretold. And we, if told, that one of us would become a thief, another an adulterer, and another a murderer, should revolt at the idea. as though we were not capable of such atrocious wickedness: but the more we know of our own hearts, the more we shall be ready to say with David, "My heart shows me the wickedness of the ungodly Psalm 36:1. The Prayer-book Translation. See also Mark 7:21-23 and Jeremiah 17:9," yes, it is an epitome of all the wickedness that is committed upon earth.

It becomes us to deprecate temptation; since,

II. If left to ourselves, we shall soon give some awful proof of our depravity—

That any persons are preserved from great enormities is owing to the providence and the grace of God. It has pleased God to encompass them, so that they should be screened from any violent temptation; or else he has endued them with a more abundant measure of his grace, whereby they have been enabled to withstand the tempter. Who that sees how others have fallen, will ascribe his own steadfastness to an arm of flesh? We need only set before us those deplorable monuments of human depravity, David, Solomon, and Peter, and we shall need nothing more to enforce that admonition, "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall These instances should be opened separately, and at some length.": We perhaps may have maintained a good conduct for a considerable time: but can we not look back to some moment wherein we have been left to follow the bent of our own corrupt hearts? We must be lamentably ignorant of what has passed within us, if we have not long since learned our need to use that prayer, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe."

Yet we must not view such proofs of depravity merely as insulated and detached acts: for,

III. One single act of wickedness, if duly considered, will serve as a clue to find out all the iniquity of our hearts—

God did not design to show Hezekiah one imperfection only, but "all that was in his heart The text may mean, that God left Hezekiah in order that he, namely God, might know all that was in his heart. See Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 13:2-3. But the sense given to the words seems preferable;" and his fall was well calculated to give him this knowledge; for in it he might see, not only his pride and creature-confidence, but his ingratitude for the mercies he had received, his unconcern about the souls of those who came to visit him, his indifference about the honor of his God, and innumerable other evils which were comprehended in his sin If, as is thought, the Babylonians who came to inquire into the miracle of the sun's retrograde motion were worshipers of the sun, what an opportunity had Hezekiah to tell them about Jehovah, who created that sun, and could continue or alter its course at his pleasure!. Thus, if we will take any one sin of our lives, and make use of it as a light to search the dark corners of our hearts, we shall find out a most astonishing mass of wickedness that has hitherto escaped our observation. Take, for instance, any single act of pride, wrath, lewdness, covetousness, or even deadness in prayer, what a scene will it open to our view! what unmindfulness of the divine presence! what unconcern about our own souls! what preferring of carnal ease or worldly vanities to the happiness and glory of Heaven! what contempt of that adorable Savior who shed his blood for us! Alas! alas! we should never come to an end, if we should attempt to declare all the evil which by such a scrutiny we might discover.

This then we would most earnestly recommend as the means of becoming acquainted with our hearts: let us not consider any sin as though it were unconnected with any other; but rather regard every sin as a fruit of an immense tree, or as a little stream flowing from an inexhaustible fountain.

From this dereliction of Hezekiah, and his fall consequent upon it, we may further learn,

1. Thankfulness to God for the preservation we have experienced—

None of us have perpetrated one thousandth part of the iniquity which we should have been guilty of, if God had not restrained us by his providence and grace. Let us not then "sacrifice to our own net, or burn incense to our own drag." Let us rather acknowledge, that by the grace of God we are what we are, and say, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise." And let our dependence be altogether on God, that he who has kept us hitherto, will "preserve us unto his heavenly kingdom."

2. Tenderness and compassion towards those who have fallen—

We are apt to look on a fallen brother with indignation and contempt: but if we considered more attentively our own extreme sinfulness, and how often we should have fallen if outward temptations had concurred sufficiently with our inward dispositions, we shall find less readiness to cast a stone at others: we shall rather see our own picture in their depravity, and extend that compassion to them which in similar circumstances we should desire to meet with at their hands.

3. Vigilance against the assaults of our great adversary—

Satan combines in himself the subtlety of a serpent, and the strength of a lion. Well therefore does the Apostle say to us, "Be sober, be vigilant." If we watch not against his assaults, we, in fact, tempt him to tempt us. Besides, we cannot expect that God should preserve us, if we do not endeavor to preserve ourselves. It will be to little purpose to pray that God will not lead us into temptation, if we presumptuously rush into it of our own accord. Let us then shun the occasions of sin: let us avoid the company, the amusements, the books, yes the very sights that may administer to sin. Let us commit ourselves continually to God's care and protection; and beg of him never to leave us or forsake us. In this way we may hope to experience his unremitting care, and to be "kept by his power through faith unto everlasting salvation."

 

 

2 Chronicles 33:10-13

 

DISCOURSE 430

MANASSEH'S REPENTANCE

2 Chronicles 33:10-13. And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken. Why the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.

IN histories written by men, our attention is continually directed to second causes; but in the inspired records we see every event traced up to the first Great Cause of all. The rise and fall of empires or of individuals are equally appointed of God for the accomplishment of his own gracious purposes, and for the manifestation of his own glory: and, however casual or contingent any circumstances may appear to be, they are as much under his control, and as certainly fulfill his will, as the stated courses of the heavenly bodies.

In confirmation of this, we need go no further than to the words before us; in which we see,

I. The means by which Manasseh was brought to repentance—

King Manasseh was perhaps the most wicked of the human race: he was piously educated; yet he totally eradicated from his own mind, and from the breasts of his people, all remembrance of the instructions which his father Hezekiah had given them. He consulted wizards, set up idols even in the house of God itself, made his children pass through fire to Moloch, and filled Jerusalem with the blood of innocents from one end to another. He acted himself, and caused all his people to act, worse than the heathen whom God had cast out for their impieties Compare 2 Kings 21 with the preceding part of this chapter.

To reclaim him God had sent many holy men and prophets to warn and exhort him: but "neither he nor his people would hearken unto them."

At last, determined to overcome him, and to make him an everlasting monument of grace and mercy. God stirred up the king of Assyria against him The king of Babylon, who on account of his having added Assyria to his dominions is called the king of Assyria, is said to have been "brought upon" Manasseh by God himself. And, however he might be actuated by ambition or avarice, he was certainly no more than an instrument by whom God himself acted. Compare Psalm 17:13 and Isaiah 10:5-6; Isaiah 10:15 with 2 Kings 24:2-4; and caused Manasseh to be vanquished, to be dragged from the thicket where he had secreted himself 1 Samuel 13:6, and to be carried a poor miserable captive in fetters to Babylon.

This prevailed, when all other means had been used in vain. And is it not by these means that God has often subdued, and yet subdues many stout-hearted sinners to himself 2 Samuel 24:10; 2 Samuel 24:17. How many perhaps among us must say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; for before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept your word Psalm 119:67; Psalm 119:71."

We are further informed concerning,

II. The way in which his repentance showed itself—

Affliction does not necessarily produce repentance. Ahaz trespassed yet more in his distress 2 Chronicles. 28:22; and the wicked in Hell, so far from being softened by their pains, blaspheme their God while they gnaw their tongues for anguish Revelation 16:10. But in him it was effectual, through the grace of God, to bring him to repentance. In his prosperity he was hardened Jeremiah 22:21, and would not hear Zechariah 7:11-12. Jeremiah 5:3; but "in his affliction he besought the Lord."

Two things more especially are noticed: "he humbled himself greatly;" and "he prayed unto God" earnestly. He called his ways to remembrance and confessed his guilt, and justified God in all that had come upon him, and in all that ever should come upon him, declaring it was far "less than his iniquities deserved." Then he poured out his soul in fervent prayer, "offering his supplications with strong crying and tears," and wrestling, as it were, with God, to obtain a blessing His prayer is repeatedly noticed, verse 18, 19. doubtless on account of its fervor.

Thus will repentance show itself, wherever it is found: whether we be brought to it by afflictions, or not; yes, whether we have committed such wickedness as Manasseh, or not; these will be the leading features of our experience, if we be truly penitent. The first mark of Paul's repentance was, "Behold, he prays!" and what his thoughts of himself were, we may judge from his calling himself "the chief of sinners." Inquire then, beloved Brethren, whether you have ever been brought to humble yourselves before God; and that not a little, but "greatly?" Inquire, whether your cries to God are humble, fervent, constant, believing? Consider, "that without repentance you must all perish;" and that this alone will warrant you to conclude your repentance genuine and "saving."

Its efficacy will appear from,

III. The blessed issue of it—

Horrible as his iniquities had been, they did not prevent his prayers from coming up with acceptance before God.

Behold the issue of this repentance, first, in respect to his temporal comfort! God restored him again to the possession of his kingdom. And it is certain that innumerable judgments would be removed from men, provided the offenders were duly humbled by means of them. We say not indeed that God will always remove the afflictions he has sent, even though we should be ever so much humbled under them; because he may see that the continuance of them is as necessary for our welfare as the first sending of them was: but he will convert them into blessings, and make them subservient to our best interests.

Next, observe the issue of his repentance in respect to his spiritual advantage. He neither knew God, nor concerned himself about him in the day of his prosperity: but now he "knew that Jehovah was God." He saw that he was a just and holy God, yes, a God of truth also, who sooner or later would punish sin. He felt that he was a powerful God, "able to abase those who walk in pride," and able also to deliver those whose situation was most desperate. Above all, he knew experimentally that God was a God of infinite mercy and compassion, since he had attended to his prayer, and given mercy to his guilty soul. Under this conviction he strove, to the latest hour of his life, to remedy all the evil he had ever done, and to glorify his God as much as he had before dishonored him.

And did ever any one repent, and not find his repentance issue in clearer manifestations of God's love to his soul, and in a richer experience of his power and grace? No: as long as the world stands, "God will comfort all that mourn in Zion, and give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

We may learn then from hence,

1. The importance of improving ordinances—

The contempt poured on God's messages was one principal mean of bringing down those judgments on Manasseh. And does not God speak to us by his ministers; and notice how we receive the word? And will not that "word be a savor of death unto us, if it be not a savor of life unto life?" Lay this to heart, all you who have heard the word in vain: and know that if you slight the message which God sends you by his ministers, he will consider you as pouring contempt upon himself 1 Thessalonians 4:8.

2. The use and benefit of afflictions—

Afflictions, of whatever kind they be, proceed from God; and are intended for our good Hosea 5:15. Hebrews 12:10. They have a voice, no less than his ministers; and it is our duty to "hear the rod, and Him that appointed it Mic. 6:9." Quarrel not then with any afflictions that may be sent you; but receive them as tokens of God's love, and as messengers of his mercy. What reason had Manasseh to adore his God for the loss of an empire, yes, for cruel captivity, for galling fetters, and a loathsome dungeon! Without them he had been now in chains of darkness and the prison of Hell. Your trials probably are no less necessary for your eternal welfare. Improve them then for the humbling of your soul, and for the furtherance of your everlasting salvation.

3. The wonderful mercy of our God—

Who would have thought that such a sinner as Manasseh could ever have obtained mercy? Yet God has pardoned him, and set him forth as a pattern, in order to magnify the exceeding riches of his own grace. Let none then despair. If we were as vile as Manasseh himself, we should go to God with an assurance that he would not cast us out, provided we were truly contrite, and sought for mercy through the blood of Jesus. On the other hand, let us not presume upon this mercy, and go on in sin under the hope that we shall at last repent and be saved. Today God calls us; tomorrow the door of mercy may be shut. The Lord grant that we may now repent like Manasseh, and henceforth like him devote ourselves entirely to the service of our God!

 

 

2 Chronicles 34:27

 

DISCOURSE 431

JOSIAH'S PENITENCE

2 Chronicles. 34:27. Because your heart was tender, and you did humble yourself before God, when you heard his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humble yourself before me, and did rend your clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard you also, says the Lord.

IT is scarcely to be conceived how great a benefit has arisen to the Christian cause from the invention of printing. The word of God is that whereby the work of salvation is principally carried on in the souls of men: and the multiplying of copies of the Holy Scriptures, in such a form as to be conveniently portable, and at such a price as to be within the reach of the poor, has tended more than any other thing to keep alive the interests of religion, both in the hearts of individuals, and in the community at large. If we look back to the condition of the Jews in the time of King Josiah, we shall find it truly deplorable. Through the influence of the two preceding kings, the very remembrance of God's law was almost obliterated from the minds of men. Every king was, by God's appointment, to copy it for himself Deuteronomy 17:18; yet not a copy of it was to be seen in the land: so that if God himself had not interposed in his providence to raise up to the Jews a pious king, and by him to bring back the people to some sense of their duty, it is probable that the whole nation would before long have been immersed in heathen darkness. From the traces of divine knowledge which yet remained by means of the temple and its furniture, and through the operation of God's Spirit on his soul, Josiah was induced to repair the temple, in order to the restoring of God's worship there: and Hilkiah the priest, while executing his orders, found a copy (perhaps the original copy) of the Law, which had been lost amidst the rubbish and ruins of the place. On hearing its contents, Josiah was filled with great anguish, and sent to Huldah the prophetess to know whether the judgments which God had denounced against that apostate nation might by any means be averted: in reply to which he was informed, that the calamities would surely come upon them; but that, in consideration of his penitence, the awful period should not arrive until he himself should be removed to a better world.

From the words before us we shall take occasion to show,

I. What state of mind the threatenings of God should produce in us—

The conduct of Josiah on this occasion will serve to guide our thoughts.

The threatenings of God should produce in us,

1. A fear of his judgments—

If men can puff "at God's judgments Psalm 10:5," it is because they have never considered how tremendous they are. Let any man once think seriously of "dwelling with everlasting burnings Isaiah 33:14. See also Mark 9:43-48 and Revelation 14:10-11," and we will defy him not to tremble, like Felix Acts 24:25. and Belshazzar Daniel 5:5-6. Josiah "rent his clothes" with horror, when he heard only of temporal calamities: how much more therefore ought we to fear, when we hear of the miseries that will be endured in "the lake that burns with fire and brimstone!"

2. A sorrow of heart for those sins against which his judgments are denounced—

We are ready to acknowledge, that they who have committed gross sins should mourn for their iniquities. But we should remember that the judgments of God are denounced also against pride, unbelief, impenitence, worldly-mindedness, and numberless other secret sins, which are overlooked, or even commended, by the world. For these therefore must we "weep, and humble ourselves before God," yes, and loath ourselves for them in dust and ashes.

3. A turning unto God in holy and unreserved obedience—

This is the true test of sincerity: fears and sorrows are of little avail, if they produce not a thorough change of heart and life. Josiah, from the first moment that he heard the threatenings of God, set himself to accomplish a national reformation, and prosecuted it with zeal to his dying-hour. Thus must we be zealous for our God. We must not pretend to be sorry for our sins, and still continue to live in them; but we must put away the accursed thing, whatever it be, and devote ourselves to God without reserve. It is he only who "confesses and forsakes his sins, that shall find mercy Proverbs 28:13."

To promote such a state of mind among, you, we proceed to show,

II. Its acceptableness to God—

The message sent to Josiah sufficiently marks this. God assured him that his prayer was heard in consideration of his penitence. But that such a state of mind is at all times acceptable to God, will more clearly appear, if we consider that,

1. By it all the perfections of God are glorified—

Repentance is often called "a giving glory to God Joshua 7:19. Jeremiah 13:16;" and the propriety of this expression is evident: for, exactly as the impenitent man pours contempt on all the divine perfections, setting at nothing the power and majesty, the justice and holiness, the love and mercy, the truth and faithfulness or God; so, on the contrary, the penitent brings glory to them all, inasmuch as he acknowledges his obnoxiousness to the divine displeasure, and his ardent desire to obtain an interest in the promises of the Gospel. If then God be concerned for his own glory, he cannot but be pleased with those who, in his appointed way, are laboring to advance it.

2. To it all the promises of God are made—

Many are the judgments denounced against the stout-hearted: but in all the inspired volume there is not one word to "break a bruised reed." On the contrary, the weary and heavy-laden are invited to come to Christ without any distinction on account of the particular sins with which they are burdened. God assures the contrite soul, while it is yet trembling at his word, that he will look upon it with peculiar pleasure and delight Isaiah 66:2; and that though a man's conduct may have been such as to fix indelible disgrace upon him in the world, God will never despise him, provided he be of a broken and contrite spirit Psalm 51:17. Not even the transient humiliation of Ahab was suffered to pass without some favorable regard 1 Kings 21:29; much less shall that be overlooked which is sincere and permanent Psalm 34:18. It is indeed not for any merit that there is in our repentance, but for the merits of Jesus Christ, that we shall find acceptance: nevertheless all true penitents, and none other, shall be saved by him.

Infer,

1. How desirable is it to be well acquainted with the Holy Scriptures!

The word of God denounces vengeance against many characters that are thought innocent among men: nor will our ignorance of these threatenings avert or delay the execution of them. Let us then study the sacred oracles with an express reference to ourselves, that we may know what God says in them respecting us. Perhaps we may find many passages, which, when applied to our hearts, will give us just occasion to mourn like the pious monarch before us. Better were it far to know the full extent of our guilt, and thereby to be stimulated to repentance, than through ignorance of our state to continue impenitent, until the wrath of God shall come upon us to the uttermost.

2. How enviable is the condition of a true penitent!

Every prayer of a real penitent is "heard" of God. Let him "open his mouth ever so wide, God will fill it Isaiah 55:7." Let him but plead what the Lord Jesus has done and suffered for him, and God will never cast out his prayer. Surely then there is no man so truly happy as he who "walks humbly with his God." Indeed our Lord himself repeatedly tells us this; "Blessed are the poor in spirit: blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted Matthew 5:3-4."

But it may be thought that such an abject state of mind would be unsuitable to a man of power and opulence. The Jewish monarch however entertained no such vain conceit; he judged it not unfitting even his high station to feel, yes to manifest also to all around him, a fear of God. Let all of us then, the high as well as the low, the spiritual as well as the profane, seek to have "a tender heart." Let us beg of God "to take away from us the heart of stone, and to give us hearts of flesh," well knowing, that the more exquisite our sensibility is with respect to sin, the more pleasing will be our state before God.

 

 

2 Chronicles 36:15-16

 

DISCOURSE 432

FORBEARANCE OF GOD BROUGHT TO A CLOSE

2 Chronicles. 36:15-16. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up early, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, until there was no remedy.

IN speaking of the divine perfections, it is common to represent them all as infinite, because they do not admit of any increase: but perhaps it would be more correct to speak of them as limited, because they all so limit each other as to produce one harmonious agency in all their operations; every perfection being exercised so far, and so far only, as is consistent with the glory of the whole Deity. Justice, for instance, never exerts itself to the disparagement of mercy; nor does mercy ever triumph over the rights of justice: so neither does patience interpose for the arresting of judgment, any longer than consists with the claims of holiness: as soon as ever its protracted influence would reflect dishonor on God as the Moral Governor of the universe, it recedes, and leaves the sword of vengeance to execute its heavenly commission. The truth of this statement fully appears from the words before us; from which we are naturally led to notice,

I. God's patience exercised—

It was exercised to a most astonishing degree towards his people of old—

The Scripture frequently speaks of God, not only as sending messengers to his people, but as "rising early" and sending them. This intimates, that as soon as ever they went astray, he commissioned his servants to reclaim them; yes, many hundred years before the final execution of his judgments upon them, he forewarned them how he would proceed, and cautioned them against driving him to such extremities Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68; When these warnings were disregarded, he sent them prophets, to bring these things to their remembrance, and to plead with them in his name. Sometimes he raised up prophets for particular occasions; at other times he continued them for many rears in their office, in order by any means to turn the people from their sins. Full of "compassion towards his people," and averse to forsake the land which he had given them for a "dwelling-place," he bore with, all their frowardness and perverseness; "many a time turning away his anger," when he might justly have broken forth against them, and made them monuments of his everlasting indignation Psalm 78:38; Psalm 106:13-48.

But how did they requite his tender mercies? "They mocked his messengers (we are told), and despised his words, and misused his prophets." Even against Moses himself did their resentment frequently burn, insomuch that on one occasion they were ready to stone him Exodus 17:4. Their prophets in every successive age were treated with all manner of indignities, menaced, imprisoned, martyred, according as the wrath of their rulers was permitted to prevail. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" said Stephen Acts 7:52; and our blessed Lord, to comfort his disciples under the trials which they would meet with, reminded them, that "so had the prophets been persecuted, who were before them Matthew 5:12."

In like manner is it exercised in reference to us—

God is yet sending his ambassadors to us, not merely to reprove and warn, or to encourage us with a hope of temporal rewards, as he did to the Jews, but to offer us redemption through the blood of his dear Son, and to beseech us to accept of reconciliation with him 2 Corinthians 5:18-20; And such is his "compassion towards us," that he cannot endure the thought of giving us up, as long as a hope remains of converting us to himself Ezekiel 33:11. Jeremiah 13:27. Hosea 11:8.

And what return do we make to God? Do we not act precisely as the Jews before us did? There is no faithful messenger that addresses us in Jehovah's name, but we call him an enthusiast: however temperate and kind, and reasonable his exhortations may be See particularly the temperate message sent by Hezekiah 2 Chronicles. 30:6-10, we mock and deride him as "a babbler Acts 17:18. Ezekiel 20:40," "a deceiver John 7:12," and "a fellow that ought not to be tolerated Acts 22:22; Acts 24:5." Our blessed Lord himself; who "spoke as never man spoke," was accounted a madman and a demoniac John 10:20; and every faithful servant of God, from his day even to the present hour, has been made an object, though not of equal, yet certainly of similar, reproach. One would suppose that men, with the sacred volume in their hands, seeing how the prophets and Apostles were all treated, would avoid treading in the steps of former persecutors: but the enmity of the human heart against God is the same as ever; and the messages of God are therefore treated with the same contempt as ever. If there be any difference as to the mode in which that enmity betrays itself, it is owing to the excellence of our laws, and not to any superiority in us above the Jews. Our dispositions are the same as theirs, and our abuse of God's tender mercies is the same.

In the sequel of our text we see,

II. God's patience exhausted—

He was at last constrained to execute upon them his threatened vengeance—

After bearing with their frowardness many hundred years, his wrath against them was kindled, and he gave them up into the hands of their enemies verse 17–21. Every effort for their preservation had been tried in vain, and "no remedy now remained:" the people therefore were sent into captivity; and both their city and temple were destroyed.

Thus also will he do with respect to us—

If we go on incessantly "grieving the Holy Spirit," we shall at last "quench" his sacred motions Ephesians 4:30. 1 Thessalonians 5:19. There is a time beyond which God will bear with us no longer Matthew 23:37-38. There is a day of grace wherein he will be found Luke 19:41-44; an accepted time in which salvation may be secured by us 2 Corinthians 6:2. Isaiah 55:6. But there is a time when he will say, "Let them alone Hosea 4:17;" "Let their eyes be blinded and their hearts be hardened Acts 28:25-27;" "I am weary with repenting Jeremiah 15:6;" and now, "though they cry I will not hear, though they make many prayers I will not regard them Proverbs 1:24-31."

Doubtless if a person were truly penitent, he would be heard and accepted at the last hour: but it is God alone who can give repentance: and, if we continue obstinately to resist his calls, he will cease to strive with us Genesis 6:3, and will give us over to final impenitence Psalm 81:11-12. This he has done in unnumbered instances; and this he warns us to expect at his hands: "He who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy Proverbs 29:1."

ADDRESS—

God speaks to men by his word and ministers at this day, as truly as ever he did either by Prophets or Apostles: and our word, as far as it is agreeable to the Scriptures of Truth, is to be "received, not as the word of man, but of God 1 Thessalonians 2:13;" and, if any man "despises it, he despises not man, but God 1 Thessalonians 4:8." Happy would it be if this matter were duly considered: for certainly there are many, of a proud and contemptuous spirit, who instead of "trembling at the word," as they ought Isaiah 66:2, and "humbling themselves before the ministers" of Jehovah verse 12, make light of all they hear Matthew 22:5, and turn it to derision Jeremiah 20:7-8. But to such God says, "Be you not mockers, lest your bands be made strong Isaiah 28:22." There is great danger lest they "be held with the cords of their own sins Proverbs 5:22," and be given up to their own delusions Isaiah 66:4. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

On the other hand, let not any imagine that an attachment to faithful ministers, or a love to the ordinances as dispensed by them, will necessarily prove us to be in a state of acceptance with God: for Ezekiel's hearers were delighted with his discourses, while yet they were by no means conformed to the precepts delivered by him Ezekiel 33:31-32. Inquire then whether you be really obedient to the Gospel, receiving Christ as the gift of God to your souls, relying on him as your only hope, rejoicing in him as your all-sufficient Savior, and devoting yourselves to him in all holy obedience. The tree must be judged of by its fruits alone. If your fruits be not yet such as might be wished, apply the "remedy:" go to Christ for the remission of your sins, and seek from him the gift of his Holy Spirit: then shall the Gospel have its due effect, and be "the power of God to the salvation of your souls."