« PreviousContinue »
your exposure to it, and of its being the doom to which
you are so soon to be consigned.
Begin then this necessary work, ere 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"
and never cease to abase yourselves before him, till he shall have said concerning you, “ I have seen his ways, and will heal him, and will restore comfort to him and to his mournerso:" 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 timeP:" he will say, “ Deliver him from going down into the pit; for I have found and accepted a ransom for him."]
n If this be a 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.
o Isai. lvii. 18. P Jam. iv. 9, 10. 9 Job xxxii. 27, 28.
THE EVIL OF NEGLECTING PRAYER.
2 Chron. xii. 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 suffereth 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 soweth sparingly shall reap sparingly, and that he who soweth 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." but “ when he was established in his kingdom, he forsook the Law of the Lord, and all Israel with him.” 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.”
a 2 Chron. xi. 17.
From this conduct of his I will take occasion to shew, 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 charac
Persons of different ages, and under different circumstances, have peculiar temptations, and peculiar failings : 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 ap
pointed 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 as 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 armour, how can we hope to vanquish him? He will “ lead us captive at his will,” yea,
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! Verily,“ 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 uso, 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
[T. “ 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, till he has “ delivered you from all evil,” and “ bruised Satan himself under your exulting and triumphant feet."]
c Eph. i. 19-22. with ii. 4—7.
CCCCIII. ABIJAH'S REMONSTRANCE WITH JEROBOAM. 2 Chron. xiii. 12. Behold, God himself is with us for our cap
tain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.
GOOD advice should be attended to, by whomsoever 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 kingb: but they contain very sound instruction, and have a a For a Fast-Day in war.
b 1 Kings xv. 3.
semblance even of piety itself. The whole address indeed was well fitted for the occasion, though it certainly savours much of that partiality, which is found in almost all who plead their own cause. There is undoubtedly a good deal of false colouring 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 laboured 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 IsraelAbijah'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
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 favour 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“, 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 servantse: but
c ver. 4-11.
e Isai. xxxvi. 10. VOL. IV.