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of great power and understanding, but he is also a righteous, holy being; true, gracious, merciful. And a true worshipper of God is led to an imitation of him in those perfections. All hopes of his favour depend upon a conformity to him therein. And truth, righteousness, and goodness, are the great things in those laws which have been delivered by his authority. Such an one the
person in the text evidently was. There was no one besides, in whom Ahab could so safely confide for an upright and conscientious discharge of any office and commission in which the welfare of his kingdom was concerned.
4. It is here also said of Obadiah, that he feared the Lord from his youth; that is, from very early age to that time. As soon as he was arrived to a full exercise of his reason, and came to be sensible of moral obligations, he had by his own voluntary and sedate judgment and choice signified his approbation of the great truths, and principles, and precepts of religion. From the beginning he had been persuaded, that the Lord Jehovah is God alone; and all his days he had worshipped and served him as the one true God, and loved him with all his heart and soul: esteeming his service the most honourable, the most delightful, and the most profitable service which any creature can be engaged in.
He had likewise in the whole course of his life had a strict and conscientious respect to the great rules of right and wrong. Such had been his early resolution and practice; and the rest of his life to that time was of the same tenor.
I presume I do not put too much into the description of this property, fearing the Lord; or the character of the person here spoken of. I have studiously avoided so doing. We are not obliged to conceive of Obadiah, as perfect, or without sin : but he was upright, he truly feared God, and sincerely respected all his laws. He had been free from great transgressions; and the failings or offences of a lesser kind, which he had been surprised into, were not allowed of, nor persisted in. This is what is implied in fearing God from the youth. II. In the next place we are to observe the virtue of this.
1. It was partly owing to a quick discernment of the truth and value of things. The things of religion were controverted in his time. The grounds and reasons of the worship of Jehovah and Baal were debated. Or if the idolatrous worship of Baal was not begun in Israel, in his early youth, it is, nevertheless, likely that there were some ques
tions put concerning the high places set up by Jeroboam, who had been followed in some measure by all or most of the succeeding kings of Israel. Obadiah soon discerned the merits of the controversy. By the help of a good understanding he readily perceived who ought to be worshipped as the true God, and what is the most acceptable way of worshipping, and wherein true religion principally consists.
2. He gave a serious attention to the things of religion, and carefully weighed and examined them. His right choice was not solely owing to a quick understanding and ready apprehension. But he used diligence and application. . He perceived religion to be a weighty concern, and he bestowed many serious thoughts upon it. He was early sensible, that a right determination at first would have a great effect on the rest of his life.
If he had the advantage of good instructions from the beginning, he did not neglect them, but attended to them, meditated upon them, and let those things which appeared reasonable sink down in his heart. Moreover, as he had opportunity, he studied the laws of God, recorded in those scriptures, which were in the hands of the people of Israel. And he read with a mind open to conviction, resolving to receive what appeared to be the will of God, and act according to it; whether it should be for his own present interest, and tend to his promotion and advancement in the world, or not. By this means his judgment was well informed, and his resolutions settled upon a firm foundation.
I make no scruple of mentioning this particular here; for I think there is good ground for it. Without this, it is not easy to conceive how Obadiah's conduct should have been such as it was.
And certainly this ought to be observed by young persons.
It is desirable to understand some art or business by which men may subsist in the world. It is also desirable to understand the things of religion. They who have a quick apprehension, have a great advantage, provided they apply their thoughts this way. Nevertheless, there are few or none but may attain to a competent knowledge of the great truths and obligations of religion, and the grounds of them, if they are attentive, and seriously inquisitive about them. Moses reminds the people of Israel: “ The commandment, which I command thee this day, is not bidden from thee, neither is it afar off: but it is nigh thee, that thou mayest hear it and do it," Deut. xxx. 11, 12. The revelation of the gospel, superadded to that of the law, is not de
signed to make the principles of religion more abstruse and difficult : but more easy, more intelligible, more affecting, which must be for the good of all men.
3. Obadiah's fearing the Lord from his youth was partly owing to a fixed purpose and resolution of acting according to the rule of right, and that no temptations of any kind should induce him to act contrary to his sedate judgment.
We may well put this into the character we are observing. In the course of his life there had offered to him temptations of various kinds: some suited to youthful affections, others more especially suited to the common and prevailing passions of mature age. But in every stage of life his conduct had been uniformly religious; and though he lived at a time when multitudes did evil, he had not followed them. Though the way of religion was then a strait path, and almost deserted, his feet had not declined from the way of it. We cannot but conclude from hence, that the resolution of Obadiah was very firm.
4. We do also reasonably suppose, that this steady good conduct was not without constant circumspection and watchfulness. Indeed, we are all encompassed with snares, which makes it needful to be upon our guard. Undoubtedly this person had “ kept his heart with diligence,” Prov. iv, 23. He had attended to the frame of his mind. He used his best endeavours to maintain the fervour of his love to God, and a sincere respect for his laws. His mind was carefully kept free from ambition and covetousness : and he looked with a jealous eye upon every thing and person, that tended to abate his zeal for God and religion, and lessen his abhorrence for that which is evil.
This temper of watchfulness he had preserved always, by which means he had been greatly assisted in fearing God from his youth.
III. In the third place I should show the benefit of so fearing the Lord. But I need not enlarge, having had frequent occasions to touch upon this point.
1. They who fear the Lord from their youth up, enjoy the pleasure and comfort of a religious life: which is no small advantage. For, as Solomon says of wisdom,“ her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” Prov. iii. 17. Such have the satisfaction of approving themselves to God, and doing the things that please the Sovereign of the world. Their minds are rightly disposed, and their conduct approves itself to their own judgment. And they avoid the bitterness of that repentance which is
necessary for those who have greatly strayed from wisdom's way. They who fear God from their youth may, and often
. do, become eminent in piety. Their continued practice of virtue renders them perfect in it. So was this person. It appears from the account which we have of him here. The writer of this history in the book of Kings observes it to his honour expressly : “ Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly.” His virtuous habits were confirmed, and almost above temptation. He had a post of high honour, but he possessed it without any sinful compliances. Nor did he at all conceal his regard for God and true religion, but was known to be a worshipper of the God of heaven. When his prophets, who were most zealous for God, and taught the people the knowledge of him, were in danger, at the hazard of all his own interests, he took care of them; he hid them from their persecutors, and provided for them. At the same time his disinterestedness and integrity in public affairs, and the discharge of civil offices, was so conspicuous, that he was chief minister to a prince who was an enemy to his religious principles. By which we perceive, that Obadiah knew how to give to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, without denying to God what was due to him. In a word, this person, who had “ feared God from his youth,” was now eminent in the various parts of good conduct, and ready to every good word and work.
3. They who fear God from their youth, especially if it be with much steadiness, are useful in the world many ways. Such men promote the good of society in their several stations. They also adorn, and recommend religion to others. By their means some are brought into a good liking of its ways; or are induced to consider and examine its pretensions, till they find them just and reasonable. Others are confirmed, and they persevere with joy and resolution. It is very likely, that many pious Israelites were animated and encouraged by the example of Obadiah: though their circumstances were such, that they could not all act with the same openness that he did. They were obliged to greater privacy. But yet they did not bow the knee to Baal, or render him any act of homage.
4. They who fear God from their youth have the happiness of being always prepared for the various events of providence. If they are removed hence, their end is peace, and their reward is sure. If they live, they go on to perform the duties of life; and are the best qualified of any men to bear the troubles and afflictions of this state with a calm and composed mind, and comfortable trust in God. For “ God is their refuge, and their portion in the land of the living," Ps. cxlii. 5. They have none in heaven but him. Nor is there any upon earth whom they desire in comparison of him. And when flesh and heart fail, God is the strength of their heart, and their portion for ever," Ps. lxxiii. 25, 26.
APPLICATION. What has been now observed should induce all, whatever is their age of life, to fear the Lord.
They who are in early age have encouragement to give up themselves to God now, without delay, and to fear and serve him henceforward all the days of their life. There is great virtue in so doing. And it will be attended with very desirable advantages. None will discourage them from being early in this design. They who have feared God from their youth, will readily assure them, that it is the wisest thing that can be done. They who are now serious and religious at length, after trying the ways of sin, will likewise assure them, that if they neglect the present opportunity, and defer to come to a full determination, and form effectual resolutions of obedience to all God's commandments; that delay will sometime be matter of grief and bitter Jamentation.
This discourse then may be considered as an invitation to young persons, to be truly religious without delay; to weigh and consider the things of religion seriously, and to determine accordingly: to “ remember now their Creator in the days of their youth," Ecc. xii. 1, and to serve him constantly with inviolable fidelity.
But it suggests no discouragements to others who have as yet deferred.
It does indeed show, in some measure, the evil of procrastination. But it does not insinuate, that there
, is no hope or remedy for those who have long delayed.
They who have feared God from their youth have some distinction. They were early wise, and they have proceeded in wisdom's paths. But they are not taught to boast, or say scornfully, They are not as other men. They likewise have failings; and do own, that if God were strict to mark iniquity, they could not be justified in his sight. Their hopes therefore are founded in the mercy of God. They believe, and it is what they would recommend to the consideration of others, that « with God there is forgiveness, that he
may be feared,” Ps. cxxx. 4, and served by such weak and fallible creatures as we are.
Goodness is as certainly a property of the Deity, as any