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help of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, were enabled to work partial reformations, and through them the destruction was delayed, and space was given for repentance; but, alas ! without any lasting good effect. (Read ch. xxxvi. 14—22.)
Of these good kings, Josiah was the last, and was a signal blessing to the country. (ch. xxxiv. 30—34.) He also kept a passover. (ch. xxxv. 1, 18.) God himself said to him, by Huldah, a prophetess, “ Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same.” (ch. xxxiv. 27, 28.) And see with what honour he is spoken of by the sacred historian, ch. xxxv. 25—27 ! Now observe the beginning of all this goodness and greatness ; “ While he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father.” Consider we,
I. IN WHAT SENSE, OR IN WHAT RESPECTS HE SOUGHT AFTER God.
This does not imply that God was far from him, or that he is far from any of us. He is “ about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways.” (Psalm cxxxix. 3.)
66 In him we live, and move, and have our being.” But Josiah was, as all are by nature, alienated from the knowledge, favour, image, and enjoyment of God, and these he sought after, as absolutely necessary to his happiness here and hereafter.
He sought after an acquaintance with him. He had heard of him, and of the wonderful this which he had done for Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in the land of Canaan.-He believed in his being and attributes, and the revelation he had made of his will by Moses, and such prophets as had written. But he was not yet truly and savingly acquainted with him. (Job xxii. 21.)
What is implied in this acquaintance may be illustrated by the difference between believing or knowing that a person exists, and possesses certain qualities, and being acquainted with him ; for this implies some intimacy and intercourse. This acquaintance we may have with God.
A true and saving acquaintance with God is always productive of certain effects ; where these fruits are not, it does not exist. e. g. An acquaintance with his glory and majesty, as his self-existence, independence, infinity, eternity, supremacy, produces veneration, adoration, and praise, internal and
exalted.-An acquaintance with his omnipotence, omniscience, omnipreserice, produces reverence, awe, solemnity, seriousness, and watchfulness.-An acquaintance with his greatness, holiness, justice, produces humility, self-abasement, contrition, godly sorrow. (Job xl. 4, 5; xlii. 6; Psal. viii. 3, 4; Isai. vi. 5.)-An acquaintance with his mercy and faithfulness (Jer. xxxi. 34) produces confidence, (Psalm ix. 10,) hope, and joy.-An acquaintance with his love, viz. his loveliness, and loving-kindness, produces esteem, love, and gratitude. (1 John iv. 8.)-An acquaintance with his equity, goodness. sovereignty over us, and government of us, produces subjection and obedience. (1 John ii. 3, 4.)
To obtain this acquaintance, we must consider his works of creation and redemption, the dispensations of Providence, and the revelation he has made of himself in his word. We must have the spirit of wisdom and revelation, to be asked in prayer. Josiah undoubtedly sought it in this way.
He sought after his favour, or reconciliation with him. We are naturally at enmity with him, guilty, condemned by his law, and exposed to wrath. This reconciliation is only to be obtained through a Mediator and his sacrifice,-typified by the Jewish high-priest, and the sacrifices of their law,-in the way of repentance and faith. Josiah saw his need of this. (ver. 21, 27.)
He sought after a conformity to him ; to recover his image and partake of his divine nature. This is to be obtained, through the influence of the word and Spirit, by hearing, reading, and prayer.
He sought after communion with him, and the enjoyment of him as his portion. Thus did his ancestor, David, continually. This he would seek in and by his word, ordinances, and providences.
He sought to know God's will concerning him, and his duty in the station in which he was placed. This he would seek in the use of prayer, and every proper means.
II. His REASONS FOR DOING THIS.
He knew that his rational and immortal nature, endued with intelligence and liberty, had been given him, that he might become acquainted with God, and that, otherwise, it would have been sufficient for him to have had an inferior nature.
- That his privileges and advantages, as a member of God's visible church, had been granted for this end, as circumcision, and other ordinances, the oracles of God, the society of his people. That had it not been for this, he might as well not have been favoured with these, but have been born and brought up a heathen.
-That his forefathers had been redeemed out of Egypt, and that he and all mankind would be redeemed by the life and death of the Messiah for this end.
- That it was for this end he was spared and preserved on earth, and for which, life and all things were continued to him.
- That he should be called to an account by the Lawgiver and Governor of the world, the final Judge of all men, perhaps here, but certainly hereafter, for the use he had made of his powers, privileges, and blessings.
- That it was his absolute duty, both that he might answer the end of his creation, and manifest gratitude to God for his mercies; as well as obedience to his express and often-repeated commands. (Isai. lv. 6.)
- That it was his great, nay, and greatest interest, in time and in eternity; that godliness has even the promise of this life; (Psalm 1xxxiv. 11;) that protection, counsel, peace, hope, joy, and all felicity, are to be thus attained, and hereafter eternal felicity.
III. WHETHER HE
IN DOING IT, WHILE HE
WAS YET YOUNG.
Why should he thus seek after God, “ while yet young ?” Why should he not rather enjoy the pleasures of the world, and defer seeking after God till he was in declining years ?-Because he knew that what was always reasonable, proper, and necessary to be done, could not be done too soon.
- That the pleasures of true religion far exceed all the pleasures of the world.
- That what are called the pleasures of the world are all empty and vain, “ broken cisterns," " wells without water;” uncertain, as depending on the continuance of health, the use of the faculties and members, the possession of means ; and at best transitory; and, when pursued rather than God and independent of him, that they are all bitter, and leave a sting behind.
-That by first acquainting himself with God, and making his peace with him, he should enjoy, to the best purpose, whatever is to be enjoyed in the world.
- That by beginning to seek after God early, he should secure his favour, and support, direction, and care, and should escape many snares, errors, sins, and miseries, which he would otherwise fall into.
- That, as man is “ born to trouble,” and he could not possibly escape it, at all times, he would in this way find consola
tion, and “ help in every time of need.” In this way also he would obtain the sanctification of his troubles, that they might “ work for good,” and afterwards yield the fruits of righteousness.'
- That delays were dangerous, and, if he should neglect to seek God " while yet young,” he might never do it at all; as God might deny him grace and an opportunity, taking him away by an early and unexpected death.
HUMAN FRAILTY AND DIVINE
Job xiv. 1-3.
Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trouble.
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?
The subject of these striking observations of Job, and of the inquiry founded upon them is Man, the last and most perfect of all God's works, the master-piece of the creation, concerning whom, before he was made, a council of the subsistences, or persons of the Godhead, was called, and the conclusion was, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ; ” of whom accordingly it was said, “God created man in his own image ; in the image of God created he him.” His body was “fearfully and wonderfully made ;” furnished with members, all convenient for use, and senses, all inlets to instruction and pleasure, being a medium of intercourse between him and the world, in which he was placed, and adapted to apprehend, receive, and enjoy all the astonishing qualities of it; light, sound, taste, smell, and feeling.
In his body was placed a spiritual principle, immaterial, invisible, active, intelligent, free, pure, immortal ; capable of discernment, judgment, choice, affection, as well as delight in the use of those powers ; possessed of knowledge, holiness, righteousness; bearing God's moral as well as natural image, and resembling him in all that is wise, holy, and happy.
But it is not of man, as he came out of the hands of his Maker, that Job here speaks. He was not “ of few days,” but designed to be immortal ;-was not “full of trouble,” but perfectly free from it ;-was not 66 a flower” fading, or to be cut down, but designed to flourish in immortal youth and beauty ;- was not a continually changing and fleeting “shadow;" but a being possessed of permanent life, health, youth, beauty, and felicity. It is of fallen man the patriarch here speaks ; of “man, born of a woman.'
may refer to the first woman Eve, who was the mother of all living, and, being deceived by the tempter, was first in the transgression. Of her we are all born, and, consequently, derive from her that sin and corruption, which both shortens our days, and renders them a scene of sorrow and trouble. Or, he may refer to every man's immediate mother. The woman is the weaker vessel, and, as the saying is, partus sequitur ventrem, the child takes after the mother. The strong man, therefore, must not glory in his strength, or in the strength of his father, but remember, he is born of a woman, even a weak creature. Hence our weakness and frailty. Being born of a
woman, we are not only born of that sex, by which sin and all calamity were brought into the world, but which, like the other sex, is corrupt and sinful, and through which sin and corruption are transmitted from one generation to another. For, (ver. 4,) 6 who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? not one.” If man be born of parents that are sinners, how can he be but a sinner? (ch. xxv. 4.) How can he be clean, who is descended from sinful parents, and infected with original corruption ? A pure offspring can no more come from unclean parents, than pure streams can proceed from an impure spring, or grapes from thorns. Our habitual corruption is derived with our nature, from our progenitors, and is, therefore, (if we may use the expression,) bred in the bone ; our blood is not only attained by a legal conviction, but tainted with an hereditary disease. And hence flow all our actual transgressions, which are the natural product of internal and habitual corruption.
In discoursing further, on the words of the text, we shall consider,