« AnteriorContinuar »
when their preparations were completed, and their purposes in a fair way of being effected; and others come in their stead, who put a stop to all their schemes; and one sinner destroyeth much good.' It, therefore, behoves us all to pray for a succession of useful men, who may every one of them endeavour to complete the designs of those who have gone be fore them, and make way for the usefulness of their successors; and did all pious persons, with one accord and without intermission, unite in such prayers, in behalf of the community, the church at large, and particular congregations, they would witness blessed effects; and brighter prospects would open before us."-Reader, art thou ever led to envy the rich and exalted? Know, that wealth and rank have peculiar and strong temptations. They are good or evil, only as they are used, and the benefits of greatness seldom make amends for the dangers which surround it. Learn to be contented with thy moderate lot. Say, with Agar, "give me neither poverty nor riches *? Adopt the language of a pious writer who says, "for me let me be rather safely low, than high with peril +." Reverence much those in elevated stations, whose hearts are lifted up in the ways of the Lord above fears and discouragements, and who delight in the service and favour of God. They are as cities set on a hill; they are patterns for imitation. See to it, in thy sphere, that thou followest them, as they follow their Master, and thine. Art thou poor in estate? be rich towards God, and thou wilt possess a treasure that shall never fail.
We find the good Jehoshaphat encouraging religious education, and the circulation of the book of the law of the Lord throughout his kingdom. "He sent teachers into all the cities of Judah, and they taught the people."-It is a distinguishing and glorious sign of our times that the word of God has free + Bishop Hall.
* Prov. xxx. 8.
course, and that an education, of which moral and religious instruction is the basis, is offered to the humblest and poorest of our countrymen. Reader, be thankful for these benefits. There was a time in England when there was, indeed, a dearth of that word which has "God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter*.".. There was a time when it might be too sadly affirmed, few cared for the souls of the young and the ignorant. But, blessed be God, those times are gone; and, in our day, the wish of George III. is fulfilled, or rapidly fulfilling, "that every one might have a Bible, and be able to read it." Schools and institutions are every where established for the purpose of training up the young in the way in which they should go, and of placing in the hands of all the words of eternal life. Reader, bless God, who has inclined the hearts of those who are able, to forward these good designs; and avail thyself of them for thine own benefit, and that of thy children. Dost thou advance in knowledge ?-advance in godliness also, and bring up thy children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
After a time, we remark that Jehoshaphat, who had riches and honour in abundance, joins himself in affinity with Ahab, king of Israel. To have joined Ahab for the purpose of putting a stop to the destructive wars which formerly had raged between Israel and Judah, and to have kept peace with his neighbour, would have been laudable in all respects, however bad the character of that neighbour might have been. But Jehoshaphat proceeded further; and, in this, he committed a serious fault; he joined affinity with Ahab, and married his son to Athaliah, Ahab's daughter; and he also went to visit the idolatrous king, and suffered himself to be prevailed on to join with him in a military expedition against the
Syrians, and he was in that battle in which Ahab was slain. He had, however, been used to acknowledge God in all his ways, and he was, therefore, not satisfied to go with Ahab against Ramoth-Gilead to battle without enquiring of the Lord by his prophets. Ahab assembled his prophets, about 400 men, who united in encouraging the expedition*. Jehoshaphat was not satisfied; and questioned, "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?" Ahab owns there is one Micaiah; but, he adds, I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He, however, sends for him; and the prophet represents, as seen in a vision, the disastrous consequences that would ensue from this hostility. He said, "I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, these have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace." And, again, Micaiah appeals to Ahab, and to the people, "If thou return at all in peace the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said hearken, O people, every one of you †."-How strange it is that Jehoshaphat should still venture with Ahab! But he had lost, in this instance, the true courage of a servant of God by keeping bad company.-The two kings proceeded to Ramoth-Gilead, where Ahab was slain in battle,-and where Jehoshaphat was exposed to imminent danger. In this extremity, however, he made the Lord his refuge; he cried out, and the Lord helped him, and moved, it is said, his pursuers to depart from him, that is, inclined them, by a secret but powerful influence on their minds. After this defeat, and the death of Ahab, the king of Judah returned to his house in peace; and, having been reproved by Jehu the seer (or prophet) for joining the enemies of the Lord, he remained at home, attending to the affairs of his +1 Kings xxii. 28.
* 1 Kings xxii. 6.
kingdom, urging upon his people the duty of renouncing idolatry, and of returning to the worship of the Lord. Moreover, he enjoined upon the judges and the priests, faithfulness in the discharge of their respective duties; and, knowing that it requires no little courage and resolution to do right and stem the tide of profligacy, he charged and encouraged them, "Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good."
We find Jehoshaphat afterwards (in the 20th chapter) exhibiting strongly his faith in God, and experiencing a great deliverance. The Moabites and the Ammonites came against him to battle. A great multitude confederated against him. It may be supposed that he made the best military preparation he could; but his chief preparation consisted in proclaiming a fast, and in gathering his people together to ask help of the Lord; and Jehoshaphat himself stood in the congregation of Judah, and offered up a solemn prayer (one of the most excellent that we meet with in sacred history) for the divine blessing and protection. Impressive, indeed, must have been the sight when, as we are told, "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children." In consequence of this national humiliation, a prophet is commissioned to assure them of an answer to their prayers, and the king exhorts them, all Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to a firm faith in God, and to an entire reliance on his power, faithfulness, and mercy. The reliance was not in vain, they were delivered from the hand of their enemies, and obtained great spoil. Then they assembled in the valley of Berachah, and blessed the Lord, and called the place the Valley of Blessing.-Reader, learn from this king of Judah's history, that thy first business, when calamity overtakes thee, is to seek the Lord. Draw nigh to him in humiliation for thy sins, with a confiding trust in his mercy for acceptance, and in his power for pro
tection. Go on in this manner, and thine enemies will fall before thee, thy trials will prove thy gain, and thy very sorrows will enrich thy soul.
It is painful to have to observe, in conclusion, that Jehoshaphat yielded at length to the evil of which he had nearly fallen the victim in times past, namely, intimacy with the wicked. He joined himself to Ahaziah, king of Israel, "who did very wickedly," and he entered into partnership with him in trade for the gold of Ophir. A prophet was commissioned to shew him the Lord's displeasure. "Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish."
It is a wise remark of Bishop Hall, "I may have a bad acquaintance, but I will never have a wicked companion." Reader, evil companions will work in thee an insensible falling away to ill. Take care then that thou join not with the ungodly, and with them that love not the Lord.-Pity, pray for, and mourn over the wicked, but choose them not for thy companions or intimates. Thou canst not indeed be entirely without intercourse with the wicked; but guard against being tempted to enter needlessly into their society. If thou really lovest the Lord, thou wilt find no pleasure in the company of the wicked. If thou art a sincere Christian, it will give thee great pain to hear thy Maker's name blasphemed, and the best things laughed at or neglected. If thou canst do the wicked good, if thou canst be the means of leading them into the right course, this may be a reason for being found in their society. For such purposes Christ himself did eat and drink with publicans and sinners. But closely question thy motives; and beware lest thy soul suffer loss.-Reflect, that it is thy duty to honour God, and to uphold his religion in the world, to let thy light so shine before men that they, seeing thy good works, may be led to glorify him. Cultivate not then the society of the