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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: whilst, 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 favour 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 [Note: 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 [Note: ver. 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 [Note: ver. 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,
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 neighbour 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 neighbour 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 till 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,
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 [Note: ver. 6.]. And till 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 any thing 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,
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, till 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 [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:11-14.33.13.]. 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 [Note: Isaiah 55:7.].” Only let us “repent and turn ourselves from all our transgressions, and then iniquity shall, not be our ruin [Note: Eze 18:30],” Though “our sins have been many, they shall be forgiven [Note: Luke 7:47.];” and “where sin has abounded, the grace of our God shall much more abound [Note: 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 Epliraim’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 [Note: Jeremiah 31:18-24.31.19.]? — — — 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 spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord [Note: Jeremiah 31:20.].” There can be no doubt respecting any “one who thus sows in tears, that he shall soon reap in joy [Note: Psalms 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, yea, 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 ye 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, 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 [Note: If this 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, 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 mourners [Note: 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 [Note: James 4:9-59.4.10.]:” he will say, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; for I have found and accepted a ransom for him [Note: Job 33:27-18.33.28.].”]
THE EVIL OF NEGLECTING PRAYER
2 Chronicles 12:14. He did eril, 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 [Note: 2 Chronicles 11:17.]:” but “when he was established in his kingdom, he for-sook the Law of the Lord, and all Israel with him [Note: ver. 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 shew,
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,
[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.]
[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.]
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,
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,
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.]
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?]
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,
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.”]
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 us [Note: Ephesians 1:19-49.1.22. with 2:4–7.], and “make us more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”]
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, till he has “delivered you from all evil,” and “bruised Satan himself under your exulting and triumphant feet.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 12". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
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