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CONNEXION BETWEEN DILIGENCE AND PROSPERITY
2 Chronicles 26:5. As long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.
THE dispensation under which the Jews lived being of a temporal nature, their advancement in respect of temporal prosperity was, for the most part, proportioned to the regard which they, and their rulers, shewed to God. The account given of Uzziah may serve almost as a general history of God’s conduct towards them [Note: Leviticus 26:3-3.26.45.]: when he walked humbly before God, “he was marvellously helped till he was strong [Note: ver. 8, 15.]:” but when, by his pride and disobedience, he had provoked God’s heavy displeasure, he was given over to “destruction.” The dispensation under which we live is altogether spiritual; and God observes the same rule of procedure towards us in spiritual things, as he maintained towards them in temporal things.
Respecting the prosperity of our souls the text calls us to notice two things;
Its dependence on God—
[However diligent Uzziah was in seeking the Lord, it was God, and God alone, that “made him to prosper,” And whatever means we may use, our advancement in the divine life must be traced to the same source. Our first inclinations to good originate with him. The contiunance and increase of holy dispositions is in like manner the effect of his grace. If he were for one moment to suspend his communications, we should be as incapable of bearing fruit to his glory, as a branch is when severed from the tree. Let it only be inquired wherein prosperity of soul consists [Note: A subjugation of our passions; a victory over the world; an abiding sense and enjoyment of the divine presence.]; and it will immediately appear, that he must be the author of it in all its parts — — —]
Its connexion with our diligence—
[The fruits of the earth are given us by God; yet he bestows his bounties on those only who use the proper means for the attainment of them. So does he also require exertion on our part in order to our spiritual advancement. The means are inseparably connected with the end: they are connected in God’s decree [Note: Ezekiel 36:37. Matthew 7:7-40.7.8.]—in the very nature of things—and in the experience of all the saints; and the more diligently we use the means, the more will both “grace and peace be multiplied unto us.”]
From this subject we may derive matter,
[How awfully does this reprove the careless sinner! for if all our prosperity of soul be inseparably connected with diligence in the ways of God, it is obvious that they who neglect the word of God and prayer must be in a perishing condition. The backslider too must feel himself condemned by the fact recorded in the text. It is plainly intimated that Uzziah, through his remissness, experienced a sad reverse. And such a reverse will all experience who relax their diligence in the ways of God. Let us watch therefore against secret declensions: and, if we have already declined, let us “repent, and do our first works [Note: Revelation 2:4-66.2.5.],” and “strengthen, by exertion, the dying remnants” of grace within us [Note: Revelation 3:2.].]
[We cannot command success, either in temporal or spiritual pursuits; yet in both it is found true, that “the diligent hand maketh rich.” In some instances indeed God is found of them that sought him not; and persons may use the means of grace without receiving any sensible increase of grace or peace. Nevertheless this is not God’s usual mode of proceeding; nor does he ever continue either to bless the indolent, or to withhold his blessing from the diligent. He never will suffer any to seek his face in vain [Note: Isaiah 45:19.]. Let this then encourage all to persevere in the use of means, “knowing assuredly that their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]
THE BAD EFFECTS OF PROSPERITY
2 Chronicles 26:15-14.26.16. He was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction.
IT not unfrequently happens, that, after the most promising appearances of abundance, the hopes of the harvestman are disappointed: some blast, or some destructive insect cuts off the fruits ere they arrive at maturity, so that “the mower fills not his arms with them, neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom.” Thus also it is too often found in the moral and religious world: persons begin to “run well, and continue for a season; but are at last hindered,” and “come short of that rest” which they had professed to seek. This is particularly found in those whose hopeful conduct has been chiefly occasioned by external influence. We have seen in Joash, that “he did that which was right all the days of Jehoiada the priest;” but after his decease, he turned aside to wickedness, and brought the heavy judgments of God both on himself and all his people [Note: 2 Chronicles 24:2; 2 Chronicles 24:17-14.24.18.]. Thus it was also with his grandson, Uzziah. For many years “he sought after God [Note: ver. 5.];” and was very signally blessed, and prospered of the Lord during all that time: yet, through the influence of that very prosperity, he fell, and perished miserably under the hand of an avenging God.
The words of our text will naturally lead us to set before you,
The proper tendency of prosperity—
Doubtless, prosperity cheers the mind; but its proper tendency is,
To puff up with pride—
[It is difficult to succeed in any enterprise, or any labour, without arrogating to ourselves a considerable portion of credit on account of it: “We sacrifice to our own net, and burn incense to our own drag [Note: Habakkuk 1:16.]” — — — That this is the common influence of prosperity, appears from the cautions given to the Israelites respecting it, in an instance where it should seem to be impossible for them to do otherwise than give the whole honour to God [Note: Deuteronomy 8:11-5.8.14.]. But pride, though so unsuitable to a fallen creature, is, alas! too powerful a principle in every child of man. Behold Nebuchadnezzar in the summit of his glory [Note: Daniel 4:30-27.4.32; Daniel 5:20.] — — — or Uzziah, when he had been “marvellously helped, till he was strong:” how forgetful were they of the obligations which they owed to God! Even the pious Hezekiah fell, through the influence of pride, though afterwards he humbled himself for this transgression. Indeed it is very rare that persons elevated by the acquisition of wealth or honour retain their former simplicity: they rise in their own esteem, in proportion as they are looked up to by others, and account the homage that is paid to them a tribute due to their superior worth.]
To harden in iniquity—
[It is not towards men only that prosperity affects our conduct, but even towards God himself. We can scarcely attain any considerable advancement in the world, but presently we become “presumptuous, and self-willed:” we allow ourselves a greater latitude to follow the inclinations of our own hearts: and, if checked by any faithful monitor, we will not endure his expostulations or reproofs; but, like Uzziah, are “wroth with him” for performing his duty, instead of being grieved at ourselves for transgressing our own. We think ourselves at liberty to act as we please; and that neither God nor man has any right to call us to account. This is most justly depicted by the Psalmist [Note: Psalms 10:4-19.10.6; Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13.] — — — and is traced by him to prosperity, as its proper source [Note: Psalms 73:3-19.73.9; Psalms 73:11-19.73.12.] — — — Ah! how many such instances have we seen, of men once apparently modest and humble, but afterwards, like “Jeshurun, waxing fat and kicking, and forsaking the God that made them, and lightly esteeming the rock of their salvation [Note: Deuteronomy 32:15.]!” We are apt to envy such persons, when we behold their prosperity: but we shall see little reason to do so, if we duly consider the effects produced by it on their minds [Note: Psalms 73:3; Psalms 73:16-19.73.19.].]
Rarely indeed has any spiritual good arisen from prosperity: but how awful is it to reflect on,
Its frequent termination—
Behold how it terminated in the case before us!
[Uzziah, not content with the pomp of royalty, would usurp also the priestly office: and, when reproved for his presumption, was filled with indignation against his reprovers. But “whilst ha was wroth with the priests, the leprosy rose up in his forehead [Note: ver. 19.]:” and immediately “they thrust him out of the temple; yea, himself also hasted to go out, because the Lord had smitten him [Note: ver. 20.].” Thus it is with many who “once made a fair shew in the flesh;” “being lifted up with pride, they fall into the condemnation of the devil [Note: 1 Timothy 3:6.].” From their scenes of earthly happiness they are cast headlong into the lowest abyss of misery, like the rich man in the parable, whose surviving brethren, misled by his example, were following him thither with hasty strides [Note: Luke 16:22-42.16.23; Luke 16:27-42.16.28.]. But, if we could conceive by any means that such an one had found his way into heaven, the very transaction that took place in the temple would be renewed there; the inhabitants of those blessed mansions, indignant at his presumption, would instantly “thrust him out [Note: Luke 13:28.];” yea, “he himself would haste to go out,” not being able to endure the countenance of his offended God [Note: Isaiah 33:14. Compare the three verses following; which shew that the godly alone can dwell with God.]. Let it not be thought that this is an uncommon termination of prosperity: for both Scripture and observation teach us to regard it as its frequent and ordinary result [Note: Proverbs 1:32, with Matthew 19:23-40.19.26.].]
Let us learn then from hence,
To be moderate in our desire after earthly things—
[We may desire prosperity, because it is a gift of God to men [Note: ver. 5.]; and is particularly promised to those who love him [Note: Psalms 1:3; Psalms 122:6.]. But we should desire it only in submission to the will of God. We know not what will be its ultimate effect upon our souls. We know not what advantage it will give to our corrupt nature to break forth, and to plunge us into everlasting misery. Let us be diligent in our earthly calling, whatever it may be; but, as to any anxious concern about it, “let our moderation be known unto all men [Note: Philippians 4:5.].” “Our affections must not be set on things below, but on those which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.”]
To be patient and resigned under any trials that may come upon us—
[Trials are “not at the present joyous, but grievous;” but they are promised by God as the choicest fruit of his paternal love [Note: Hebrews 12:6-58.12.8.]. Even Paul himself needed a thorn in his flesh, “lest he should be exalted above measure [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:7.].” Who then are we, that we should think trials unnecessary for us? They are the furnace, that is to purify us from our dross [Note: Isaiah 27:9.], or the pruning-knife, that is to render us more fruitful in good works [Note: John 15:2.]. We know how profitable it was to Manasseh to be taken among the thorns [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:11-14.33.12.]; and we have reason to hope that our afflictions also shall be sanctified to our good [Note: Hebrews 12:10.], and that we shall at the close of them adopt the language of David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted [Note: Psalms 119:71.].”]
To be thankful for the high honour conferred upon us—
[To none of the Jewish kings was given the united honour of royalty and priesthood: that was reserved for Christ alone, who was to be “a Priest upon his throne [Note: Zechariah 6:13.]:” who yet, though a king, “glorified not himself to be made a High-priest, but was called to it of God, as was Aaron [Note: Hebrews 5:4-58.5.5.].” But that honour has our adorable Saviour procured for us: “He has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests unto our God for ever and ever [Note: Revelation 1:5-66.1.6.].” Yes, we are “a royal priesthood [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.];” and “by the new and living way which he has opened for us through the veil, we may draw nigh” even to the very throne of God nimself [Note: Hebrews 10:19-58.10.22.]: and our doing so in faith will rid us from the leprosy, instead of bringing the leprosy upon us; and, instead of arming the angels against us, will make them to rejoice [Note: Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22.]. Let us then improve our liberty, and “offer up spiritual sacrifices to our God from day to day, assured, that they are acceptable to him through Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Peter 2:5.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 26". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany