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2 Chronicles 34:1-8
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign.
Josiah’s early piety
I. The possibility of youthful responsibility. Other children besides Josiah have been called to the cares of a kingdom. Manasseh commenced to reign at twelve, Joash was seven, Uzziah sixteen; Henry III and Edward VI of England were both nine; four of the Scottish kings, James II, III, IV, and V, ascended the throne when children. Of the French kings, Louis I. began to reign at sixteen, Louis IX at eleven, Louis XIII at nine, Charles VI at eleven, Charles IX at ten; Louis XIV, inheriting the kingdom at five, assumed full control by his own force of character at thirteen. Charles I of Spain, better known as Charles V of Germany, became king at sixteen; Charles II at fourteen, seizing the kingdom from an ill-governing regency which had existed since his fourth year.
II. Early piety is possible and desirable. When does the period of moral accountability begin? We cannot fix it definitely. But this much is certain: whenever the child can intelligently choose this or that because it is right or wrong, then has moral accountability commenced, and the child can be a Christian.
III. The influence of good advisers. Josiah was but a boy, and yet around him were spiritual Titans--Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Jeremiah.
IV. The energy of youthful piety.
V. The influence of the surrounding atmosphere on piety. We must be watchful against irreligious influences. (Monday Club Sermons.)
Importance of early piety
Ancient nations would not receive old men into their armies, as being unfit for service. Let us not wait until we can only offer unto “Him who hath loved us” dry and worthless bones. (W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
The example of Joash
There is at the top of the Queen’s staircase in Windsor Castle a statue from the studio of Baron Triqueti, of Edward VI., marking with his sceptre a passage in the Bible, which he holds in his left hand, and upon which he earnestly looks. The passage is this concerning Josiah: “Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David, his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” The statue was erected by the will of the late Prince Consort, who intended it to convey to his son the Divine principles by which the future governor of England should mould his life and reign on the throne of Great Britain. (T. Hughes.)
I was admitted into the Church at the early age of eight. I don’t remember that I experienced at the time any extraordinary work of God on my soul. I loved Christ, and felt a strong desire to be identified with His people. When I mentioned the fact to some of the deacons some of them looked askance, and expressed grave doubts as to the propriety of allowing one so young to sit at the Lord’s table. Among them, however, there were wiser men. Their counsels prevailed, and after some months of probation I was admitted. From that day until now I have never ceased to thank God that I was induced to take the important step at the time I did. Had I not done so I doubt whether I should have been a missionary--if a member of the Christian Church at all. (Griffith Johns.)
Josiah the old-fashioned young man
As the sensitive plate in the photographic camera, when the person who sits for a likeness is placed in a powerful light, takes an impression of him in which every line upon the countenance and every furrow upon the brow are exaggerated, so that the artist has to touch the negative in order to do him simple justice, so, when a man sits in the fierce glare of public light, his failings are so prominently recorded, and his defects so clearly brought out, that it is necessary for us in fairness to touch the negative with the pencil of charity, and thus soften down the defects. Remembering this, this description of Josiah fills us with wonder. Consider--
I. His disadvantages.
1. His extreme youth.
2. The degeneracy of the times. He ascended the throne in a dark age.
3. He was the son of a bad father.
II. What is the explanation of his piety? It may have been largely due to the quiet but all-powerful influence of a good mother. But there are wonders of grace often wrought in the lives of the children of wicked men which you cannot explain.
III. The manifestation of his piety. He “walked in the ways of David his father.” Four hundred years separated Josiah from David. Thank God, there are seasons, even in degenerate times, when the old purity of things is restored, when the grand old faith is received and lived over again, and when the heroism of those who are gone comes back like a new inspiration to young lives. “Ah! he is an old-fashioned young man: he lives behind the age; he ought to have been living in the time of David, for he has quite adopted his ancient ways,” exclaimed some young men of the period. All the conceited striplings of the day would join in the chorus, “Poor Josiah, he does not move with the age. He is an eccentric young fellow, very puritanic in his notions, and sings psalms as if he lived in the days of old King David.” My young friends, a true man likes to be old-fashioned sometimes. It is noble to move with the age when the age is going forward; but it is grand to remain with the past when the age in which we live retrogrades from ancient purity and ancient faith. When there is no spiritual vigour or moral fibre in our day, it is well to stick to the old days when there were strength and fibre in religion and morals. Do not be afraid of the charge of being old-fashioned. It is cheaply made, and is often meaningless, save as it is the highest possible compliment. Be in the company of the world’s best and noblest men: never mind whether they live to-day, or whether they lived eighteen hundred years ago, or even more. (D. Davies.)
2 Chronicles 34:3
For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David.
Seeking after God
I. Why we should seek after God.
1. We are by nature without God.
2. To be without God is certain misery.
3. In God alone we can obtain peace and rest.
II. How we are to seek after God.
1. With respect to God Himself. Josiah sought--not the God of nature; not the God of Providence; but “the God of David his father.” And why? David was a type of Christ; the covenant made with David a type of the covenant of grace, and “the sure mercies of David,” symbols of the better blessings of the New Covenant.
2. With respect to ourselves. By repentance, faith, and obedience.
III. When we are to seek after god. (Robert Stevenson.)
Early piety and its advantages
I. Enlightened piety consists in seeking God.
II. Seeking God early will conduce to honour.
1. It keeps alive religious susceptibilities.
2. It saves from snares.
3. It brings eminent usefulness in life.
4. It prepares for happy death. (J. Wolfendale.)
Youth the best time to serve God
Let us think of some reasons why we should seek God in childhood.
1. The first reason is because youth is the best time.
2. Another reason is because youth is the most important time. “Satisfy us early with Thy goodness, that we may be glad and rejoice all our days.” What seems a slight mistake at the beginning may make a terrible difference at the end.
3. Another reason for seeking God in early life is because it is noblest to do right now, not to wait until we have spent most of our life doing wrong. (Christian Age.)
I. That any soul should begin early to seek the Lord, is an event that would be thought unimportant by some, but it is chronicled in heaven.
II. Every man must search carefully his own heart, and determine whether the definite desire after God is there or not. The desire is equivalent to spiritual sight. To help to build up righteousness is serving God.
III. Some will say: “but i have no such opportunities as josiah.” Have you sought them? Is not influence on relatives, friends, comrades, fellow-workers an opportunity? Can you never seize suitable occasions for uttering a Christian sentence or scowling on a social sin?
IV. A further objection is “but i have so many difficulties in my way, that i can do nothing useful.” Think of those Josiah must have met with.
V. Others say: “but i never had any special call to serve God.” What if parents, or brothers, or sisters, or friend never mentioned it? Have you never heard it in your heart, and cannot you hear it now? The very passage of time calls you to serve God.
VI. Those who begin life with Christ as Saviour, Guide, Helper, Eternal Friend, and who are honestly trying to serve Him, may be sure that He will rejoice over them, and remember them, even though them names may not be emblazoned on any great world-roll of honour.
VII. Some are conscious that they are not making a good beginning of life. They are drifting onwards and towards dangerous rapids and a deathly abyss. Christ comes to save and to give a fresh start. This is an opportunity which is worth seizing. (F. Hastings.)
I. What Josiah turned from.
1. From what is familiarly called “the way of the world.”
2. From the carnal appetites of youth, which craved to be pampered by their gratification.
3. From all vanities of the imagination.
4. From the exercise of power, before weighing its responsibilities.
5. From false friends and evil counsellors.
6. From the delusions of the gaudy appendages of a worldly Court.
II. What Josiah turned to. He fixed his heart and the faith of his soul upon God, as his--
III. He was faithful and pious from his earliest days. (A Gatty, M.A.)
I. Nothing is more amiable in itself, or more pleasing to God, than early piety.
II. Youth is a season in which you have the greatest advantages for cultivating the principles of piety, and the greatest need of religion, as a defence from temptation and dangers.
III. By early piety you will prepare tranquility and joy for old age, whilst by an opposite conduct you will fill it with remorse and fears.
IV. Regard to the feelings of all pious persons in the Church universal, a respect to the happiness of your parents, should induce you early to devote yourselves to God.
V. On your conduct in youth, your salvation or perdition almost infallibly depend. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
I. We shall briefly notice the striking example of youthful piety here presented to our view.
1. He was a decidedly religious character.
2. His genuine religion commenced at an early period.
3. An exemplary life and conversation abundantly proved the sincerity and ardour of his piety.
4. Josiah’s early piety is adduced as the pledge if not the basis of his future eminence in religion.
5. Josiah and his country reaped great advantages from his early devotedness to God.
II. We shall produce arguments urging upon all our young people the exemplification of similar decided piety.
1. A due regard to your personal welfare.
2. The plea of relative usefulness--
(1) In the family.
(2) The social circle.
(3) The Church.
3. Many whom you dearly love feel deeply interested in your spiritual welfare.
4. The compassionate Saviour not only claims but kindly encourages youthful piety. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)
Early piety exemplified in Josiah
I. Josiah imitated david.
1. God was David’s teacher.
2. God was David’s comfort.
3. God was David’s delight.
4. God was David’s defence.
II. The manner how he sought after god. He sought God--
1. From a deep conviction that his conduct and the conduct of Israel generally was highly offensive to God, and that they were exposed to imminent peril.
2. In deep self-abasement of soul.
3. By destroying the idols out of the land.
4. By restoring God’s true worship and frequenting it.
5. With all his heart (2 Kings 23:25).
III. The period of life when he did it. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
I. An early seeker. Our Queen wears a velvet cap under her crown lest it should hurt her head: this eight-year-old king had more need of such a covering. The crown is a heavy burden for young soldiers. Yet there have been younger kings than Josiah. An old Norse king was called Olaf Lapking because he was king while on his mother’s lap. Royal boyhood is often poisoned boyhood. The people of Israel around little Josiah were doing worse than the heathen. The sins and sorrows of that time are described in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, whose heart they had broken, Yet Josiah at the age of eight did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and at sixteen began to seek the God of his father David with more earnestness than ever. God calls us to seek Him earlier. In our Latin exercises there was a story about a simpleton sitting one evening at the river’s brink. A traveller coming up wished his company in crossing. “No,” he replied, “I am waiting till the river flows past.” The tiny stream of difficulties between you and Christ won’t flow past, but will flow on, and broaden and deepen, till it grows like an angry torrent, swollen with winter floods, that threatens to sweep down the old man who would ford it.
II. Josiah was also a hearty hater of evil. He did not hate in others the sins he practised himself, He was not like the Czar of Russia who used to say, “I reform my country, and am not able to reform myself.” Dr. Arnold used to say, “Commend me to boys who love God and hate evil.” Love without hate makes a mere milksop, and Christ’s disciples are to be the salt, and not the sugar of society. We need boys who will hate all evil as young Hannibal hated Rome. The young Christian ought to be the sworn foe of the kingdom of darkness.
III. Josiah was a real hero. A hero is one who, in doing duty, scorns great dangers. He had the spirit of Chrysostom, who replied to the threats of the Empress Eudoxia, “I fear nothing but sin.” Josiah’s love for the Bible would open his soul to all the best influences from the heroic lives of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel and Gideon. Thus was developed in him what Dr. Chalmers calls “the expulsive power of a new affection.”
IV. Josiah was missed and mourned when he died. There is a night in Spain called “the sad night”: and so in the history of Judah, the death of Josiah was “the sad day.” The Rabbis say that “the memory of him was like costly incense, and sweet as honey in the mouths of all.” (James Wells, M.A.)
2 Chronicles 34:14-33
And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the Lord.
Restoring God’s house
I. Spiritual desolation.
1. The negligent priesthood (2 Chronicles 34:5).
2. The dilapidated temple (2 Chronicles 34:7).
3. The perverted utensils (2 Chronicles 34:7).
II. Abundant offerings.
1. Opportunity to give (2 Chronicles 34:8).
2. Called to give (2 Chronicles 34:9).
3. Giving cheerfully (2 Chronicles 34:10).
III. Effective work.
1. Skilled workmen (2 Chronicles 34:12).
2. Diligent service (2 Chronicles 34:13).
3. Renewed devotion (2 Chronicles 34:14). (Sunday School Times.)
The book of the law found
1. We to-day are in some danger of losing the Scriptures. Not as a volume of literature.
(1) It is possible for the Word of God to sink out of our consciousness through our indifference.
(2) We may also make so much of prayer-books and creeds, of systems of doctrine and religious treatises, that the Scriptures themselves are seen only by a reflected light.
(3) Because we have been acquainted with the Scriptures from childhood, as we grow older we may fancy that we know what they contain, and leave them unstudied and unread.
(4) It is not unusual in public worship for the devotional services and the sermon to come between the soul and God’s Word.
(5) It is not unusual to find men so wedded to traditional interpretations, having origin in some theological theory, that when they read the Bible they are like one looking upon a landscape through coloured spectacles. When this tendency rules we are in danger of losing the Bible.
2. The discovery of “the book of the law” gave Josiah a new basis for faith. He must have felt when he read it, that he was supernaturally strengthened in his great task of reformation. There are few of us who do not desire to have our various undertakings approved by those in whose sagacity and moral discernment we trust. Josiah undertook his work with a new heart, for he felt that the Lord was with him.
3. We have here suggested the broad distinction between our certainty of what seems to be true and our certainty of what is vouched for as true by the Word of God.
4. This discovery of the law enlarged Josiah’s conception of duty. The knowledge that came to him and to the nation, through this book, was what a flash of light is to a ship on a dangerous coast; the light reveals the rocks upon which she nearly struck; it also reveals the safe channel and the course to the harbour. The Bible performs this double office for all to whom it comes. It reveals sin; and it discloses the path to a better life. God’s prohibitions are not restrictions upon life, but protections to it. God’s calls to men are calls to blessedness.
5. This narrative illustrates the way truth enters a human life and recreates it.
6. Two reflections.
(1) The large importance to each one of us of our finding the truth of God.
(2) The chief blessing we can confer on others is to give them the truth God has given us. The men who went to the temple treasury came back with more than money. (G. E. Horr.)
The book of the law found
I. The results of losing the law.
1. Knowledge of the truth was lost.
2. True religion passed away.
3. The services of the temple ceased.
4. The sanctuary was polluted.
5. False religion “came in like a flood.” “The land was full of idols.”
6. “Crimes of violence and deeds of oppression abounded everywhere.” When man ceases to fear God he begins to hate his fellow-man.
7. “ Immorality was rampant.” Morality does not live without religion.
8. Misery and final destruction followed.
II. The results of finding the law.
1. False religion was put away.
2. The people repented and turned to God.
3. The truth was learned.
4. The temple was beautified and opened for services.
5. A measure of mercy was found.
6. The truth was handed down to other ages.
1. Temple and services are vain without the truth.
2. Those who seek to serve God discover his will
3. When men desire to do wrong they hate the Word of God.
4. The Bible will survive all efforts of man to destroy it.
5. Where leaders set an example of piety the people follow.
6. Sin, vice, misery, and destruction come where the truth is not possessed.
7. If the times are bad we should hold up the law of God.
8. The Bible is a lost book to those who
(a) neglect it;
(b) disbelieve it;
(c) disobey it.
9. Every child should own, read, and love the Bible.
10. One can be loyal to God amid the most opposing surroundings.
11. One’s course in childhood generally determines what the youth and manhood will be.
12. The world greatly needs the services of children and men and women of righteousness. (J. E. Jacklin.)
Josiah and the newly found law
I. The discovery of the book of the law. We see here--
1. A striking instance of the indestructibleness of God’s Word. It has a charmed life.
2. That honest efforts after reformation are usually rewarded by clearer knowledge of God’s will. If Hilkiah had not been busy in setting wrong things right, he would not have found the book in its dark hiding-place. We are told that the coincidence of the discovery at the nick of time is suspicious. So it is, if you do not believe in Providence. If you do, the coincidence is but one instance of his sending gifts of the right sort at the right moment.
3. That the true basis of all religious reform is the Word of God. The nearest parallel is Luther’s finding the dusty Latin Bible among the neglected convent books. Faded flowers will lift up their heads when plunged into water. The old Bible, discovered and applied anew, must underlie all real renovation of dead or moribund Christianity.
II. The effect of the rediscovered law. If a man will give God’s Word a fair hearing, and be honest with himself, it will bring him to his knees. No man rightly uses God’s law who is not convinced by it of his sin, and impelled to that self-abased sorrow of which the rent royal robes were the passionate expression. The first function of the law is to arouse the knowledge of sin, as Paul profoundly teaches. Without that penitential knowledge religion is superficial, and reformation merely external.
III. The double-eyed message of the prophetess. Josiah does not seem to have told his messengers where to go; but they knew, and went to a very unlikely person, the wife of an obscure man, only known as his father’s son. Where was Jeremiah of Anathoth? Perhaps not in the city at the time. This embassy to Huldah is in full accord with the high position which women held in that state, of which the framework was shaped by God Himself. In Christ Jesus “there is neither male nor female,” and Judaism approximated much more closely to that ideal than other lands did. Huldah’s message has two parts.
1. The confirmation of the threatenings of the law.
2. The assurance to Josiah of the acceptance of his repentance and gracious promise of escape from the coming storm.
These two are precisely equivalent to the double aspect of the gospel, which completes the law, endorsing its sentence and pointing the way of escape. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
The Scriptures found and searched
I. The bible lost.
1. It is lost to nations. Sometimes kings and governments forbid its circulation.
2. In communities where it freely circulates in the vernacular of the people--by misconstruction, false teaching and disregard.
3. It is lost to individuals by the way they treat it. How many a man suffers the Bible to lie in his home unused, dust-covered, like the sacred roll in the Temple, until it be almost forgotten! How many cast it away because it reproves them as it reproved the wicked kings of Judah!
II. Degeneracy inevitable without it. The Word of God is the great source and conservator of moral life and health. It is sunlight to the moral world. It is the invigorating element in the moral atmosphere. No more surely do plants grow pale without sunlight, or animal life grow feeble without oxygen, than all that makes a worthy life in man, individual or collective, wanes and fails when deprived of the Word of God. How true was this of Judah! When the Word of God was lost, the nation sunk rapidly into wickedness and consequent weakness. False religion ran riot. The smoke of incense to heathen gods filled the land. The consciences of the people were debauched. And whenever the Word of God has been lost by prohibition or neglect, the downward tendency of national life has been marked. Other elements of strength may have withstood it, and, for a time, upheld with seeming success the fabric of state. But, the best elements being wanting, degeneracy and feebleness sooner or later inevitably appear. But illustrations of the matter under consideration are more open to observation in regard to communities. Whenever the Word of God is not set on high, and honoured as the arbiter in morals, the teacher in religion, and the guide in life, there wickedness and vice will prevail. But individual life furnishes the best illustration. Without the word of God abiding in the mind and regnant in the life, deterioration in all things good certainly supervenes. Take out of a man’s life the distinctive truths of the Divine revelation, and he is utterly exposed. Every avenue of his being is open to temptation. He will surely run down, sink to a lower plane, and ordinarily to a plane lower and lower the longer he lives. How many parents weep over sons and daughters tarnished, degraded, lost, because they would not heed the voice of God!
III. Its effect when found.
1. In the case of Josiah, it was astonishment. That such a book should have existed, stating so clearly the Divine will, so full of denunciations against the sins of the land, filled him with amazement. This is natural and legitimate. Only let men to whom the Bible has been lost wake to the solemn reality that its statements are everlasting truth, and that they will hold with unrelaxing energy in life, in death, and in eternity, and amazement must overwhelm them. “Is it possible that these things are true and I have not realised them?”
2. Another effect was to set him to earnest study. God was speaking. It was necessary for him to know what was said that he might order his conduct accordingly. Investigation of the Bible follows naturally a realisation of its nature.
3. Another result was to awaken anxiety. Study of the “book of the law” revealed his true condition. And so it is always. The Bible does not create the facts of our existence, but it does reveal them. In it we see our necessities and our danger. The past is marked with sin, the present full of corruption; the future forbidding, through fear of coming doom.
4. Again, the Bible found leads to repentance and reformation. How thorough was it in the case of Josiah! How deeply he deplored the sins of the land, how strenuously put them away! So it is always. It shows men what they are, and what they have done. It reveals the intensity of their sinfulness and the multitude of their sins. New thoughts, new desires, new affections, new purposes dwell within; new conduct, new habits mark the external life. And the same thing occurs in a wider field. Communities are waked to newness of life by finding the Bible. All this is true of tribes and nations. Many are the nations which have been revolutionised by it in the past, and it is doing the same to-day. Freedom of conscience attends the Bible, and civil liberty follows close behind. The Bible is the charter of the world’s hope and the mainspring of its reformation. How sad is the thought that to so many of our race there is no Bible! (Monday Club Sermons.)
Finding the book of the law
1. Many precious things are found when we set to work at repairs. Try to remove the dust from old sanctuaries of life and memory, and see what you will light upon.
2. How one good thing leads to another. First “walking in the way of the Lord”; then interest in the house of the Lord; then the book found.
3. The connection between pecuniary integrity and the Divine blessing. When they brought the money they found the book.
4. How many old things are new to us when we are in trouble and distress of mind.
5. The age of sixteen is a time of his life which no man ever forgets.
6. Devotedness to God at sixteen is so great a step in the life of a youth that it cannot be alone; you must make another onward into the sphere of spirit and of life.
7. God always finds some work to do for those who are His.
8. There is no deeper distress possible to us than that which pierces us in the discovery of our enmity to God. (B. Kent, M.A.)
The loss of the Scriptures
Consider what we should lose if we were to part with the Christian Scriptures, and with all the institutions and blessings for which we are indebted to them.
I. We should lose the knowledge of the true god. Mankind needs a book to keep alive in the earth the knowledge of a spiritual and personal God.
II. We should lose sooner or later our institutions of benevolence.
III. We should lose our institutions for popular education. Popular education is of Bible origin. Other than Christian religions build themselves on the ignorance of the masses.
IV. We should lose sooner or later our institutions of civil liberty. History shows that the great charter of freedom in the world is the Word of God. The great free nations of the earth are the great Christian nations. (A. Phelps.)
2 Chronicles 34:27
Because thine heart was tender.
The tender heart
We see that waters of the same colour have not the same nature and effect, for hot waters are of the same colour with plain ordinary waters, yet more effectual; so the words of man coming from a man may seem at first to be the same with others, yet notwithstanding, the words of God coming from the Spirit of God carry a more wonderful excellency in them even to hearts of kings. Therefore Huldah speaks to the king, “Thus saith the Lord,” etc. Josiah in uprightness sends to inquire, and the Lord returns him a full and upright answer. Whence we may learn--
I. That God doth graciously fit prophets for persons, and His word to a people that are upright in their hearts. Where there is a true desire to know the will of God, there God will give men sincere prophets that shall answer them exactly. But those that are false-hearted shall have suitable teachers, who shall instruct them according to their lusts. If they be like Ahab, they shall have four hundred false prophets to teach falsehood to please their lusts (1 Kings 22:6); but if they be Davids they shall have Nathans. If they be Josiahs they shall have Huldahs and Jeremiahs. God commended Josiah because his heart was tender. A tender heart is--
II. That it is a supernatural disposition of a true child of God to have a tender, soft, and a melting heart. All by nature have stony hearts in respect of spiritual goodness. Say what you will to a hard heart, it will never yield. A hammer will do no good to a stone. It may break it in pieces, but not draw it to any form. So to a stony heart all the threatenings in the world will do no good. You may break it in pieces but never work upon it. It must be the Almighty power of God. All that are gracious must of necessity have soft hearts.
III. Therefore i will show--
1. How a tender heart is wrought. It is made tender by Him who made it (Ezekiel 11:19).
1. God through the use of means softens it by His Word, in producing apprehension of judgment.
2. It is wrought by an apprehension of tenderness and love in Christ. Many say that an adamant cannot be melted with fire, but by blood. I cannot tell whether this be true or no; but I am sure nothing will melt the hard heart of man but the blood of Christ.
3. When the heart is made tender by the Spirit, many things will work tenderness.
(1) The works of God.
(2) His judgments.
(3) The Word and sacraments.
(4) God’s promises.
2. How it may be preserved and maintained.
(1) Keep under the means whereby God’s Spirit will work.
(2) Seek to realise the forlorn state of the Church abroad.
(3) Labour for a legal and evangelical faith.
(4) Associate with those who are tender-hearted.
(5) Take heed of the least sin against conscience. As water, when it begins to freeze, will not endure anything, not so much as the weight of a pin upon it, but after a while will bear the weight of a cart; even so at the beginning, the heart being tender, trembles at the least sin, and will not bear with any one; but when it once gives way to sins against conscience, it becomes so frozen that it can endure any sin, and so becomes more and more hard.
(6) Take heed of spiritual drunkenness; that is, be not drunk with an immoderate use of the creatures (Hosea 4:11).
(7) Take heed of hypocrisy.
(8) Take heed of great sins.
(9) Consider the miserable estate of hardness of heart.
8. How it may be discerned from the contrary. By applying of the soul unto objects--
(1) To God. As it is tender from God, so it is tender for God. He that hath a tender heart cannot endure to dishonour God himself, or to hear others dishonour Him.
(2) To His Word. A tender heart is sensitive to--
(a) Its threatening (Isaiah 66:2; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Peter 3:11); its promises, its directions (Isaiah 6:8; Psalms 27:8).
(3) To the works of God. A tender heart quakes when it sees the judgments of God upon others.
(4) To our regard of the estate of others, whether they be good or bad (Psalms 119:136; Philippians 3:18; Matthew 23:37; Matthew 11:25).
1. What an excellent thing a tender heart is (Isaiah 57:15).
2. It fits a man for the end for which he was created. The service of God.
3. It is fit for any blessedness. It is capable of any beatitude.
4. Consider the wretched state of a heart that is not tender, and will not yield. (R. Sibbes.)
A tender heart
I. Give a general account of a tender heart. It implies--
1. A quick and ready sense and feeling in spiritual things.
(1) Quickness of apprehension.
(2) Ready reflections of conscience.
(3) A disposition to be easily affected.
2. A pliable disposition to yield to Divine influences.
II. Describe the way in which such a temper should express itself.
1. In relation to the Word of God. A man of religious tenderness of spirit will--
(1) Make it his business to acquaint himself with the mind of God.
(2) Pay ready subjection to the authority of God in His Word.
(3) Be afraid to do anything which he doubts to be disagreeable to God’s Word.
(4) Will frequently compare his heart and life with God’s Word.
2. In relation to sin.
3. In relation to providential events.
4. In relation to the honour of God.
III. What foundation is laid for such a temper in Christianity.
1. The rule of our faith and practice is more complete.
2. The recompenses of the life to come are more fully revealed to us.
3. Richer discoveries of grace are made to us.
4. Ceremonials have given way to substantials of religion.
5. The softening spirit is more plentifully communicated.
1. Discern the differences between a truly Christian temper and some things mistaken for it. It is not--
(1) Natural easiness of disposition--
2. Let us all seek after and cultivate this tenderness of spirit.
3. If conscious of its possession, take the comfort of it as good evidence of a renewed and Christian state. (J. Evans, D.D.)
And thou didst humble thyself.
I. The acceptable act.
1. It was a real and personal act.
2. It was voluntary. “Thou didst humble thyself.”
3. It was a sincerely devout act.
4. It was a very deep and thorough one.
II. Reasons for imitating it.
1. A deep sense of sin, its heinousness and the punishment it deserves.
2. Our origin and our end.
3. The sovereign grace which has made us to differ.
4. The greatness of God.
5. The life and death of Christ.
III. The encouraging results which followed.
1. Humiliation will often avert judgment.
2. It always brings a positive blessing with it.
3. It will improve our spiritual health.
4. It promotes our usefulness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The art of self-humbling
I. That it is a disposition not unbefitting kings to humble themselves before God.
II. That the actions of grace are reflected actions. They begin from a man’s self, and end in a man’s self. Yet we must not exclude the Spirit. For the further expression of this humbling of ourselves before God, we will consider--
1. The kinds and degrees of it.
(a) Humiliation in the mind in regard of judgment and knowledge, when our understandings are convinced, that we are as we are.
(b) Affections of humiliation, shame, sorrow, fear.
(2) Outward. As manifested in words and in outward behaviour and carriage.
2. Some directions how we may humble ourselves,
(1) Get poor spirits, that is spirits to see the wants in ourselves and in the creature; the emptiness of all earthly things without God’s favour; the insufficiency of ourselves and of the creature at the day of judgment.
(2) Let us bring ourselves into the presence of the Great God and consider His attributes, His works of justice abroad in the world, and upon ourselves in particular (Job 42:6; Joh 1:27; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Matthew 8:8; Genesis 32:10).
(3) Let us be content to hear of our sins and baseness by others.
(4) Look to the time to come, what we shall be ere long, earth and dust; and at the day of judgment we must be stripped of all.
(5) Let us set before us the example of our blessed Saviour.
(6) Let us work upon our own souls by reasoning, discoursing, and speaking to our own hearts.
3. The motives to move us to get this humiliation.
(1) Consider the promises that are made to this disposition (Isaiah 57:15; James 4:10). As examples we have Peter, David, Manasseh, Josiah. Every branch of humiliation hath a promise. A humble heart is a vessel of all graces. Humility emptieth the heart for God to fill it. God hath but two heavens to dwell in; the heaven of heavens and the heart of a poor humble man. When a man is humbled he is fit for all good. As all the water that is upon the hills runs into the valleys, so all grace goes to the humble.
(2) All outward actions benefit other men; but this inward action of humbling a man’s self makes the soul itself good.
(3) A humble soul is a secure and safe soul.
4. The notes whereby it may be known.
(1) Holy humiliation is voluntary.
(2) It is ever joined with reformation.
(3) Sin must appear bitter to the soul. There is in every renewed soul a secret loathing and hatred of evil, and is expressed--
(a) In a serious purpose and resolution not to offend God in the least kind.
(b) There must be a constant endeavour to avoid the occasions and allurements of sin.
(c) There must be a hatred and loathing of sin in our confessions (Psalms 51:4).
(4) True humiliation proceeds from faith. It quakes, at the foresight of judgment, but the wicked never humble themselves but when judgment is upon them.
(5) With true humiliation is joined hope.
(6) Hypocrites are sorrowful for the judgment that is upon them, but not for that which is the cause of judgment, but the child of God is humbled for sin.
(7) True humiliation is a thorough humiliation. It is not like Ephraim’s morning dew, quickly gone. (R. Sibbes.)
The art of mourning
“Rending of clothes” was a thing frequently used in old times, and it was a visible representation of the inward sorrow of the heart (Job 1:20; Job 2:12; Acts 14:14; Mark 14:63; Isaiah 37:1). It was frequently used among the heathen also. Observe--
I. That the body and soul must join together in the action of humiliation.
II. That when God will afflict or humble a man, it is not a kingdom that will save him.
III. That tears and mourning for sin, when it comes from inward grief, is a temper well befitting any man.
IV. That it concerns magistrates above all others, to take to heart any danger whatsoever that is upon their people.
V. That it is the duty of every Christian to take to heart the threatening of God against the place and people where he doth live.
VI. That God takes a particular notice and understands the prayers we make unto Him. God hears our prayers, because--
1. He is gracious and merciful.
2. He is our Father.
3. He has promised to do so (Psalms 50:15).
4. They are the motions of His own Spirit (Romans 8:26-27).
5. They are offered up in the name of a Mediator.
6. They are made according to His will.
Conclusion: If we would have God hear us, then--
1. Let us hear God as Josiah did.
2. Our prayers must proceed from a broken heart.
3. We must add to them the wings of love, faith, hope and earnestness, as Josiah did here.
4. Let us have such a resolution and purpose of reformation like Josiah’s. (R. Sibbes.)
2 Chronicles 34:28
Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers.
The saint’s refreshing
I. That God takes notice of every good thing His children do and rewards them for it even in this life.
II. How the Spirit of God in common matters doth raise up the soul to think highly of them. It sweetens death with the phrase of “gathering.”
III. That death is nothing but a gathering.
IV. That the changes of God’s children are for the better.
V. That burial is a comely and honourable thing.
VI. That death is less miserable than the ill which a man may live to see in this life
VII. That our times are in God’s hands.
VIII. That it is the sight of misery which works the deepest impression.
IX. That those which be dead in the Lord are freed from seeing of any evil or misery.
X. Another conclusion, that takes away their invocation of saints.
XI. That the lives of God’s children do keep back judgment and evil from the place where they live, and their death is a forerunner of judgment. Because--
1. Gracious men do make the times and the places good where they live.
2. Gracious men do bind God by their prayers.
XII. That the evils which we suffer are from the evil of sin.
XIII. That God will give good men faithful servants that shall deal faithfully with them. The messengers dealt faithfully with Josiah.
XIV. That the care of the commonwealth and of the Church is a duty.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 34". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26