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The steadfastness of God to his covenant with us, and the uniform course of his past goodness to us, are arguments to our gratitude not to be unstedfast with him. He is with us, while we are with him ; his covenant is ordered in all things and sure, and his promises yea and amen ; he never breaks with us, till we are grossly perfidious. And we have found him hitherto nigh at hand to us, in all that we have called him for. Upon any revolt, therefore, he may justly expostulate with us, “What iniquity have ye found in me, that ye are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity?” Jer. ii. 5.
The best we have to expect, if we turn aside to folly, is his fatherly corrections. There is not a kinder declaration in the book of God, than that in Psal. lxxxix. 30–33. “ If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments : —then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” The design of such corrections is gracious, to reclaim them; but why should we make our Father's rod necessary ?
That we may, therefore, be steadfast and unmoveable, I would offer the following directions for a close.
See that you begin well upon the foundation of a sincere and unreserved devotedness to God; that you have the power, as well as the form, of godliness. A flaw in the foundation will make the building totter ; and unless it be rectified, may occasion our perishing under the ruins of it, like the house, which our Saviour speaks of, that was “built upon the sand.”
Often review the state of your souls ; let not long accounts remain without inspection : but often examine what ground you have gained or lost, that disorders may be soon rectified, before they have proceeded far, or before your hearts are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Improve every melancholy instance of the falls of others, to awaken your own caution. When you see other people's miscarriages, the best improvement you can make of them, is that to which the apostle directs upon such an occasion : "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall,” i Cor.
Be steadfast in the faith, as ever you would be steady in your obedience. This is the principle which feeds and àniyour faith
mates Christian obedience. Every doctrine of divine truth has a practical influence, and its influence will be proportionable to the strength of our persuasion about it. If be shaken, that which depends upon it, and would not be a reasonable service without it, will be shaken too.
Aim at advances, if you would not decline. If once you think you are come to your full pitch, it will soon make you remiss, and lay you open to the snares of life. Therefore St Peter unites the exhortations : “ Beware lest you fall from your steadfastness; but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ," 1 Pet. iii. 17, 18.
Eye the most excellent examples to excite your emulation. . Make those your chosen patterns, who walk most closely with God, and even them no farther than they do so.
Trust not your own hearts, but “in him who is able to keep you from falling ;” and, therefore, often and earnestly pray to him to keep you: “back from presumptuous sins, Psal. xix. 13.; to make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you,” i Pet. v. 10.; “ to keep you, by his mighty power, through faith unto salvation," chap. i. 5. And often think of the promised reward as sure, and great,
“Knowing the time,” Christians, reckon it“ high time to awake out of sleep ; for now is your salvation nearer than when you believed.”
A TENDER SPIRIT.
2 Chron. xxxiv. 27. [first clause.]
Because thine heart was tender.
HIS is God's own commendation of King Josiah. He
, at old;" and though he were the son of an exceeding wicked father, yet was a prince of eminent religion through the several periods of his government. Personal religion appeared in him betimes : “In the eighth year of his reign, when he was yet young, or when he was but sixteen years old, “ he began to seek after the God of David, his father ;" that is, he publicly avowed the worship of the true God, which had been notoriously cast off in the days of his own father Amon, ver. 3. “And in the twentieth year” of his reign, the twentieth of his age, “ he began to purge Judah and
Jerusalem from the high-places and the groves,” &c. He began a public reformation of the worship of God from the abuses which had been countenanced in the days of his predecessor, several of which the sacred historian goes on to enumerate.
“ And in the eighteenth year of his reign,” when he was twenty-six years old, he proceeded to repair the house of God, ver. 8, &c. In the course of the repairs, “ Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses," ver. 14.
Whether this was that original book of the law which Moses laid up by the ark, or some ancient authentic copy of it, is not so certain. Probably this had been concealed in some
secret place of the temple, to secure it from the impious fury of some of the idolatrous kings of Judah, and now happily came to light when people were set to work to repair it. It is plain by what follows, that both king and people were, in a great measure, strangers to the contents of it till this discovery. Probably the reading of the law had been neglected, both publicly and privately, in the reigns of several wicked kings, who had gone before Josiah : it may be most of the copies had been wilfully destroyed, or, by the general neglect of transcribing more, were grown very rare and scarce. Without doubt, the king had not written a copy of the law with his own hand, according to the command in Deut. xvii. 18. which surely he would have done before this time, in obedience to the law, if he had been particularly acquainted with it, since he is declared to have“ done that which is right in the sight of the Lord” from his early days, ver. 2. that is, according to such degrees of light about the mind of God as he had before the law was found, either by hints received from some good people about him, or by means of some imperfect abstracts of the law which might go about, while entire copies were wanting
The law being found, it was carried to the king, who, like a man earnestly desirous to “know the way of God more perfectly,” ordered it to be read to him, and, like a man of a tender conscience, “when he heard the words of the law, rent his clothes,” ver. 18, 19. fell under it, struck with the dreadful threatenings contained in it against transgressors; and arprehending from them, that “great wrath from the Lord” was like to be “poured out upon them,” sends a deputation of some of his principal ministers to inquire of God, in the case by Huldah the prophetess, ver. 20, 21. to enquire whether there were any hopes that God's anger might be appeased, and what was necessary to this end. Huldah, by direction from God, lets him know that God was peremptorily resolved to execute his vengeance upon the Jews for their great and long revolts from him ; but for the king himself, he should have the favour to “be gathered to his grave
peace, that his eyes might not see all the evil that was coming upon them.” The reason of this distinction in Josiah's case is given in the text : “ Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before God, when thou heardest his
" Ye are
words against this place, &c. I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord.”
I have chosen this divine encomium upon an Old Testament saint, to represent to you one eminent ingredient, or qualification, of the Christian temper, which should attend us with reference to every part and branch of it, a tender heart.
The same thing is expressed by “an heart of flesh, in opposition to “a stony heart,” in some promises of the Old Testament, which were to receive their principal accomplishment, in evangelical times, in the spiritual seed of Abraham, in Ezek. xi. 19. and chap. xxxvi. 26. “I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” I apprehend St Paul had those promises in his eye, when he says to the Corinthian converts, 2 Cor. iï. 3. manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.' These converts were a sort of epistle from Christ, in commendation of the sincerity and efficacy of the apostle's ministry among them ; this commendatory epistle of Christ was written in the “fleshly tables of the heart,” that is, in their hearts made soft, and ready to attend to and obey the gospel, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, agreeable to the ancient promise, that he would “give an heart of flesh.”
To this stands opposed what we so often read of, “ hardness of heart," an “heart of stone." We read of some, who “ made their hearts as an adamant of stone,” Zech. vii. 12. the extraordinary hardness of which makes it exceeding difficult, to carve, or fashion it, by art into a regular figure. Others are said to make their faces harder than a rock," Jer. v. 3. which you cannot easily move or penetrate. bad' disposition is elsewhere set out by a metaphor taken from flesh, but such a part of flesh as has contracted a brawny stiffness and hardness, by much exercise and hard labour. Under such an allusion, the Gentile world is described as “past feeling,” .
Eph. iv. 19. and others as “having their consciences seared with an hot iron." 1 Tim. iv. 2. The tender heart in the text stands opposed to all this.
My business upon this head shall be,