« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
fied after offering up his son Isaac. Hence it appears, that the two apostles are not contradictory, in reference to their respective arguments; that both cannot possibly intend the same thing: and that many may be justified in one of these meanings, who are not likely ever to be justified in the other : because no man is justified, in St. Paul's sense, with works; and no man is justified, in St. James's sense, without them.
2. Lastly, let us learn how dangerously those men err, who, from this and similar passages of scripture, teach men to rest upon faith alone, and deny the necessity of good works in order to salvation. They who advance this doctrine, ascribe to that faith, which St. James declares insufficient, all the noble effects of that faith, which is magnified by St. Paul: whereas the faith, in St. Paul, is that belief which attends or precedes our first entrance into the Christian covenant; and is therefore commended by him as implying an earnest desire of fulfilling those duties, which, by the very nature of that new contract, are incumbent upon us : but the faith, in St. James, is a bare speculative assent to the truth of the Christian revelation, without any influence upon our hearts and conduct; and hence he terms it a dead faith, in no degree superior to the belief of devils. Again : the works which St. Paul vilifies, are those of the ritual law : such as are achieved by our own powers ; such as presume upon a reward, due to their supposed inherent merit ; and such as were performed before our embracing the Christian religion. But the works, inculcated by St. James, are subsequent to our Christianity: intended as evidences of the sincerity of our faith; and performed in humble confidence of being graciously accepted, only by the merits and for the sake of our Saviour Christ. Of these, St. Paul speaks no less gloriously than St. James : he enumerates a catalogue of
the fruits of the Spirit;' declaring that the only thing which can avail us, is faith which worketh by love.' To the same effect, he mentions the law of faith ; the obedience of faith; the good fight of faith.' And (not to multiply quotations) St. Paul, far from ascribing the whole of a Christian's salvation to grace alone, after conversion, pronounces that the whole law' is comprehended and fulfilled in love :' and that of the three great virtues, faith, hope, and charity, the greatest and the noblest is charity. In short, no man is more ardent than St. Paul in pressing a good life: and as he extols faith
and vilifies works before conversion, in which respect he is not contradicted by St. James ; so whenever he speaks of faith as a subsequent part of the covenant and as requisite to the perfecting of a Christian's salvation, he plainly includes the effect in the cause; and intends the self-same thing by faith alone, that St. James means by faith and works together.
THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
JOSIAH. 2 Kings xxiii. 25.-Josiah turned to the Lord with all his heart,
[Text taken from the First Evening-Lesson.] Josiah, the king of Judah, will afford us a beautiful example of early piety, and of its beneficial effects. No particular account is given of him, till the sixteenth year of his age ; but then, we are assured, his heart was truly affected with divine things, and the seeds of piety sprang up with uncommon vigour. • While he was yet young (says the sacred historian), he began to seek after the God of David his father. His tutors might be the means, but the effect itself we ascribe entirely to the distinguishing mercy and powerful grace of God; since this is a temper of mind, which man by nature possesses not ; • There is none that seeketh after God.' (Rom. iii. 11.) At the very time, when his passions were coming to their full strength, and all external circumstances were favourable to schemes of sensuality, Josiah dedicated himself to the service of his God, and was chiefly solicitous to please and to glorify him.
What an exemplary pattern is here! We enquire of those in early life, Have you, like Josiah, consecrated your first and best years to God? Have you yet entered on a religious course, or even formed the plan of seeking the Lord ?" Ah! what means your levity, and contempt of every thing serious ? Is it for old persons only to be devout? And will you be content to give the refuse of your days to him who made you? You plead your own peculiar snares and difficulties; but surely they are not greater than Josiah's were. When you consider his case, you will not say, it is impossible to remember your Creator in the days of your youth;' but rather allow, that this is the most proper season of all.
Some, indeed, who appeared to begin well, and discovered an ardent zeal, have grown weary, and declined. Not so Josiah. His pious fervour was not a sudden and transitory flash, but a bright and steady flame, which long afforded an extensive light.
At the age of twenty, (and sooner perhaps, he did not undertake the direction of public affairs,) he called upon his people to join with him in serving the Lord, and exerted his whole strength and influence to promote those principles, the importance of which he had himself felt. We contemplate with delight the labours of this indefatigable prince, in reforming a corrupt nation, and recovering them once again to the worship of Jehovah. The altars, the images, the groves, and the vessels made use of in their Pagan rites, were utterly destroyed. It is obvious, that he had to conflict with very formidable difficulties ; but the fervour of his zeal carried him through them all. He was not satisfied with issuing out his orders, or sending his officers to accomplish this change; but he himself went in procession through the kingdom, to see his commands executed. And shall we not pray, that God would endue the princes of the earth with the same spirit? It is surely in their power to hinder the commission of much evil; and, doubtless, they must answer for their connivance at the profane practices of their subjects. But, leaving them, we should enquire rather, if we, in our several spheres, are using our utmost endeavours to prevent sin. Though you are not kings, magistrates, or preachers, have you no authority ? Are there none, whom you might and should restrain? Are there no friends and acquaintance living in ignorance and habits of wickedness, for whose dangerous condition you ought to be deeply concerned ? Perhaps they will listen to your instructions, counsels, and reproofs. Make the trial, at least, from a regard to God; and your labour shall not be in vain. Is it proper, in any case, to attempt a reformation? Then why should not this work begin with you? If the love of ease, or fear of opposition, render you averse to it, how unlike are you to Josiah !
It is remarkable, that, in these zealous exertions, he did not confine himself within the limits of his own particular dominion in Judah ; for he exercised a similar authority in the cities of Israel, which were then subject to the Assyrians. By some means he had obtained permission for this purpose, that he might extend his usefulness the farther. It is unfaithfulness, cowardice, or sloth which prompts us to ask, how far we are obliged to go, and makes us utterly indifferent about those who are not expressly committed to our charge. If we are under the full influence of religious principles, like Josiah, we shall say, Are there any others of my fellow-creatures whom I benefit?
any sinners whom I may recover to God? Whilst he burned the bones of the idolatrous priests upon Jeroboam's altar at Bethel, he fulfilled the divine prediction, in which he himself was described by name, and by which that particular office had been assigned him three hundred and fifty years before; and it should seem, that he was ignorant of the prophecy, till he had literally accomplished it. [1 Kings xiii. 2. 2 Kings xxii. 15—20.] How wonderful is the knowledge of God, who sees through ages to come, as well as those which are past ; and whose plans of operation, therefore, are not liable to mistakes, imperfections, or changes, as ours are ! • Known unto him are all his works, from the beginning of the world.'
Josiah was solicitous, not merely to correct irregularities, but to establish real godliness in the nation ; and, therefore, he commanded the proper officers to repair the building, for which large contributions had been collected, and to restore the appointed services in that sacred place. Such a concern for the observance of public worship will ever be the fruit of a pure zeal for God, and of a strong regard to the interests of religion. For by that institution, chiefly, the knowledge of divine truth is diffused, and the practice of holiness promoted in the world. What thanks and praise do we owe to God for the regular and quiet administration of his ordinances amongst us! Are we sensible of their value? Do we indeed rejoice and bless God, that houses of prayer are erected throughout our land? Let us offer up our petitions, that our privileges may be continued to us and our posterity: and, while we are favoured with them, let us labour to improve them to our own spiritual advantage.
During the repairs of the temple, Hilkiah the high-priest found the book of the law (probably the original writing deposited in the ark by Moses); and so much had the word of God been neglected, so scarce were the copies of it, that the king himself, and even the ministers of religion, seemed unacquainted with its contents. When it was presented to Josiah, and read before him, he discovered emotions of great anguish : for then he perceived, more than he had done, how very far the whole nation had departed from God, and to what tremendous denunciations of wrath they were exposed. Under this impression he sent to enquire of the Lord, whether it were possible in any way to avert the threatened vengeance. The divine oracle, by Huldah the prophetess, declared, that de
truction should be poured upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants without remedy, for their long-continued provocations; but that the pious prince, who had such tenderness of heart and deep humiliation before God, should be mercifully removed from the evil to come.
This is an instructive narration in all its circumstances. It will teach us to value the word of God, and to be thankful for the frequent opportunities, which the poorest amongst us enjoy of hearing and reading it for ourselves. Yet, numerous as the copies of the sacred Scriptures are amongst us, we fear, that many receive no advantage from them. The book of revelation is studiously kept out of sight, or thrown aside as troublesome or useless furniture; and in some families it seems to be no more understood, than it was in the days of Josiah. Others, who have acquainted themselves with the main subjects of it, evidently disregard its most awful declarations. Are there not those, who laugh at the very mention of those torments, which are prepared for the ungodly? Were you truly persuaded, that God means what he says, you could not but be deeply impressed: you would cry out as the king of Judah, • Enquire of the Lord for me; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us. Do you ask, to what purpose should we thus humble ourselves ? Let Josiah's example answer : you will obtain peace and security. If you mourn with real contrition, you will be accepted through the Redeemer; and then, whatever be the case of others, you shall not come into condemnation. Hear the declaration of Jehovah, * To this man will I look, even to him that trembleth at my