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ingredients. Change of time and circumstances, produces a change of counsels and behavior. dah in length of time had become a fresh temptation, and was worth fighting for. Her riches and plenty might first make her enemies covet, and then the remembrance of how cheap and easy a prey she had formerly been, might make them not doubt of obtaining.
By these apparent motives, (or whether Go», who sometimes overrules the heart of man, was pleased to turn them by secret ones, to the purposes of his wisdom) the ambition of the Ethiopians revived. With an host of men numerous as the sand upon the sea-shore in multitude, they had left their country, and were coming forwards to invade them.-What can Judah propose to do in so terrifying a crisis ?—where can she betake herself for refuge ?-On one hand, her religion and laws are too precious to be given up, or trusted to the hands of a stranger ;and, on the other hand, how can so small a kingdom, just recovering strength, surrounded by an army of a thousand thousand men, besides chariots and horses, be able to withstand so powerful a shock? -But here it appeared, that those who, in their prosperity, can forget GoD, do yet remember him in the day of danger and distress ; -and can begin with comfort to depend upon his providence, when with comfort they can depend upon nothing else. For when Zerah, the Ethiopian, was come unto the valley of Zephatha at Maretha, Asa, and all the men of Judah, and Benjamin, went out against him :-And as they went, they cried mightily unto Gop.And Asa prayed for his people, and he said," O LORD! it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power;-help us, O LORD our God, for we rest in thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude.- -O LORD
thou art our GoD: Let not man prevail against thee." Success almost seemed a debt due to the piety of the prince, and the contrition of his people. So GOD smote the Ethiopians, and they could not recover themselves :-For they were scattered, and utterly destroyed,-before the Lord and before his host. And as they returned to Jerusalem from pursuing,-behold the spirit of GoD came upon Asariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and he said unto him,Hear ye me Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin ;— The LORD is with you, whilst you are with him; -and if you seek him, he will be found of you, -but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.Nothing could more powerfully call home the conscience, than so timely an expostulation. The men of Judah and Benjamin struck with a sense of their late deliverance, and the many other felicities they had enjoyed since Asa was king over them, they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem, in the third month in the fifteenth year of Asa's reign ;-and they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD GOD of their fathers, with all their heart, and with all their soul: And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets, and all Judah rejoiced at the oath.
One may observe a kind of luxuriety in the description which the holy historian gives of the transport of the men of Judah upon this occasion.
-And sure, if ever matter of joy was so reasonably founded, as to excuse any excesses in the expressions of it,-this was one :-For without it,
the condition of Judah, though otherwise the happiest, would have been of all nations under heaven the most miserable.
Let us suppose a moment instead of being repulsed, that the enterprize of the Ethiopians had prospered against them;-like other grievous distempers, where the vitals are first attacked,
Asa, their king, would have been sought after, and have been made the first sacrifice. He must either have fallen by the sword of battle or execution; or, what is worse, he must have survived the ruin of his country by fight,-and worn out the remainder of his days in sorrow for the afflictions which were come upon it. In some remote corner of the world, the good king would have heard the particulars of Judah's destruction. He would have been told how the country, which had become dear to him by his paternal care, was now utterly laid waste, and all his labor lost ;how the fences which protected it were torn up, and the tender plant within, which he had so long sheltered, was cruelly trodden under foot and devoured. He would hear how Zerah, the Ethiopian, when he had overthrown the kingdom, thought himself bound in conscience to overthrow the religion of it too, and established his own idolatrous one in its stead,-That, in pursuance of this, the holy religion, which Asa had reformed, had begun every where to be evil spoken of, and evil entreated :
That it was first banished from the courts of the king's house, and the midst of Jerusalem,and then fled for safety out of the way into the wilderness, and found no city to dwell in :-That Zerah had rebuilt the altars of the strange gods, which Asa's piety had broken down,and set up their images :·
That his commandment was urgent, that all should fall down and worship the idol he had made :-That, to complete the tale of their miseries, there was no prospect of deliverance for any but the worst of his subjects,-those who, in his reign, had either leaned in their hearts towards these idolatries, or whose principles and morals were such, that all religions suited them alike; but that the honest and conscientious men of Judah, unable to behold such abominations,
hung down every man his head like a bulrush, and put sackloth and ashes under him.
This picture of Judah's desolation, might be some resemblance of what every one of Asa's subjects would probably form to himself, that day he solemnized an exemption from it. And the transport was natural,-To swear unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets and with cornets to rejoice at the oath which secured their future peace, and celebrate it with all the external marks of gladness.
I have at length gone through the story, which gave the occasion to this religious act which is recorded of the men of Judah in the text.
I believe there is not one, in sacred scripture, that bids fairer for a parallel to our own times,
that would admit of an application more suitable to the solemnity of this day.
But men are apt to be struck with likenesses in so different a manner, from the different points of view in which they stand, as well as their diversity of judgments, that it is generally a very unacceptable piece of officiousness to fix any certain degrees of approach.
In this case it seems sufficient,-that those who will discern the least resemblance, will discern enough to make them seriously comply with the devotion of the day ;- -and that those who are affected with it in a stronger manner, and see the blessing of a protestant king in its fairest light, with all the mercies which made way for it, will have still more abundant reason to adore that good Being, who has all along protected it from the enemies which have risen up to do it violence ;— but more especially, in a late instance, by turning down the counsels of the froward headlong,— and confounding the devices of the crafty,that their hands could not perform their enterprize.Though this event for many reasons,
will ever be told amongst the felicities of these days; yet for none more so, than that it has given us a fresh mark of the continuation of GoD Almighty's favor to us:- -A part of that great complicated blessing for which we are gathered together to return him thanks.
Let us, therefore, I beseech you, endeavor to do it in the way which becomes wise men, and that is, to pursue the intentions of his providence, in giving us the occasion-to become better men, and, by a holy and an honest conversation, make Ourselves capable of enjoying what God has done for us. -in vain shall we celebrate the day with loud voice and with shouting, and with trumpets, -if we do not do it likewise with the internal and more certain marks of sincerity,-a reformation and purity in our manners. It is impossible a sinful people can either be grateful to GOD, or properly loyal to their prince. They cannot be grateful to the one because they live not under a sense of his mercies,-nor can they be loyal to the other because they daily offend in the two tenderest points which concern his welfare: By first disengaging the providence of GOD from taking our part, and then giving a heart to our adversaries to lift their hands against us, who must know, that,if we forsake God,God will forsake us. Their hopes, their designs, their wickedness against us, can only be built upon ours towards GOD.
For if they did not think we did evil, they durst not hope we could perish.
Cease, therefore, to do evil;-for by following righteousness, you will make the hearts of your enemies faint, they will turn their backs against your indignation,—and their weapons will fall from their hands.
Which may God grant through the merits and mediation of his Son JESUS CHRIST, to whom be all honor, &c.