stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears;" they did "always resist the Holy Ghost" (see Acts 7:51). No doubt there was always a true "Church of God" within the nation (1 Kings 19:18); but to call the whole nation "the Jewish Church" is a misnomer, and far from a harmless one. It has encouraged Christian nations to fashion their communities after the Jewish model instead of after the Christian one. The verses I have selected record and illustrate good aims and bad methods.
I. GOOD AIMS. Josiah's aims, as here presented, were confessedly high, noble, and good. I offer two remarks concerning his purposes as presented in these verses.
1. To reduce his people to a loyal obedience to Heaven. His aim was to sweep every vestige of religious error and moral crime from his dominion. Truly, what more laudable purpose could any man have than this, to crush all evil within his domain, to crush it not only in its form but in its essence? This was indeed the great end of Christ's mission to the world. He came "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
2. Generated within him by the discovery of the Divine will. Somehow or other, as was seen in the last chapter, the book of the Law which was to regulate the lives of the Jewish people had been lost in the temple, lost probably for many years, but Hilkiah the high priest had just discovered it, and Josiah becomes acquainted with its contents. What is the result? He is seized with the burning conviction that the whole nation is gone wrong, and forthwith he seeks to flash the same conviction into the souls of his people. "And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant." Thus sprang his noble purpose. It was not a capricious whim or the outcome of a sudden and fitful impulse; it was rooted in an enlightened conviction. A noble purpose must be righteously founded.
II. BAD METHODS. Real good work requires not only a good purpose, but a good method also. Saul sought to honor the God of his fathers, and this was good; but his method, viz. that of persecuting the Christians, was bad. How did Josiah now seek to realize his purpose to sweep idolatry from the face of his country? Not by argument, suasion, and moral influence, but by brute force and violence (vers. 4-28). "All the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove" (ver. 4), that is, all the apparatus for idol-worship, these he ordered to be burnt outside Jerusalem, "in the fields of Kidron." He "stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. And he brake down the houses of the sodomites" (vers. 6, 7). He also "brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men" (ver. 14). Moreover, "he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them" (ver. 20). In this way, the way of force and violence, he essayed to work out his grand purpose. I offer two remarks concerning his method.
1. It was unphilosophic. Moral evils cannot be put down by force; coercion cannot travel to a man's soul. The fiercest wind, the most vivid lightnings, cannot reach the moral Elijah in his cave. The "still small voice" alone can touch him, and bring him out to light and truth. After all this, were the people less idolatrous? Before Josiah was cold in his grave idolatry was as rife as ever. You may destroy to-day all heathen temples and priests on the face of the earth, but in doing this you have done nothing towards quenching the spirit of idolatry - that will remain as rampant as ever; phoenix-like, it will rise with new vitality and vigor from the ashes into which material fires have consumed its temples, its books, and its feasts. Ay, and you might destroy all the monastic orders and theological tomes of the Roman Catholic Church, and leave the spirit of popery as strong, nay, stronger than ever. Truth alone can conquer error, love alone can conquer wrath, right alone can conquer wrong.
2. It was mischievous. The evil was not extinguished; it burnt with fiercer flame. Persecution has always propagated the opinions it has sought to crush. The crucified Malefactor became the moral Conqueror and Commander of the people. Violence begets violence, anger begets anger, war begets war. "He that taketh the sword shall perish by the sword." - D.T.
And the King sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem.
I. GOOD AIMS. Josiah's aims, as here presented, Were confessedly high, noble, and good.
1. To reduce his people to a loyal obedience to heaven.
2. Generated within him by the discovery of the Divine will.
II. BAD METHODS. How did Josiah now seek to realise his purpose, to sweep idolatry from the face of his country? Not by argument, suasion, and moral influence, but by brute force and violence (vers. 4 -28). I offer two remarks concerning his method.
1. It was unphilosophic. Morals evil cannot be put down by force; coercion cannot travel to a man's soul.
2. It was mischievous. The evil was not extinguished; it burnt with fiercer flame. Persecution has always propagated the errors it has sought to crush. "He that taketh the Sword shall perish by the sword."
(David Thomas, D. D.)
I. This REVIVAL BEGAN AT THE HOUSE OF GOD. And surely that was the best place. In God's house, in God's presence, we are to assemble and look for Him. It is there we may expect the Shekinah fire, no longer visible over the ark between the cherubim, but felt in force and power in human hearts. It is there we must seek for renewed vigour and Divine influence. It is there we must look for the Lord Himself, and pray Him to strengthen and quicken us. It is there we must come for the deepening of our faith in the Eternal, enlarging of our courage and zeal, and the expansion of cur Christian hope. It is there all revival must begin. If, then, we are to have a revival, it must begin at God's house. Votes of the House of Commons cannot do it, Acts of Parliament will never make men religious. Decrees of State will not fill empty churches with men and women full of the Holy Ghost and fire. All this has been tried. Some two or three hundred years ago soldiers were stationed at the doors of the parish churches, not so much to see who attended as to note who was absent. Fine, imprisonment, exile and worse, fell to the lot of those who did not fill their places. These things did not succeed. They never can. Fine, sword, fire, and persecution failed, and always will. They are the instruments of a past and barbarous age. But if we are to have a revival in which the people shall flock to God's house, God's house itself must be revived. There must be live men in the Church, if it is to save men alive. A cold Church but seldom warms cold hearts.
II. IN THIS REVIVAL MEN CAME BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD. The long-lost book was found. The Word of the Lord hid, slighted, neglected, lost, was discovered and brought to the young king. What a discovery Hilkiah made when he found the Bible! What a treasure he dug up! What a mine of precious ore! What a valuable find! The young king was quick to see its importance, value, and worth. It was read; its warnings heeded, its promises believed. And it was read to all the people. What an effect that book produced. Even so. I have no faith in any revival without the Word of God. Read the history of the great revivals in the Church, and you will find the Word of God in it all. Beginning with the Bereans right down to our day you will find it so. John Wycliffe was a great power in his day. He is rightly called the Morning Star of the Reformation. He Sent his Lollard preachers through the lend to tell the story of God's love. As he translated the Bible into the language of the people, his preachers went and read it and preached it to common folk. Read the history of the Reformation, and what will you find there? Martin Luther is its hero. That marvellous man, like his Lord and Master, was a son of the people, and began life in a poor and comfortless home. Reared in the faith and practice of the Romish Church, he came to know it well, and early saw its weakness. What was it made him take his reforming action? Have we not read that he found a copy of the Scriptures — the neglected, deserted, forsaken Bible? He read it. It did its work. It was the Bible made him the great reformer. It was the Bible which the reformers accepted as a sufficient rule of faith and life. We, too, need to pay more attention to the living Word of God. We are apt to look for and depend upon the word of man. If that is not eloquent, if that is not such as to tickle our fancy, we often return from God's house displeased, dissatisfied, and unblessed. What a mistake! Let us look for the God-sent message; let us hearken for the voice of the living God; let us hear what He has to say to us.
III. A REVIVED CHURCH WILL MAKE ITSELF FELT IN THE WORLD. This assembling at the house of God, and the solemn and reverent reading of the Bible, made a deep impression upon the people. The king dedicated himself to God. And surely that is the right thing for a king to do. The king should lead in all good things. All the people felt the influence, and there was a national movement. Public life was affected, the power of God was felt, men pat away their idols, and came back to the faith of their fathers. The Church, the Temple, religion became a greater force in the national life.
(C. Leach, D. D.)
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