VI. THE FORBEARANCE OF GOD IN THE CASE OF THE
RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER OF JEHOSHAPHAT.
1 KINGS xxii; 2 CHRON. xviii. xix. "SHOULDEST thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord" (2 Chron. xix. 2).
Such is the reproof administered by Jehu the seer to
Jehoshaphat, on his return from the unsuccessful warfare in which he had been
engaged with the king of Israel against the Syrians. In the history of that
event we have an interesting exhibition of character, especially of the
characters of the two leaders of the Jewish host - Ahab king of Israel, and
Jehoshaphat king of Judah. In Ahab we have an instance of a wicked man
partially reclaimed, frequently arrested, but yet finally hardened in his
iniquity. In Jehoshaphat, again, we have a still more affecting example. We see
how a man, upright before God, and sincere in serving him, may be betrayed into
weak compliances; and how dangerous and melancholy the consequences of these
compliances may be.
The general uprightness of Jehoshaphat, his sincerity in serving God, is expressly acknowledged and commended by the prophet in the very act of condemning his sin (ver. 3): "Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek the Lord." And this high and honourable commendation corresponds with what we elsewhere read concerning his character and conduct. The 17th chapter of Second Chronicles gives an account of his piety and zeal at the beginning of his reign, and before the event to which the prophet refers; and the 19th and 20th chapters prove the continuance of these excellent dispositions, even after that most sad and untoward occurrence. We read of his labours in removing idolatry out of the land, and restoring the worship of the true God (xvii. 6); of his attention to the religious instruction of the people (xvii. 7); of his concern for the administration of justice (xix. 5); and of his care for the defence of his people against their enemies, by the best of all resources an appeal to God (xx.): on all which accounts he was eminently favoured by God with prosperity at home and honour from abroad; the attachment of his people, the submission of his hostile neighbours, the tribute of many nations, and the blessing of Jehovah, the God of David, whom he feared.
Such a prince, we might naturally imagine, opposed to all corruption in the worship of God, would be especially studious to keep himself and his people separate from the heathenism and idolatry of the adjoining kingdom of Israel. He could have no sympathy with the spirit which animated that kingdom under the auspices of the infamous Jezebel no toleration for the abuses which prevailed after she had secured the open establishment of the very worst form of paganism. His aim must surely be to avoid as far as possible all communion with a nation which could only ensnare and corrupt his own people.
Yet, strange to tell, the besetting sin of this good man was a tendency to connect himself with idolaters. The single fault charged against this godly prince is his frequent alliance with his ungodly neighbours. This is the very offence for which he is reproved by the prophet. And this offence he more than once committed in the course of his reign courting, or at least accepting, the friendly advances of the kingdom of Israel; and that in three several ways. Thus, in the first place, Jehoshaphat consented to a treaty of marriage, probably at the beginning of his reign (2 Chron. xviii. 1). He "joined affinity with Ahab" by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter (2 Kings viii. 18).
This was the first overture towards an alliance. It is a policy common among princes though, alas, too often ineffectual for uniting their royal families and their respective nations. It is the very policy of which in our own history we have several examples, in the intermarriages of the heirs of the two crowns in this island; whence, by the blessing of God, has resulted that solid union which, in his mercy, may he long preserve! The powerful monarchs of the south, after vainly endeavouring to subdue their poorer northern neighbour, whose proud and singular boast it is, that, poor as she is, she has never yet yielded to a foreign yoke, were content to win by courtship what they could not conquer by arms, and to welcome on a footing of affinity the people who would not be held as subjects. In accordance with this policy, then, the king of Judah sought to conciliate the friend- ship of the king of Israel, by mingling the blood of their royal races; not, however, with the same happy consequence, but, as it turned out, with most disastrous issues.
Then, secondly, Jehoshaphat twice joined in a league of war with the kings of Israel; first, in the expedition against Syria which we have been considering; and again, shortly after in an attack upon the Moabites (2 Kings iii. 7). This latter confederacy being formed against a common enemy, who had given both of them provocation, was not so unjustifiable, nor was it so un- fortunate as the other: it received the sanction of Elisha's counsel and of the Lord's signal interposition. But the warlike alliance into which, of his own accord, he entered, issued in nought but evil.
Lastly, in the third place, Jehoshaphat consented, though reluctantly, in the close of his reign, to a commercial alliance of his people with the ten tribes. It appears (1 Kings xxii. 48) that once before, when asked by the king of Israel to concur in a joint expedition of their two navies to Ophir for gold, Jehoshaphat promptly and peremptorily refused, having then had fresh and recent experience, in the Syrian war, of the danger of his connection with Ahab. But yet afterwards (2 Chron. xx. 35-37) he agreed to a similar proposal; on which occasion he was again rebuked by the prophet of the Lord, and again visited with signal judgment. "The ships were broken," and the expedition ruined; "they were not able to go to Tarshish." Such, then, was Jehoshaphat, and such his besetting sin.
Now, this infirmity in so excellent a person especially as manifested in that confederacy with the king of Israel of which we have already been tracing the dismal consummation is well worthy of our study, both to ascertain its cause and to trace its effects; first, to find out the probable reasons or motives of Jehoshaphat's conduct in this matter, and then to expose its folly, its sinfulness, its danger, and its evil fruit.
As to the sin itself with which Jehoshaphat is charged, and the probable reasons or motives of its commission, we cannot suppose that, in forming an alliance with the ungodly, Jehoshaphat was actuated by fondness for the crime, or by complacency in the criminal. "We must seek an explanation of his conduct rather in mistaken views of policy than in any considerable indifference to the honour of God, or any leaning to the defections of apostasy and idolatry. For this end, let us consider the relative situation of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and the feelings which their respective kings, with their subjects, mutually cherished towards one another.
The first effect of Jeroboam's revolt with the ten tribes from the house of David, was a bitter and irreconcilable hostility between the two rival kingdoms of the ten, and of the two tribes. All friendly intercourse was interrupted, mutual jealousy and suspicion prevailed, and the minds of men on both sides were exasperated and inflamed by a succession of reciprocal injuries and insults. The division was marked by all the warmth of religious controversy, and the implacable rancour of civil and domestic feud. The kings of Judah could keep no terms with rebels against the Lord and his anointed David; while it was manifestly the policy of the revolted princes to make the breach irreparable, by keeping alive and aggravating feelings of animosity among the Israelites against their brethren of Judah. And, as if to widen and perpetuate the breach, each party in turn had recourse to the expedient of calling in foreign aid against the other. At the instigation probably of Jeroboam, Shishak, king of Egypt, who had formerly been his patron and protector, invaded Judah. And again, by way of retaliation, the king of Judah soon after invited the Syrians to ravage the territory of the hostile kingdom of Israel, (2 Chron. xii and xvi.)
Thus these two kindred nations, when the quarrel was yet recent and the wound rankled, hated and devoured one another. In course of time, however, when a generation or two passed away, something like a change, or a tendency to approximation, began to appear. The feelings of hostility had in some degree subsided, the memory of former union had revived, and the idea might again not unnaturally suggest itself to a wise and patriotic statesman, of consolidating once more into a powerful empire communities which, although recently estranged, had yet a common origin, a common history, a common name, and, till lately, a common faith, whose old recollections and associations were all in common. The manifest folly, too, of exposing themselves, by intestine division, to foreign invasion, and even employing foreigners against each other, might prompt the desire of bringing the kingdoms to act harmoniously together, whether in peace or in war. Such might very reasonably be the views of an able, enlightened, and conscientious sovereign, pursuing simply, in a sense, the good of his country; and such, probably, were the views of Jehoshaphat. His favourite aim and design seems to have been, to conciliate the king and people of Israel; at least, he was always ready to listen to any proposals of conciliation. He, no doubt, thought that he could secure all the advantages of an amicable intercourse without incurring its dangers that he could sufficiently guard himself and his people from the contamination of evil influence and evil example that they could derive all the benefit to be desired from mixing with their neighbours in things temporal, without losing their own superior privileges in things spiritual. Nay, we may believe that this good man contemplated the communication of these privileges to his outcast brethren of Israel, and proposed, by the course which he adopted, to leaven them with the spirit of a better faith, and ultimately bring them back again to the legitimate dominion of the house of David, and the pure worship of the God of their fathers.
If so, his object was certainly not unlawful; but in the pursuit of it, he was tempted to an unlawful compromise of principle. In his anxiety to pacify, to conciliate, and to reclaim, he was tempted to go a little too far - even to the sacrificing of his own high integrity, and the apparent countenancing of other men's iniquities. Here lay the error of this pious prince; and here it was that he suffered the subtlety of worldly wisdom, and the spurious kindness of worldly liberality, to interfere with the simplicity of an upright and honourable faith in God, and a godly love towards men. To desire the restoration of his brethren of Israel to the privileges of the covenant which they had renounced, Was natural, just, and right, in one who himself valued these privileges so highly; but with this view, and under this pretence, to make friendly advances towards them, and show a disposition to unite with them, in their present state of apostasy and idolatry this was imprudence this was sin.
And is not this the very sin of many good and serious Christians, who manifest to the world, its follies and its vices, a certain mild and tolerant spirit, and are disposed to treat the men of the world with a sort of easy and indulgent complacency; justifying or excusing such concessions to themselves by the fond persuasion, that they are but seeking, or at least that they are promoting, the world's Deformation? No doubt, it is your duty to conciliate all men, if you can; but there is such a thing as conciliating, and conciliating, and conciliating, till you conciliate away all the distinctive characteristics of your faith. It is true, that in your intercourse with the world you are bound to be patient, long-suffering, and kind, as your God is patient, long-suffering, and kind, even to the evil and the unthankful You are to love the most abandoned with all that intensity of compassionate regard with which God has loved an ungodly race. By all words of sympathy, by all acts of true liberality, by the cultivation of all the charities and all the courtesies of social intercourse, by self-denial and self-sacrifice, by all frank and cordial testimonies of affection, you are to demonstrate your own and your heavenly Father's good-will, if by any means, heaping coals of fire on their head, you may melt them to penitence and love. But to make men see and feel how gladly you on earth, and your Father in heaven, would welcome them as penitents, this is one thing. To make them suppose that you are willing to receive them on terms of friendship while still impenitent, this is quite another. To treat them as if their impenitence formed no serious obstacle to the closest and most familiar intimacy; to mix and unite with them, as if you could tolerate, and even admire, their frailties, their excesses, their loose maxims and opinions; this is to attempt a union between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial an attempt alike vain and sinful, dangerous to yourselves and ruinous to them.
If, therefore, there are any in the Church of Christ who are sometimes tempted (and who shall say that he is not?) to advance too far in this line of concession and conciliation, and these overtures of friendly conformity to the world, and to plead that they are not thus contaminated themselves, but that they rather season the world's corruption in the circles in which they move, by the admixture of their own purer principles and practices; we bid them look to Jehoshaphat and his unholy alliance with the idolatrous king of Israel. Let them consider what the real effect of such conduct was in his case, and what must be the effect of similar conduct in theirs. Let them observe its vanity and folly, for it fails to serve, or rather tends to hinder, the good purpose they intend; its sin, as it regards their own testimony for God and maintenance of sound principle; its danger, as it puts to hazard their peace and safety; and its mischievous tendency to encourage the evil course and accelerate the ruin of the very men whom they profess that they desire to benefit.
Thus, as to the first point, Jehoshaphat, when he consented to an alliance with the king of Israel, no doubt contemplated the possibility of doing him some good. He thought that his influence and example might operate as a check on the violence of his ally. He intended to interpose, at fitting seasons and opportunities, his advice, his remonstrance, his authority; and flattered himself that, under his control, the measures of the headstrong prince would assume a milder and more moderate, as well as more religious character, than was their wont. Such was his hope. How in point of fact was it realized? Do we find the presence of the Jewish king at all restraining the impetuosity of Ahab's counsels? No; but his presence gives to these counsels a weight and a plausibility which, without his countenance and consent, they never would have had. Do we find Jehoshaphat boldly resisting and opposing the ungodliness of his new friend? All, no! His voice of rebuke is feeble and unheeded. Hear how he answers Ahab's impious avowal of the hatred which he bore to the true prophet of the Lord. Is it in the tone of manly and honest indignation which it deserved? No; but with a puny, pitiful, girlish gentleness of expostulation "Let not the king say so." And when the prophet is insolently buffeted by one of Ahab's minions, and consigned to unmerited imprisonment by the chafed monarch himself, what has this godly king to say against such atrocities? What! Not a word? No! For not a word from him will now be regarded. He has lost his high prerogative of reproof. He has descended from his footing of unquestioned and uncompromised integrity, and involved himself irretrievably in the very course he should be rebuking. In a word, do we find this pious prince exerting any salutary influence at all over Ahab's manners, or principles, or pursuits? No; but we see him a tool, a dupe, and well-nigh a victim, in the hands of one too crafty and too headstrong for him to manage.
And so it must ever be. The very first step a good man takes from the eminence, on which he stands apart, as the friend of God and the unflinching enemy of all ungodliness in the world, he compromises his authority, his influence, his right and power of bold remonstrance and unsparing testimony against the corrupt lusts and the angry passions of men. He gives up the point of principle, and as to any resistance that he may make in details, men see not what there is left to fight for. If you make concessions to the weak, the wicked, or the worldly, and enter into their plans, and sit down with them in their indulgences, you renounce the advantage which the consciousness of untarnished honour and un-impeached consistency, and that alone, can give you over them; you put yourself on their level; you are at their mercy; you are one of themselves; and it must be with an ill grace and a feeble effect that you venture timidly to stand forth either as God's witness or as their reprover. Whatever you gain by conciliation, you lose far more by forfeiting the respect and reverence which firm integrity commands. You may consent to mix with them familiarly on terms of friendship and companionship; you may thus gain their easy and indolent good-will; but you gain something very like their contempt too; and a sort of feeble paralysis comes over you in the very attempt to be faithful. Your voice of censure loses all its commanding energy; your look of disapprobation loses all its keenness; your presence is no longer felt to be a restraint on folly; your severity cannot awe, your tenderness cannot touch; you can but feebly "hint a doubt, and hesitate dislike." To assume a high tone and take high ground now, would but excite ridicule by its absurdity or anger by its impertinence. Your right to testify, your influence to persuade, your power of rebuke, alas! Are all gone. Is not this the natural, the necessary result of such a conciliatory course? If you condescend to flatter men in their vanities, will they listen to you when you gravely reprehend their sins? No; they will laugh you to scorn. If you countenance them in the beginning of their excess, will they patiently bear your authoritative denunciation of its end? No; they will contemptuously reject it as a fond folly, or indignantly resent it as an insult. If you go with them one mile, may they not almost expect you to go two? At least, you have no right to take it very much amiss if they go the two miles themselves.
Settle it, then, in your minds, as a fixed principle, that if you would preserve unimpaired your privilege of testifying for God, and would not be disqualified for discharging a very sacred trust, and performing a very sacred duty, you must beware of a single step in the way of such conciliation as Jehoshaphat's. If you would have your influence, your example, your character and conduct, to be of any weight in the world on the side of divine truth and holiness, be very careful, by the grace of God, to keep yourselves unspotted from the world.
But, in the second place, Jehoshaphat not only failed to arrest Ahab in his sinful course, he was himself involved in its sinfulness Instead of reclaiming this wicked prince, he was himself betrayed into a participation in his wickedness, he joined him in his unholy expedition. And be sure, we say to all professing Christians, that you too, if you try thus artfully to gain the advantage over the world, will find the world too much for you. For Satan, the god of this world is far more than a match for you in this game of craft, and compromise, and conciliation. Beware how you step out of your own proper sphere, as a separate and peculiar people, to provoke such a trial of skill with Satan or his practised votaries and advocates; and that, too, in their own haunts the haunts of their own worldly vanities; and on their own ground the ground of their own worldly modes and maxims. Be sure that they are to the full as able to argue the point with you, as you are to persuade or convince them. They are as likely, at the least, to pervert you as you are to convert them. You may take part with them in their counsels, and cultivate their friendship, hoping to influence them towards good; but beware lest the tables be turned upon you, and they influence you towards evil. Remember, that from man to man holiness diffuses and spreads its healthful savour far more slowly and less extensively than sin disperses its contagious poison. The contact of your holiness may not sanctify them; the touch of their sin will certainly contaminate you. It is your purpose, in joining with them, to stop them short at a certain point. Are you quite sure that you can stop short at that point yourselves, that you will not, when you come to it, feel yourselves committed, and be easily persuaded that, having gone so far with them, it is needless to scruple about going yet a little farther? Then go not along with them at all no, not a single step: for a single step implies tampering, in so far, with your religious and conscientious scruples; and when these are once weakly or wilfully compromised, Satan's battle is gained. The rest is all a question of time and of degree. Your spiritual faith, and your moral principles, are henceforth at the world's disposal. Your safety lies in resisting at the outset, before the world's cold and subtle influence has debauched your hearts and perplexed your understandings. The first prompt decisions of a conscience convinced of sin, and a soul touched with the Saviour's love, will, in most cases, be right; but when you give time for the world to ply you with its manifold considerations of doubtful expediency when you once entertain the world's insidious inquiry, May I? Is it lawful? Are you sure that what I long to do is positively wrong? Ah! Then you are already involved in the tide and current that may soon sweep you into the resistless whirlpool, where so many promises and so many professions, once as trustworthy as yours, are day after day engulfed. Stand fast, then, in your liberty. "All things are lawful unto you, but all things are not expedient." Be not yourselves "brought under the power of any;" and consider what may "edify" the Church and glorify God (1 Cor. vi. 12 and x. 23). Stand fast in your integrity. Be faithful to Him who calleth and appointeth you to be children in his house; "faithful in that which is least" as well as "faithful in much" (Luke xvi.10). Then, and then only, may you expect him to be faithful to you, and to keep your eyes from tears, your feet from falling, and your souls from death.
For, thirdly, see what hazard Jehoshaphat ran. Not only did he sin with Ahab, but he was on the point of perishing with him in his sin. Betrayed by his false ally and associate, who could meanly consult his own safety by exposing his friend to danger, Jehoshaphat was saved, but scarcely saved, by faith and prayer, and that only in the last extremity: "And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to tight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him" (2 Chron. xviii. 31).
The interposition was seasonable; it was just in time, and no more than in time. And critical as it was, was it not more than he had any reason to expect? Was it not a deliverance on which he had no right to calculate? It was by his own fault, and against express divine warning, that he was involved in this hazard, and he might justly have been left to take the consequences of his own perverseness. His narrow escape was a cause of peculiar thankfulness to himself, but not a warrant of presumptuous confidence to others. It was a signal and special act of most undeserved mercy. And think not, Christian! that you may depend upon a similar act of mercy when you tempt the Lord as Jehoshaphat did. If you consent to the schemes of vain, wicked, or worldly men, and compromise your devotion to God out of courtesy and complaisance to them, you may be very sure that, as in Jehoshaphat's case, they will take advantage of your easy and accommodating spirit, to put the blame and the danger on you. But you cannot be at all so sure that God will come so very opportunely to your rescue. He is in no way bound to do so. For it is not a hazard which you have encountered in his service and at his call, but a risk incurred through your own weak folly or wilful self-confidence; and why should you not be left to reap the fruit of your unwise compliance with the world's sin, by sharing largely in the world's doom?
But suppose that God deals with you far more kindly than you deserve, and in the hour of threatened and courted ruin your prayer is heard, and you are saved from sinking in the deep pit and the miry clay, and your feet are set again upon a rock, and your goings established, we have still, in the fourth place, one other consideration to urge. Look to the mischief which your compliance brings on others. Here we might speak of the many evils which the weak and worldly policy of Jehoshaphat entailed upon his family and people. We might show how his connection by marriage with the house of Ahab led, in another generation, to the introduction of all the vices and abominations of that idolatrous house into his own court and kingdom. We might show also how, in the present instance, notwithstanding his own escape, his army and his subjects suffered by his rashness; and we might remind you of the harm which you may do, by involving your friends, your children, or your dependants, in the consequences of your folly, from which you may yourselves be delivered, by encouraging them through your example, and leading them on in the way of sin, and shame, and sorrow. But we rather choose to confine your view to a single point, and we ask you to remark how Jehoshaphat's countenance contributed to the ruin of the infatuated and unfortunate prince whom he assisted and seconded in his mad career.
The king of Judah was saved himself, as by fire; but his ally, his confederate, was lost. And had he no hand, had he no concern, in the loss? And when he came to reflection, had he no cause of self-reproach no blame to take to himself? Had he faithfully warned his friend? Had he honestly remonstrated with him? Had he fearlessly protested against him, and sharply rebuked and withstood him? Oh! Such wounds would have been kind and precious. But he had been too merciful; he had been pitiful, falsely pitiful, fondly, foolishly indulgent; he had spared his companion's feelings; he had dealt mildly and gently with him; he had seemed to consent, or at least to acquiesce. Alas! Might not the perishing outcast too truly plead, that in every step of his sinful and fatal career he had the sanction of a righteous man? And oh! what would that righteous man now give for the recollection of but a single word affectionately spoken in strong and stern expostulation?
Friends and Christian brethren! What a thought is this that, in making flattering advances to sinners, and dealing smoothly with their sins you not only endanger your own peace, but you accelerate and promote their ruin! You may save yourselves by tardy yet timely repentance; you may extricate yourselves ere it be too late; but can you save, can you extricate those whom your example has encouraged, or your presence has authorized? We speak not of the evil which in your unconverted state you may have done, that is bad enough to suggest many bitter recollections; but we speak of the evil which even in your character of believers you have unwarily and incautiously sanctioned, that you should feel to be even worse. Think of any single sin which you have seen committed, any single excess of word or action that has occurred in your presence or within your knowledge. Did you testify against it? Did you boldly stand forth to protest and to condemn? Did you decidedly separate yourself? Oh! You said a few words, perhaps, to save your credit; you feebly started an objection, and ventured timidly to suggest a hint. But did you faithfully and fearlessly start back at once from the scene, and disavow all sympathy and all toleration? Nay, did you not rather, by your light mode of speech, by lending your countenance before, and continuing to lend it still, convey the idea, that though for decency's sake you opposed, you were not very earnest in your opposition? And are you sure that this idea did not tend to encourage the offender? May it not be, that had you not at first acquiesced so easily, and at last remonstrated so faintly, the offence might not have been committed? And when you think of some such individual perishing in some such sin, in sin which you seemed yourselves to countenance and tolerate, oh! What depth of sorrow and self-abasement can ever exhaust the repentance due for so grievous a wrong? What earnestness of unceasing prayer is needed to guard against so dangerous a weakness! We ask you, the very best of you, have you not to charge yourselves with some such compromise and compliance! We ask you, have you felt the guilt of it as you ought? Have you repented of it as so aggravated an injustice ought to be repented of? Have you seen that there may lie upon you the burden not of your own sins merely, but of the sins of other men, of which you have been partakers? Have you ever considered what it may be to have to answer for the loss and ruin of immortal souls? Think what it would be to have the dying blasphemer point to you, and say, It was you who, by your decent profession, your little concessions and conformities, your moderate indulgences it was you who, by your easy tone of levity, by your air of indifference, or by a word, a look, of sympathy with sin it was you who emboldened me to go on!'
The thought is too dreadful for us to dwell on; and especially so when we consider that even good men, holy men, servants of God, have suffered themselves to be thus criminal, and thus cruel. Well said the patriarch, of the ungodly, "My soul, come not thou into their secret;" have no fellowship with them; advance not, draw not near to their council no, not a step, not for a single hour. You may be putting to hazard your own principles, and fearfully aggravating and hastening their condemnation. And will God not visit for these things? Will he not rebuke the saint's weak compliance as well as the sinner's wilful sin? True he will not acquit the sinner, though he may plead the saint's infirmity as his excuse; for, after all, he sins wilfully. But will he on that account hold his saints guiltless? Must not this as well as their other sins, this infirmity with its sad results, "find them out" - so as to be made sensible to their awakened conscience? And can it be so, if their hearts are touched with a feeling for lost souls, can it be so, without almost the very agony of remorse? Beware how you treasure up for future hours of disquietude and despondency for the season of desertion for the dark and doubtful death-bed in addition to too many other sad recollections, the memory of sins tolerated and sinners emboldened, through your simplicity, your timidity, your faint resistance, or your half-hinted consent! Truly you have need of sound wisdom and high principle in your walk through an evil world. The men of the world are ready enough to misunderstand even what is right in you, and to speak evil even of what is good. Give them no room for the sly remark, the shrewd suspicion, the insinuated doubt, which the very appearance of evil in you will suggest. Plead not an innocent or a laudable design, as though your policy might tend to win souls. Be not wiser than your God; but be faithful to him. It were hard to say how much of the world's carelessness in sin, as well as of the ill success of the gospel, may be ascribed to the feebleness of the testimony which believers bear against the world, and the uncertain sound which their trumpet gives. Let there be more decision among true Christians, a higher tone of feeling, a higher standard of conduct greater consistency, greater earnestness, greater separation, a more unequivocal zeal for God, a more unhesitating care and consideration for the interests of righteousness and the souls of men; and the people of the world may be made at last to know and feel that Christianity does put a real distinction, now and for ever, between them and the people of God. Alas for the tendency of many a Christian's walk to cherish the very opposite delusion! When unconverted men find you in their company, free and unconstrained, nay, ready to go along with them in some doubtful liberty of pleasure, or some questionable plan of profit, do they understand, can they be satisfied, that you really believe them to be in a lost and guilty state? Are you at any pains to show them and make them feel that you believe this? Would it not be benevolent in you to do so? Are they under the wrath of God? Are they going down to hell? Do you believe that they are? And is it fair, is it generous, is it kind, to leave them, amid all your intercourse with them, still by possibility under the impression that, after all, you cannot seriously think the difference between you and them so very vital, else you would scarcely treat them and their plans and pleasures so favourably as they see that you do? Your tender mercies are cruel indeed, if such be the issue of them! Be sure that, not less out of charity to them than out of a regard to your own safety, it concerns you to realize, and to live as realizing, the momentous truth "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1 John v. 19). Such knowledge is no nurse of vain-glory; for it implies a recognition of the free gift of God: "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" (1 John v. 20). And it deepens and renders intense the feeling of duty and responsibility: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (1 John v. 21).
Go To Scripture Characters No.7
SCRIPTURE CHARACTERS BY ROBERT S. CANDLISH, D.D., FREE ST. GEORGE'S, EDINBURGH. LONDON: T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.
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