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Germs of Thought.
“His heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord.”—2 Chro. xvii. 6.
Inalysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sebentieth.
It was of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, that this was spoken; and, considering the circumstances of the case, it is a very high commendation. Jehoshaphat was a prince distinguished for his piety and the excellence of his life. His reign which lasted for five-and-twenty years, was powerful and prosperous. He destroyed the altars and high places of idolatry; he caused a knowledge of the law to be diffused throughout the kingdom ; and he filled the offices of judicial and ecclesiastical authority with the wisest and best men of the land. " And the Lord was with him." “ All Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord.”
I. SOME MEN, WHEN LIKE JEHOSHAPHAT THEY HAVE RICHES AND HONOR IN ABUNDANCE, HAVE THEIR HEARTS LIFTED UP, BUT NOT IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD. The natural tendency of such circumstances is to create and foster a spirit of pride, of self-sufficiency, and of independence. How many there are who, in the striking language of scripture, “sacrifice unto their net and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat and their meat plenteous.” there are who need to be warned as were the Jews of old! “ Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein ; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is mul
tiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied ; then thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord thy God. And thou
say in thine heart, my power and the might of mine hand have gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.” The possession of abundance has a tendency to close the eye against the hand which, ever open, supplies that abundance ; the possession of health leads us to forget that it is the gift of God; the possession of worldly riches, or honor, or fame, or power, we are too prone to attribute to ourselves, and in our enjoyment of it to forget God. We have a striking exemplification of human nature, in this aspect of it, presented to us in Nebuchadnezzar, the monarch of Babylon. Ascending his lofty palace, and looking around him from its summit, he said, in the pride of his heart, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built ? ” It has been suggested, that if he had been engaged with his enemy, he would have called upon his false gods; or, finding their insufficiency, he might have been led to acknowledge the God of heaven, as the monarch of Babylon not unfrequently did ; but now,
when surrounded by peace and prosperity, by all the splendor of the city which he had raised and ornamented, he saw not God from whom all his power and prosperity came,
upon whose bounty and care he was as much a pensioner as the meanest of his subjects; but he saw himself as the origin and director of all, and he said, “ Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" His heart was lifted up, not like Jehoshaphat's in the ways of the Lord, but in the ways of pride, of selfsufficiency, and independence of God. And, that he might learn the lesson of humility and dependence, Nebuchadnezzar was driven among the beasts of the field. So if we look at human nature, not in its highest but in its lowest grades; if we trace it down from the monarch of Babylon to the lowliest who are engaged in the every-day occupations of life ; we find that where employment is abundant, and where remuneration is good, there is a tendency to forget God and to attribute all to self. Their heart is lifted up, but not in the ways of the Lord. Theirs is not a holy exultation, not a sanctified joy. No grateful oblation of a grateful heart do they bring to God. “But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked ; thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness ; then he forsook God who made him, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation.”
In seasons of adversity and national calamity, the people of Israel cried unto God, and sought from Him deliverance; but when the darkness was passed and the sun of prosperity again shone upon them, they forgot God. “According to their pasture so were they filled ; they were filled, and their heart was exalted,”—that is, lifted up,—“therefore have they forgotten me."
II. SOME MEN WHOSE HEARTS ARE NOT LIFTED UP ARE IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD. Tb are real Christians, but doubting, desponding Christians. The causes that contribute to their depression may be either physical or spiritual. The influence of body and mind is reciprocal. No doubt the mind has power over the body. So teaches Solomon. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine ; but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” But it is equally true that the body has power over the spirit. We are to a great extent the creatures of the seasons and the sky. A clear day or a cloudy one will often make all the difference between happiness and unhappiness, comfort and misery. There are those who give every evidence of conversion, who yet gloomily conclude that they have no part nor lot in the matter, and that their heart is not right in the sight of God. And wherefore ? There is no reason why they should, but the reason why they do is to be found in something beyond the preacher's province. And until there is a change in their physical economy, all the succours of religion will be urged in vain. Such persons will go to their minister for comfort, when they ought rather to go to their physician for advice. They are in the ways of the Lord, but through physical causes, their soul is cast down and disquieted within them. Sometimes this depression arises from spiritual causes. Comparing what they ought to be with what they are, they are led to doubt their acceptance with God. They mistake the degree of their Christian experience, for the ground of their hope, and their confidence varies with their frames. When Peter withdrew his eyes from Jesus and fixed them on the waters, he began to sink, and terror took hold of his fainting spirit. In the Lord Jehovah we have righteousness and strength. His grace is sufficient for us--sufficient for us all-sufficient for us always—and were we only and ever looking to Jesus, our joy would be full and constant. Instead of this many a good man goes mourning all his days. He is in the position described by the prophet Isaiah, and he would do well to ponder the prophet's advice : “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” He is walking in the ways of the Lord, going straight on in the path of duty, and no power can turn him aside, but he is walking in darkness; it is night with him providentially and spiritually, and his heart is not lifted up. Now, this case, though not comparable to that of Jehoshaphat, which we shall shortly consider, is yet infinitely better than the first. Better be a doubting, desponding Christian, than no Christian at all. Better have an oppressed, a fearful, almost an agonizing conscience, scarcely less than the darkness of despair, than have a conscience that is seared as with a hot iron, a conscience that is sermon-proof. Indeed, the first case is the very worst conceivable ; for if a man be not in the ways of the Lord, it would be far better for him not to have his heart lifted up at all. The sense of dissatisfaction may send him to the Saviour, who alone can supply his need. “ Blessed are they that mourn,” to whom mourning has taught the need of celestial consolations.
He can say,
III. SOME MEN HAVE THEIR HEARTS LIFTED UP, LIKE JEHOSHAPHAT, IN THE WAYS OF THE LORD. The Christian need not doubt, need not despond; it is his privilege to rejoice, to rejoice in the Lord, to rejoice always.
He need not waste his time in sighing, he may pursue his way with songs. Being in the ways of the Lord, he ought to have his heart lifted up, ay, even though he may not, like Jehoshaphat, have “ riches and honor in abundance." It is his privilege to "glory in tribulations ; knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope."
“ These light afflictions which are but for a moment, are working out for us a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. There
be storms around, but the path is peace, if there is peace in the traveller's heart. “ The peace of God, keeping the heart within, will beam out on the untrodden way, and gild its jagged sides with gladness.” “ Light is 'sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”
Let the Christian man whom God hath prospered in the world, compare his condition with that of others, and with what it once was ; and as he reviews the way in which he hath been led, and sees how “ the lines have fallen to him in pleasant places, and how he hath a goodly heritage;" let him say “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Some of you began life in humble circumstances ; you can remember a time when you had no inheritance, no, not so much as to set your foot on; and if any one had foretold that you would have come to have riches and honor in abundance, you would not have believed it. Surely with Jacob you will say, “ Lord I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies