Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and of all-sufficient help in Christ, is making you say with Lot, “ Behold the city is near to flee unto; let me escape thither, and

my soul shall live.” Then God saith, “ See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing: haste thee, escape thither."

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

DISCOURSE VII.

THE CONVERSION OF AN AGED TRANSGRESSOR.

2 CHRONICLES Xxxiii. 12, 13. And when he was in

affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.

PROFANE history is filled with the acts of kings. The memorable events of their reign which it details have been too often the display of vain pomp, or of bloody ambition; and too often has truth been sacrificed to palliate the excesses of monarchs, and to give a favourable view of the condition of their subjects. But sacred history, in the notices which it gives of kings, dwells chiefly on the moral qualities of their heart and character, and describes them with perfect impartiality. How insignificant in the estimation of superior beings are the wit or valour which the world admires when compared with these! They lead to happiness or misery for ever, while the accomplishments which the world applauds pass away like the rest of its fashions.

The book of sacred history from which our text is taken gives us a melancholy view of kings; for of the great number whose course it details, few had

[ocr errors]

any claim to rule in their people's hearts. The account of the reign and of the conversion of Manasseh in this chapter is deeply interesting. After a long reign, disgraced by every excess of impiety, profligacy, and cruelty, he is turned to righteousness. Many a prayer, we may believe, was put up for him, by his godly father, yet these are not answered till he is far advanced in years, and till he seemed to have reached the utmost limits of crime. Let those who are fainting in their minds, because their prayers for the conversion of their children have not been answered, look to the incident before us, and let them learn to pray always, and not to faint. You must not, even in the most painful discoveries of their depravity, despair of their conversion, but regard these as motives to greater earnestness in your efforts to bring them to repentance ; and you have this consolation amidst hope deferred, that the zeal of parental piety is well pleasing to God, and that, should such prayers be unavailing as to children, they shall not be lost on yourselves.

In the history of Manasseh, in the book of Kings, no notice is taken of his conversion, and had it not been for the mention of it in this book of Chronicles, it would have been supposed that he died as he lived, in his sins. This ought to teach us to beware of forming positive judgments of the final state of the greatest transgressors. Changes unknown to us may have taken place in their views, feelings, and conduct, and some who have been thought to have perished in their iniquity are in heaven, magnifying the power and grace of Him who is mighty to save.

1

In the following discourse, I shall call your attention to the circumstances which, by the divine blessing, led to the conversion of Manasseh, to the effect which the grace of God produced on him, and to some considerations which rendered this change peculiarly striking.

I. Let us attend to the circumstances which, by the grace of God, led to the conversion of Manasseh. It appears from the narrative that these were the two following:

1. Afliction. Any great calamity which befalls the prosperous has a tendency to check the pride of the human heart, to convince us of our frailty and dependence, to impress us with the insufficiency of this world's goods to our happiness, and to strike us with the consciousness of our guilt before God. There are cases in which this tendency is counteracted by the impatience which frets against the Lord, and the stubbornness which will not bend before him ; but when he chastens in mercy, the discipline of affliction softens and humbles, and the greater the change is which it makes in our condition, the more potent is its salutary influence. Such were its effects on Manasseh.

There is no calamity which falls upon kings which they feel so painfully as the discomfiture of their armies and the subversion of their power. How terrible is the transition from a palace to a dungeon, and when the hands which held a sceptre are bound with fetters! Such was the case with Manasseh. Defeated in battle by the armies of the king of Assyria, he escaped for his life, and was found by his pursuers in a thicket, in which he attempted to conceal himself. Providence, which had designs of mercy towards him, permitted them not to slay him, but they bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. In this sad reverse he must have been struck with the folly of that presumption which made him defy the power of Heaven, and with the justice of that doom which had driven him from a throne which he had disgraced, and from a land which he had defiled with blood. Some in his situation would have vented their rage in cursing the treachery of the courtiers who had deserted them, the cowardice of the troops which had fainted in the day of battle, and the disloyalty of their subjects, who had not made a firmer stand for their monarch and for their independence; but he was led to more salutary reflections. His excesses had now no flatterers to palliate them, and no scenes of splendour or sensual enjoyment presented themselves before him to withdraw his mind from his guilty deeds. They appeared before him in the challenges of an evil conscience.

The beneficial effects of affliction on the heart and conduct have been presented to us in men of all ranks and ages. The disease which hath stopped the gay career of youthful dissipation hath impressed the thoughtless young man with the folly of his conduct, and sent him to his grave detached in affection from earthly things, or restored him to society sober-minded and steady. The misfortune which has taken from the old man the money, or property, to which he looked for his comfortable support in all the years

« VorigeDoorgaan »