JOSIAH. BY THE REV. ISAAC WILLIAMS, B.

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2 Chron. xxxiv. 27. "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before Me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before Me ; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord." When the ten tribes of Israel had been carried awaj captive, and the like judgments were drawing on upon Jerusalem, there were two remarkable kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, both described in much the same language as walking in the ways of their father David, both as pre-eminent above all other kings before and after. "We read of both labouring to restore the worship of God, to destroy idolatry, both keeping a great passover, both accepted of God, but unable to avert His coming wrath &om Jerusalem. But in Josiah there is something peculiarly affecting : his early youth, for " in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young," i. e. but sixteen years of age, " he began to seek after the God of David his father * :" the extreme ^ 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.

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ace and darkness which had overwhelmed the aoa ; for the finding of the Book of the Law in the Dple, Beeras to have been a great discoyerj as of aething altogether forgotten and lost ; his exceedzeal aud earnestness in instantly doing with his pTrbole heart whatever he knew to be right ; but in all ^flnd above all his singular tenderness of spirit. Such is seen in his consternation on learning the contents of the Book of Moses that was found ; and his sending in consequence to inquire not of priest, or prophet, or scribe, for he seems to have known of none to send to, but to "Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, the keeper of his wardrobe." A woman, the youthful king, and her answer to himself from God in the words of the text are very expressive ; and may serine to afford us a sad description of the state of the age in which they were spoken ; and they also fiimiah U3 briefly with the whole character of Josiah. He waa so tender of heart, that he humbled himself and rent his clothes and wept — not for his own sins — but for those of his forefathers and his people; he thus humbled himself and wept before God, and trembled on account of God's words. beautiful spirit of sacred sorrow, so richly fraught with the BBing of them that mourn ! . strong contrast to this we have a circumstance oned of his son Jehoiakim, in the prophet Jerethe word of God was sent to him by the pro"80 the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll. Jehudi read it in the ears of the king. And , he had read three or four leaves the king cut it , the penknife and cast it into the fire that was i hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the that was on the hearth. Yet they were not

266 JosiAH. afraid, nor rent their garmenta, neither the king nor

any of his servants that heard all these words*." In this remarkable instance there was a sure token of God's heaviest judgments coming on because they feared not His words ; and so likewise in the case of this good King Josiah, because he feared when he heard the words of God, and took them home to his heart with such grief and humility, he was gathered into the sure protection and mercy of Almighty God. These words which he heard were those of Moses, — the Book which he commanded to be placed in " the ark of the covenant " to be "a witness against them*," — words which we ourselves hear, and have heard ; they speak to us as much as they did to him ; they speak with the light of the Gospel filling every letter, so that the very characters are fire and light : we are to bind them about us so as to clothe as it were every part of us ; to be a witness against us if we do evil. Do we hear them with a like awe and humiliation ? Alas, is it not the very character of our age that without fear it takes on itself to judge God's word, rather than be judged by it ? But now it must be observed that all this goodness of King Josiah and that of Hezekiah before him did not prevent the destruction of Jerusalem ; they may have delayed it, relieved it, and perhaps the remembrance of these good kings, and of that repentance which they brought about, may have been connected with the restoration of Jerusalem after the captivity ; for the kingdom of Israel where there were no such kings was never restored. But to all appearance » Jer. xxxf i. 21-*24. » See Deut. xxxi. 26.

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God's threatened judgment came on Jerusalem notwithstanding all the intercessions and labours of the good King Josiah. And not only this but under a sense of that coming judgment and in that state of things in which he was bom, Josiah had to sustain a heavy burden all his days. And eren too unto his death, for although God had promised him this one thing only, that He would gather him to his grave in peace; yet that did not save him from dying a violent death, a death indeed in its circumstances very much like that of the wicked Ahab. For in an unsuccessful battle with the king of Egypt at Megiddo, he was wounded as it were by an accidental hand, for he had disguised himself in the battle, and was carried home and died *. So that even in that which came especially under God*s promise, as the Preacher says, "there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked *." Yet who could be in greater favour with God than this good King Josiah, tender-hearted and humble, of such a temper as the Holy Spirit chooses above all others for His own ; of that meek spirit which is of great price with God; how could He not set on him the seal of His especial favour and love ? Some indeed consider his very name to signify the " sacrifice of God." Such a character is meet beyond any to be a sacrifice and a victim ; and as such in some faint way to resemble Christ ; Who was a " man of sorrows," as " a root out of a dry ground ;" Whose days were " cut oflf out of the land of the living ;" Who made " His grave with the wicked :" Who wept over that destruction coming on Jerusalem, which all His * 2 Chron. xxxv. 22. 24. » Eccles. ix. 2.

268 JOsiAH.

calls to repentance and all His intercessions averted not ; Who was eaten up by a zeal for God's bouse. ay, we are reminded of the day of Judgment itself in the good King Josiah, when he came to Bethel, where the idolatrous calves had been, but which now had long departed together with that guilty nation itself that worshipped them. He came and had the graves opened, and men's bones burnt on the altar ; and in those their graves made a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. He had been called of God for this purpose three hundred years before; and the burden of this judgment was laid upon him before he was bom *. As Cyrus designated by name in prophecy as the " Shepherd' " of God's people, for the restoration of the dry bones of Judah, so was Josiah to execute His judgments, and even as it were anointed and sanctified by His Spirit for this awful type of the great Judgment. "I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will help thee *." " I have called thee by thy name, thou art Mine." Thus did this blameless king labour to restore his people, and they were willing " for a season to rejoice in his light." Tea, thus did he strive to undo what was done, and to expiate the evil of Israel even as it were beyond the grave ; even the sins of Solomon ', and the sins of Jeroboam ; yet as to himself did it appear as if his candle were put out in obscure darkness ; by a Pharaoh of Egypt slain, and by a Pharaoh of Egypt his throne given away. The very Scripture that describes all his goodness after declaring that < 1 Kings xiii. 2. ' Isa. xliv. 28. * Isa. xlli. 6. '2 Kings xxiii. 13.

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there was none like Him, '' that turned to the Lord with all his heart," yet adds to the account, " otwithstanding the Lord turned not &om the fierceness of His great wrath." ow a consideration of this, the holy and sweet, yet awful and sad life of Josiah, may much correct our view of human things; God declares that He visits the sins of fathers upon their children ; it is so throughout the Scriptures ; last Sunday * we read of the seventy sons of Ahab slain by Jehu, as if they had been guilty of some great crime, because they were the sons of Ahab : we see it is so in the world ; and if so it must be God's doing, because it is His world. What is much more, we see righteous men bom to a sad inheritance of woe; kings blameless and holy, weighed down all their days by the sins of their forefathers ; and again princes suffering for their people's sins, and people for the sins of their princes. Tea, more, the meekness and holiness of kings have made them the more meet victims of suflfering : they have been made on that very account to bear the heavy burden. It may be that Satan sees upon them the mark of Christ ; and therefore directs against them all his assaults, but God through the Cross turns all to good. Because they are holy they suffer ; and because they suffer they are made the more holy. Their light indeed is put out ; and the world goes on as it did before. But shall we say that they have lived in vain ; for themselves, for their people, for their God ? Surely this cannot be so. We know that the only strength of the world is Christ ; and this the apparent failure of good men, bears a resemblance to Christ. ^ Preached on the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

270 JOSIAH.

He also bore the sins of others, not His own. He, the Beloved of God, the strength of God, the Life of the world, appeared as in weakness, and sorrow, and cut off before His time prematurely as one that had failed of his mission. It was said of good King J^siah that he should go down to his grave in peace, yet in one sense it was not peace, but a sword. Yet when we put this by the side of Christ Crucified, we may say surely that good king died in peace. By dying he entered into peace, a peace-maker with God, reconciling Him to His people, the sacrifice of peace. He was taken from the evil to come ; he died in peace; and while nothing but trouble and anguish was on his people, he himself was with God. " In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die ; and their departure is taken for misery ; but they are in peace '." " The righteous perisheth," saith the prophet, " and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace ^" And his memory was blessed. "The remembrance of Josiah," it is said, " is sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at a banquet of wine ^" A solemn lamentation was written of him by the Prophet Jeremiah, and singing men and women commemorated and spoke of Josiah *. or is this all that connects it with Christ Crucified ; for in that memorable prophecy in Zechariah, where he speaks of Jerusalem " looking upon Him Whom they have pierced, and mourning as for an only son, every family apart," he says that this shall be as the mourning for

a Wisd. ill. 2, 3. » Isa. Ivii. 1, 2, * EccluB. xlix. 1. '2 Chron. xxxv. 15.

JOSIAH. 271 Josiah " in the valley of Megiddon." The mourning for Christ Crucified is as the mourning for Josiah slain . The shadow of that all-atoning death covers him. We must not think then that Josiah failed, or that such as he could fail in their life or in their death. On the contrary, we are hereby taught with awe and wonder to raise our minds to the greatness of their crown, their strength that is among men, and their reward that is with God. For of them the world is not worthy ; they are the salt of the earth which preserves it from corruption ; they are the light set on a hill which cannot be hid; they shine like stars for ever and ever giving light unto the world. The doctrine of Christ Crucified will teach us not to judge of the success of such men by what appeared in their lives ; it may be more precious and lasting than man can judge of. Even in their temporal failure there may have been a life and restoration from the dead in that for which they laboured. "Thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord ; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy ; and there is hope in thine end'." In the destruction of Judah there is hope, but not in that of the nations. In like manner with regard to ourselves, who can tell whether our having the Church among us here at this day may not be owing to some good king of this nation, who may have lived and died as a martyr to the faith of Christ ? or is the crown and the blessing of God which awaits good men like King Josiah such as this world can take account of: it is far too great and good for that ; for their reward is with G^d ; such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart of man imagined. Their end « Jer. xzzL 16, 17.

272 JosiAH. and their beginning is with Christ in God. Througli apparent failure they are purified and strengthened to obtain that crown. And thus we may see in the account of Josiah ; he humbled himself and wept at the words found in the Book of God ; and when on sending to Huldah the prophetess she entirely confirmed those words, by saying that the judgments therein threateiled on Jerusalem should not be averted, but should in their awful fulness come on that people ; — the good king did not on that account slacken his zeal and exertions or sit down in despair; but immediately '^ with all his heart and with all his soul " brought all his people into covenant with God. He said not, It is in vain to serve the Lord, for He has and He will cast us ofi*. But he wrought a thorough and entire repentance^through all his kingdom, both of Judah and of Israel too, and left the issue with God. And observe what was the praise of God which marks this good king; perhaps no one in any age or nation ever made so entire a reformation, and that at so youthful an age as Josiah, both in the house and worship of God in His Temple, and also through all that nation, cutting off every root and branch that remained of idolatry and profaneness, restoring all as far as in him lay to obedience. Yet it is not this which is mentioned as rendering him so acceptable in the judgment of God ; but — " because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest His words, and didst rend thy clothes and weep." For it is not the outward actions which God weighs, but the heart from which they proceed. It; is not so difficult to find works of religion and charity as to find a humble spirit that fears God's words. A contrite heart that reverences His word is

J08IAH. 273 with God the best sacrifice ; and as it is of such price with God it is so verj rare amongst men. Measuring himself not by what he had done, but by what he would have wished to do, and by that love which is infinite as the nature of God, he speaks not of his doings, but oppressed with a sense of his short-comings, he puts his hand on his mouth and is silent, or says, God be merciful to me a sinner ! K any one might glory in works it were the good Josiah ; for his works were especially those of religion, such as had a direct reference to the service of God, the restoring His Temple and worship, and this not for mere external service, but accompanied with deep calls to repentance, of which he himself set the most lively example ; if therefore any had works on which to rest his claim for Divine favour it was this righteous king. It is not service that God requires, but servants ;— not service, for what can our service be to Him ? — but servants whom He may love in Christ, on whom He may bestow His love ; and they that tremble at His word, who look to Him in tenderness of spirit, these are the servants in whom He delights, as ready for His service, and meet to receive His love. In the history of all His saints He writes that no flesh shall glory in His presence ; and in holding them up for our example He reminds us of this, for there is no one without fault either in life or condition. To say nothing of the earlier patriarchs, Moses was not altogether accepted ; Job, though a perfect man, is known for his afflictions; Samuel had to mourn; David was bowed to earth with his repentance ; Solon\on grievously sinned; Hezekiah was not without blame ; and Josiah's praise is that he humbled himself

and rent his clothes, and not this only, but his '' sun T

274 JosiAH. went down while it was yet day," and a nigbt of sorrow came on its close. One observation more. What light does the history of Josiah afford us in our present perplexities ? The revival of religion which has taken place in these days, the restoration of the houses of God, and care of His worship, together with calls to repentance and to the ancient paths, and this too after a deep sleep and much corruption and decay of faith, all this so far turns our eyes to that pause in the declension of Judah. Such a call may not be responded to, or may be responded to for a time, and then the light go out ; on all this it were needless and presiunptuous to speculate ; but even if it were fruitless, and to end in darkness yet worse than before, we are taught by the history of this good king not to despair, not to give over ; but it may correct and purify our views to know what to look to. We are not then to congratulate ourselves over much on the restoration of external worship as if it were any worthy end or object in itself, but rather to look to tenderness and humiliation of heart before God ; let the other follow if it will, it is of no value without this, but this of itself without that is of value inestimable. Moreover, we see in this history that no temporal prosperity, no personal or national success, no setting up or saving of kingdoms can serve as a test of God's acceptance : the matter is of far too great importance for this ; — it is of eternity, of Heaven and Hell, of dwelling for ever with God or with His enemies ; of being united in life and in death with One Whose life and death was in human eyes

covered with sorrow and shame.

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