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character, and were committed under circumstances which greatly aggravated their enormity. The narrative mentions several particulars, which shew the fearful extent of his offences.
1. He sinned immediately against God. Every sin is indeed a transgression of the commands of our Creator; but some sins seem as it were to shew a more than ordinary contempt for his Infinite Majesty: they imply a direct denial of his presence; they urge him to vindicate the honour of his name; they practically speak the language of the fool who says in his heart, "There is no God." Of this kind was the sin of idolatry which Manasseh so flagrantly committed; for he reared up altars for an idol or false god, called Baalim; and made groves for the cruel and licentious rites of heathen superstition: he worshipped the host of heaven, the sun, the moon, and the stars, and served them; instead of serving Him who made them, and rules them in their courses. He even carried his profaneness and provocation against God to so great an extent, that he built altars for these pagan idols in the courts of the house of the Lord, and set up for worship a carved image in the temple itself, of "which God had said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house will I put my name for ever."
2. But not only did Manasseh "work much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger," but his sins against God were followed by sins against his neighbour. Having cast off the fear of his Creator, he became dangerous to all around him. His heart was so greatly hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, that it is said, "he shed innocent blood very much till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another;" and he even caused his own children to pass through the fire, in the valley of the son of Hinnom.
3. To aggravate still more his offences, he not only sinned himself, but he delighted in causing others to
sin also; for it is said that." he made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen." The ungodly add fearfully to their own offences, by seducing others to offend. "If a ruler hearken to lies," says Solomon, "all his servants are wicked;" and even in the most humble sphere of life "evil communications" in like manner "corrupt good manners;" and this not only by the natural effect of bad example, but by the positive efforts which sinners employ to lead others into temptation. This was the case in regard to the first transgression which was committed in the Garden of Eden; for satan, having himself sinned against God, tempted Eve to sin also; and Eve, having sinned, drew Adam with her into the transgression; and it has continued to be the case ever since; for which reason, the Scriptures frequently warn us, as we value our immortal souls, against the society of the wicked. "Their word will eat as doth a canker:" "The companion of fools shall be destroyed."
4. Another aggravation of the sinful conduct of Manasseh was, his ingratitude for the benefits which he had received from that all-merciful Being, whom he so daringly offended. This is particularly mentioned in the chapter before us; where, in the account given of his sinfulness in introducing idolatry into the city and temple of Jerusalem, mention is made of the special favours which Jehovah had bestowed upon the people of Israel, and his promise not to remove them out of the land which he had appointed for their fathers, provided they would take heed to do all that he had commanded them. The ingratitude therefore of rebelling against so gracious a Being, was equalled only by the folly of making him an enemy and losing the promised rewards of his favour.
5. To mention but one aggravation more, of the sins of Manasseh, and that which greatly added to their enormity, they were committed deli
berately against knowledge and warning, against the secret checks of conscience, and against the early instructions of a pious education. For Manasseh was the son of king Hezekiah, of whom it is recorded that "throughout all Judah," and more especially doubtless in his own family, "he wrought that which was good, and right, and truth before the Lord his God: and in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart." And though, unhappily for Manasseh, he died when that prince was but twelve years old, he doubtless both instructed him himself in the ways of God, as long as he lived, and appointed others to assist his endeavours and to perpetuate them after his decease. Manasseh therefore could not but know what the Lord his God required of him: and it could not be without many severe remonstrances of his conscience, that "he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen." He had also the Scrip tures of truth, so far as then revealed, to direct him; he had besides, as is expressly mentioned in the second verse of the chapter, the fearful example of the nations whom the Lord had cast out for those abominations to warn him; and, to add to the whole, an especial revelation had been vouchsafed to prevent his pursuing his evil courses: "for the Lord spake to Manasseh and to his people, but they would not hearken."
Under all these circumstances, highly aggravated was his guilt; and equally aggravated and eternal would have been his punishment, had not the subsequent part of his history presented a very different aspect to that which we have been contemplating. The succeeding stages of his life remain to be briefly noticed. We have seen his guilt; let us proceed, Secondly, to consider the affliction which in consequence befel him. Happy was it for him that he was not suffered to proceed in
his iniquities unchecked. Sorrow, we are told, springs not out of the ground: it does not occur by chance, or without meaning. All affliction is the consequence of sin; and it is well when our troubles in this life are made the instruments of leading us to God, that we may not suffer that eternal punishment which our iniquities merit in the world to come. In the case of Manasseh, the hand of God was clearly visible in his punishment. It is said, that the Lord brought upon him and his people for both he and his people had sinned-the host of the king of Assyria, and they took Manasseh, among the thorns; that is, in some thicket to which he had retreated for safety; and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. A greater temporal calamity than this could scarcely befal a man like Manasseh, revelling in ease and luxury, a despotic sovereign, accustomed from his childhood to receive the most servile homage, and to give law to his people by the slightest intimation of his will. Yet, what was this punishment compared with what his sins against God deserved? What was it to lose an earthly crown compared to the loss which he had voluntarily incurred of a crown eternal in the heavens? or to be bound with fetters in a foreign land, exposed for a few short months or years to scorn and insult, compared with being bound with chains of darkness in that awful world where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth to all eternity?
Thirdly. Our text notices his repentance in his affliction. His captivity gave him leisure for serious reflection: and by the blessing of God he was led to avail himself of it. Multitudes of persons never begin to think of their sins, or their need of salvation, till the hour of pain or sickness, of bereavement or death. Thus, Manasseh in his prosperity had forgotten his Creator; but in his adversity he could find no other refuge. His false gods could not assist him; and therefore, like
the prodigal son, his only refuge was to turn to the merciful Father whom he had forsaken. Our text particularly mentions, that "he besought the Lord," and that "he humbled himself before him." Prayer and repentance thus went together; he was deeply abased in his own estimation, and he entreated pardon for his offences. He had found, according to the language of Scripture, that "the way of transgressors is hard:" his iniquities had separated him from the favour of that gracious Being who is the only fountain of true happiness; and the gratification which he had hoped for from indulging in them, proved to be as short-lived as it was base and sinful. Thus forsaken and dejected, his affliction was overruled for his spiritual benefit. Though his offences had been numerous and aggravated, and his remorse was correspondently deep, he did not plunge, like the apostate Judas, into utter despair of pardon; he had learned enough of the attributes of God, to know that he was gracious and merciful, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; he therefore, in a distant land, and in the extremity of distress, looks like Jonah, once more towards God's holy temple. If that refuge fail him he is lost, and lost for ever; but fail him it did not: for,
Fourthly, we are told in our text of his deliverance from his affliction. The Lord, it is said, heard his supplication, and brought him back again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. The following verses allude to his future prosperity; for, by the dispensation under which Manasseh lived, it pleased the Almighty often to bestow temporal blessings as a mark of his special mercy; and as the afflictions which first led Manasseh to repentance and prayer, had been of a worldly kind, so when it pleased God to restore him to his favour, he gave him also worldly blessings, life and liberty, and a successful issue in the affairs of his kingdom. But, far above all these outward blessings was the forgive
ness of his sins. Worldly prosperity may be either a benefit or a curse to its possessor: but to be pardoned and justified; to have our prayer for mercy answered, and the love of God, notwithstanding our deep feelings of humility and contrition, shed abroad in our hearts through faith in Christ Jesus; to enjoy a humble hope, that among the mansions of blessedness which the Saviour has prepared for his true followers, one will be found into which we shall at the last day be admitted beyond the reach either of sin or sorrow,-this is indeed a blessing of unspeakable value, and should constrain us with earnest gratitude to devote our selves to the service of our God and Saviour. This leads us to remark,
Fifthly, the subsequent obedience of Manasseh. The narrative is brief'; but it particularly mentions his future obedience to God, and his zeal for his glory. His heart being renewed, his course of life changed with it. It is said, that he now "knew that the Lord he was God." He had discovered this both in his power to afflict him and in his power to restore him; and now knowing him to be the only true God, he resolved to worship him as such. He had repented, and he brought forth fruits meet for repentance. Much was forgiven him, and he loved much. First, he turned from his former sins; for " he took away the strange gods and the idol out of the house of the Lord:" not only this, but he began to practise his long neglected duties; "he repaired the altar of the Lord, and "sacrificed thereon peace-offerings and thankofferings, and commanded his people to serve the Lord God of Israel." As his transgressions had been public, he wished his contrition for them to be equally so; and as he had led others astray by his authority and example, he was now urgent to bring them back to the right path. But, unhappily, not with equal success; for, though the people sacrificed only to the Lord their God, they continued to disobey him in sacri
ficing in the high places. It is easy to seduce others into sin; but God only can restore them to newness of life. Manasseh found that the evil ef'fects of the idolatrous customs which he had favoured still remained: but he used his best efforts to prevent them; and thus he proved the sincerity of his repentance, and that his turning to God was not merely the transient effect of affliction, to be forgotten as soon as the affliction was over; but that it was the settled purpose of his soul, the effect of true conversion," he took the testimonies of God as his heritage for ever," and without doubt found them "the rejoicing of his heart." God had been "his hiding-place and his shield" in his adversity; and he could therefore say with David, "I hope in thy word: depart from me, ye evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God."
To follow his example in this respect, is the most important application which we can make of the above narrative. We have not indeed shed blood, or literally sacrificed to idols, as he did; neither have we had any inducement to do so, or the opportunity of doing so. But, on the other hand, we have not been exposed to the temptations which he must have met with, left defenceless at the early age of twelve years, amidst the seductions of the world, as a sovereign prince, with every facility for the indulgence of his will and his passions, and meeting perhaps with few to controul, and many to foster his evil propensities. But shall we therefore say, that, according to our
circumstances and temptations, we have not also grievously offended God? Is there one of his commands which, in heart or in deed, according to our Lord's spiritual application of them, we have not violated? We need then, like Manasseh, to humble ourselves before him; and we have his example left upon record to encourage us to do so, assured that, if we turn to God, he will turn to us, and, for the sake of his blessed Son, will pardon our sins, and renew us by his Holy Spirit, after his own Divine image. Let us then earnestly seek this inestimable blessing; let us neither slight it on the one hand, nor despair of obtaining it on the other. It is to be obtained, if only we seek it, and seek it aright, and seek it before the opportunity for procuring it is for ever lost. Who knows how few days or months more may seal up the measure of our iniquities, and shut out repentance and pardon. Among the multitudes who sin like Manasseh, how few repent like him, and turn to their offended God, before the door of mercy is closed! Let us then seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near; let us forsake the vain idols of this world's estimation, and worship the true God, in the Gospel of his Son; let us study to obey his laws; let us devote our future lives to his glory; and then, when this short existence has for ever passed away, we shall be admitted to his eternal kingdom, to wear a crown of glory which shall never fade.
Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer. THE wisdom and mercy displayed in the institution of the Sabbath, render deeply lamentable the preva
lent neglect of it. Our national profanation of this sacred day is the more aggravated, from the evil having maintained its ground notwithstanding the warning voice which,
from time to time has been lifted up against it. How many of the present generation must well remember the pious endeavours of Bishop Porteus, to vindicate the honour of the Lord's day. His admirable sermon; his interview, near the close of his valuable life, with his present Majesty, then Prince of Wales; his letter to a lady of fashion; his address to his clergy; all bear ample testimony to his exertions in public and in private in this momentous cause: and though the following declaration, drawn up for the Society for enforcing his Majesty's Proclamation against Immorality and Profaneness (of which he was president), and intended as a voluntary resolution, on the part of the higher ranks of society, to observe the Sabbath more religiously, unhappily failed of its object, it will at least witness, on that day when all must give an account of their stewardships, that the blood of those over whom he was appointed a spiritual watchman will not be required at his hands. "We, whose names are hereunto subscribed," says that document, "being deeply sensible of the great importance of the religious observance of the Lord's day, to the interests of Christianity and of civil society, do declare, that we hold it highly improper on that day to give or accept invitations to entertainments or assemblies, or (except in cases of urgency, or for purposes of charity) to travel, or to exercise any worldly occupations, or to employ our domestics or dependants in any thing interfering with their public or private religious duties and as example, and a public declaration of the principles of our own conduct, more peculiarly at this time, may tend to influence the conduct of others, we do hereby further declare our resolution to adhere, as far as may be practicable, to the due observance of the Lord's day according to the preceding declaration."
In his letter to the clergy of the . diocese of London, just mentioned, he writes thus ;-"The profanations
which I now allude to are the travelling of stage-waggons and stagecoaches on the Lord's day, the printing and dispersing of Sunday newspapers, the exercise of several worldly trades and occupations, (among which, some public breweries have, I am told, been noticed,) and more particularly the practice which has, within the last two or three years, very much prevailed, of employing various labourers and workmen, such as carpenters, bricklayers, painters, &c., in repairing and erecting houses, and other buildings, on Sundays, as on the common days of the week."-Alas! that after a lapse of thirty years (for this letter bears the date of 1797), we should be found involved in the same guilt! And, oh! that the patriotic appeal with which he concludes, might resound through the nation, as the voice of the honoured dead, and awaken every Briton to a due consideration of his duty to the King of kings!
"This kingdom has, from the period of the Reformation to this time, been distinguished among the nations of the Christian world, for the solemnity, the decency, and the propriety with which the Lord's day has been here usually observed. It is a distinction which does us credit, and is altogether worthy of the first Protestant Church in Europe. I am, therefore, very seriously anxious that we should maintain inviolate this glorious pre-eminence; being perfectly convinced that the sacred day which both God and man have set apart for religious worship and rest, is the grand bulwark of Christianity, and that on the due application of it to those important purposes depends, in a great measure, the very existence of that religion in these realms."
It is, however, gratifying to see that the spirit that animates this excellent prelate is not extinct : efforts of a similar character are in progress in various parts of the kingdom. As one instance, I inclose an Address from the Clergy of the Dis