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changes upon its extent; so that, for purposes of comparison, we cannot well go earlier than in 1818, when its population was about 28,410,000; it is now 37,700,000, of whom about
3,000,000 are Protestants. Protestantism is rapidly increasing, whilst its old enemy is doing little more than holding its ground.— Christian Instructor.
"gait* an % Inion's f*sson Stjiem* for 1882.
[These Notes are intended to aid Teachers in their studies at home, and" not to be used in the school while teaching.]
Lesson 297.—September 10.
I. Hezekiah's Sickness, (ver. 1-8.)—Some time after the destruction of the Assyrian host this sickness occurred. It was a severe sickness—it was unto death. Note the message of Isaiah—"Set thine house in order,"—a desirable thing at all times, but especially in the prospect of death. It is well to be prepared even in regard to earthly matters.
Note, now, the conduct of Hezekiah. He prays that his life may be spared. This is a quite lawful prayer, and quite natural; but especially so in his case, as his desire for life was God's glory. Observe what he says in verse 3. How happy for him that he could use this language; and he seems to imply that, as he had lived for God in the past, so would he in the future. He had done that which was good, and he would do so still if his life were Bpared.
Then we have the answer to his prayer in verse 5-8. Note the expression— "the God of David thy father." It is a blessing to have a godly ancestry. Hezekiah is blessed for David's sake. But he gets more than he asks for. Not only is his life spared, and fifteen years added to it, but God graciously promises deliverance from his enemies, and protection. He will deliver and defend. Note here the generosity of God to His own people. He gives liberally. If we do not receive, it is because we do not ask. And then, to complete the answer, we have the sign given. Hezekiah, in his weakness, might have almost been inclined to doubt whether all this could be true; but God anticipates his doubts, and sets them at rest by a miraculous sign. Learn from this the tenderness of our God. He knows our frame—our weakness, and how tenderly He deals with us! He gives tokens of His having heard our prayers. What an encouragement to pray!
II. Hezekiah's Thanksgiving, (ver. 9-22.)—In which note—
(a.) Gratitude is pleasing to God, and proper for man to render. In ordinary life ingratitude is justly regarded as mean. How grateful ought we to be to God for His goodness to us! And we ought to shew our gratitude. Hezekiah wrote down his thanksgiving, that all men might learn from it. Ten lepers were cleansed, but only one returned to give glory to God, (Luke ivii. 15-18.) The other nine may have been grateful, but Jesus felt that they ought to have shewed their gratitude, and He cried, " Where are the nine?"
(b.) The greater the deliv«rance the greater should be our gratitude. Hezekiah had been brought very low. Go over verses 10-14, and learn how low he had been brought. He was at the gates of the grave—death was staring him in the face. When he thinks of his low condition, and of his perfect recovery, he is dumb. "What shall I say?" he exclaims. Only this, Himself hath done itTo Him be all the glory. But then the outcome of this is, that he resolves on going softly all his days,—i. e., carefully, circumspectly. His afiliction hath this blessed effect. It is good when afiliction leads us to keep God's law. Then he further shews his gratitude for God's goodness to him by resolving (yer. 19) to live to God's praise, and to sing songs to Him all the days of his life. And note where: in the house of the Lord. He remembers how near he was to death, and how little he had done for God. He remembers how near he was to the pit, where serving days are done; and now that God had delivered his soul from the pit of corruption, he will spend and be spent in God's service. This is the true use to make of lengthened days, of recovered health—to devote one's self to God's service, to praise Him, and to seek to advance His glory. It is for this that God gives us length of days. How are you spending your time? Remember the story of the barren fig-tree.
Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 91.—Matthew xxv. 13. Subject to be proved,—We should Prepare for Death. Golden Text—" Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh."—Matthew xxv. 13.
Notes.—The duty—watch. Illustrate by the watch on board a ship when nearing land—the watch kept by soldiers when an enemy is near. The need of watching—the uncertainty of the time when the Son of Man may come. He will come—that we know. When He will come we do not know. Hence our danger, the danger of becoming careless, of falling asleep. Hence this trumpet call of Christ's— Watch!
Lesson 298.—September 17.
Manasseh.—2 Chronicles xxxiii. 1-20.
I. Manasseh's Quilt, (ver. 1-9.)—A godly father does not have a godly son. Hezekiah was eminently godly; Manasseh was notoriously wicked, and is always spoken of as the king who filled up the measure of Judah's iniquity, (2 Kings xxi. 10-15; xxiii. 26, 27.) Next to Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin, he occupies the most unenviable place of all the kings. What was his guilt?
He was guilty of the sins of the heathen whom God cast out. Observe how often this phrase occurs; it added to the enormity of his sin. God had cast out the heathen for these very crimes—had done this as a warning to Israel—and yet Manasseh sets the warning at defiance. He was sinning against light. He knew his Lord's will, and did it not. What were his special sins ?—
(a.) He was a notorious idolater. He built the high-places, set up altars to Baal, the fire-god; he worshipped the host of heaven—the sun, moon, and stars, emblems of fire—and served them. He was mad upon his idols.
(b.) Not content with this, he desecrated the temple. Save Ahaz, no king, however wicked, had ventured on this. He built altars in the house of the Lord. He filled the courts of the temple with altars to the host of heaven. He set a ■carved image, the idol which he had made, in the very temple itself. Ahaz went the length merely of putting in one altar, the pattern of which he saw in Damascus. Manasseh fills the courts with altars, and actually put an image in the holy place, or outer house. Note the special guilt of this. The temple was God's dwelling-place; He had put His own name there, and had promised that, if Israel would take heed to do all His commandments, He would never remove them. Manasseh defies God in His own house. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me;" but this wicked king set up an idol—a mere carved image— before God's very presence. This was the height of impiety. Do we not often do the same? God desires our hearts to dwell in. How many idols are there in our hearts, which we as truly worship as Manasseh did his carved image?
(c.) He was guilty of human sacrifice—he caused his own children to pass through the fire to Moloch. What horrid cruelty is connected with idolatry! He observed times—had lucky and unlucky days—had recourse to spells, charms, and incantations, and had dealings with familiar spirits and wizards. He went the whole round of heathen idolatry.
(d.) He not only did these things himself, but he made, i.«., compelled Judah to err. So we read that he "shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another," (2 Kings xxi. 16.) He was a bitter persecutor of all the faithful. Isaiah is said to have been sawn asunder in this reign.
II. Manasseh's Punishment, (ver. 10,11.)—God gave him many warnings, but he refused to listen. He turned a deaf ear to all God's reproof. But "he that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall be destroyed." Remember Pharaoh; remember Absalom. So always. So with Manasseh. God sent the Assyrians against him. He was bound with fetters, and carried a prisoner to Babylon. Such was the miserable end of all his idolatry. Be sure thy sin will find thee out.
III. Manasseh's Repentance, (ver. 12,13.)—His affliction was blessed to him. He sought the Lord; he humbled himself; he prayed. Note the three steps. He besought the Lord,—he confessed his sin—he confessed his sin in true humility—and he cried earnestly for mercy. Here was true repentance, and God accepted it. He always hears the cry of the penitent one. God restored him to his kingdom, Verily our God is a God of mercy. Manasseh the idolater, the bloody persecutor, is pardoned and restored. Who need despair?
IV. The Repentance was Real, as shewn by its Fruits, (ver. 14-18.)—Repentance in affliction is not much to be trusted to. Many a man grieves over his sin when it has brought suffering upon him, but when the suffering is removed he returns to his sin. Not so Manasseh. His repentance was genuine. He was weaned of his idolatry—he gave himself to fortify his kingdom, and to purify it. He tried to undo the evil he had done. He removed the altars and the carved image, and cast them out of the city. If our repentance is genuine, it will shew itself by its fruits. We shall forsake our wicked ways, and endeavour to make amends for the evil we have done. But note, particularly, verse 17. It begins with the ominous word nevertheless. He could not wholly undo the mischief. The people still did sacrifice in the high-places. A course of sin will leave marks and scars which we may carry with us to the grave—effects which all our subsequent attempts may fail to remove, and which may cause us to go halting all our days. Some root of bitterness may spring up and trouble us when we supposed we had completely uprooted it.
Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 92.—Isaiah i. 18. Subject to be proved—God Receives the Chief of Sinners. Golden Text—" Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."—Isaiah i. 18.
Notes.—Observe the condescension in the words Come now. God is speaking—speaking to a sinful nation—yet He says come note. He might well have said depart; but He ever delighteth in mercy. Further, come and let us reason together. He will appeal to our reason, as if He said, Am I a hard taskmaster? What are the terms of peace ?—Absolute forgiveness, free and full. This is the point of the text: God pardons with overflowing love. Who can resist that? Note, in the two pictures, how He sets this forth. Scarlet—snow. Crimson— wool. Complete change—absolute pardon. Think of this. Come and reason.
Lesson 299.—September 24.
Josiah.—2 Kings ixii. 1-20.
I. Josiah's Early Piety, (1, 2.)—Josiah was a mere child when he was called to the throne, through the untimely death of Amon, his father. We know little of his early upbringing, but from the particular mention of his mother, we may infer that she trained him in the fear of the Lord. Note his character—he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He set God before him, and tried toS lease Him. Most of the kings did what was right in their own eyes. Not so osiah. He remembered always the words, "Thou God seest me;" and he sought not to please himself, but God. This was true piety—self-pleasing is the great sin of men. He who loves God will try to please God. He took David as his pattern. We have a greater than David as our pattern: David's Son. Let us follow in His footsteps, walk after His example, seek to have in us the same mind that was in Him. This is to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. Note the last clause of verse 2. Josiah did not turn aside. Why? Because his eye was intently fixed on God. A runner in a race keeps his eye on the goal—the helmsman of a vessel keeps his eye on the compass. This keeps both the runner and the vessel straight. We have Jesus—the beginner and the finisher of our faith— to look to; and if we look to Him, we shall run with patience the race set before us, (Hebrews ii. 1, 2,) and reach the goal—perfect likeness to Him, (1 John iii. 2.) Note how good it is to have a godly mother, and how lovely it is to see the young walking in the right ways! Compare the case of Timothy, (2 Timothy 1-5.)
II. Josiah's Zeal, (3-7.)—The temple had been allowed to fall into decay. There were breaches in it, (ver. 5.) Josiah set himself to repair these. Note how the money was collected. It was gathered by the keepers of the doors of the temple from those who entered in. It was a voluntary offering on the part of the people. Compare it with our church-door collections. Whenever true piety revived, there was no lack of willingness to give. This is the real way to go to work. Let us give our own selves first, and then we shall cheerfully give of our substance. Notice the honesty of the workmen, (ver. 7.) The fear of God will make people honest. How good a thing it is to be able to trust a man!
III. The Boole of the Law Found, (8-20.)—In cleaning out and repairing the temple, the high priest found the book of the Law—either the whole Pentateuch, or it may have been the book of Deuteronomy. The high priest gives it to Shaphan, the scribe, who brings it to the king, and reads it before him. Effect of this upon the king. ( He rent his clothes. Why ?—see verse 13. The nation had grievously neglected God's command. Consult, particularly, Deuteronomy xxviii., where we have the curses on disobedience. Passages like these filled the king with fear. He saw that the nation had not been obedient, and that the wrath of the Lord was kindled against them.
Josiah was not satisfied with rending his clothes—with mere sorrow for the national sins. See what more he does, (ver. 12-14.) Wrath is pronounced against them. We will try if there is any way of averting this wrath. So he consults Huldah. Note this pious spirit. He goes at once to God. This was like David. We should so act. "What saith the Lord?" should be our question.
Note Huldah's answer, (15-20.) God would bring evil on the nation. His patience was worn out. He had called often, but they had refused; now they may call, but He will not answer. But note how, while God thus threatens judgment, He postpones the execution of it for Josiah's sake. The righteous are the salt of the earth. Remember Lot in Sodom. Note what is said about Josiah. His heart was tender, soft,—i. e., deeply sensible of, and grieved for the nation's gins. Tender is the opposite of hard. Compare Christ weeping over Jerusalem. How had Josiah shewn this tenderness? Byhis conduct—he had rent his clothes, nnd wept before the Lord. He wept for the impending doom of Jerusalem. And because of his true sorrow, and his piety, the day of punishment was postponed; and he was to be taken away from the evil to come, and should be spared seeing the ruin of his beloved country. Josiah died young. Jeremiah and all the pious Jews grieved greatly for him; but it was in mercy God removed him. If we have Josiah's piety, we may leave our death in God's hand. He will remove us when He knows it to be best. "Man is immortal till his work is done."
Memory Exercise—Shorter Catechism 93.—John v. 39. Subject to be proved—We should Prize the Bible. Oolden Text—" Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."—John v. 39.
Notes.—Search. Illustrate the act. Something ia lost—something precious. How we search. Gold-diggers—how they search. Now, this is our duty. But what are we to search? The Scriptures—the Word of God. How are we to search? Earnestly, prayerfully, constantly, &c. Give various ways of searching —opening the Bible and reading a verse, then forgetting it—reading it as a matter of form, &c. This is not the searching that Jesus means. What is it? For what are we to search? For Jesus himself. The great use of the Bible is to bring us to Jesus. Scripture testifies of Him. If we do not find Jesus in the Bible, our searching will be of little use.
Lesson 300.—October 1.
Daniel And His Companions.—Daniel i. 1-21.
Daniel, of the seed royal of Judah, was one of the captives carried to Babylon at what is called the first captivity, which occurred in the third year of Jehoiakim, B.C. 625. (Compare 2 Kings xxiv. 1-4.) Much treasure was carried away at the same time.
The king of Babylon wished certain of these young princes and nobles to be trained for the public service. Note the sort of people to be so trained. They must have no blemish; they must be well-favoured; and they required to be young men of good parts,—apt to learn, and of quick understanding. The king desired both good health and good abilities. Note his wisdom in this. He would be served by the best. His servants must be able, both physically and mentally, to do the work appointed them.
These young men were to be trained at the expense of the State for three years. The king appointed them a certain rate and,style of living for three years; at the end of which it was thought they might be able to stand before the king.
Daniel was a Jew, and bound by the Mosaic law, which forbade the eating of anything unclean. And so he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. This was a noble purpose. He knew the secret whereby a young man might purify himself, (Psalm cxix. 9.) There is only one way, and that is by making God's Word our law. This Daniel did, and this kept him pure. Note further, the purpose was in his heart—it was no mere mouth purpose, which is seldom kept, but a settled purpose in his heart. The heart rules the whole man. Hence, keep thy heart with all diligence.
Daniel had already found favour with his master. God had brought him into favour. God always will honour those who honour Him. Daniel had honoured God, and purposed still further to honour Him, and that, too, in very difficult circumstances for a young man. And so God obtains favour for Daniel. It is easy to honour God among those who fear His name; but it is not easy to maintain one's integrity among heathen, and far from home. Yet if, like Daniel, we take God's law as our rule, He will guide us safely, and will carry us through all difficulties.
Daniel, accordingly, makes application to the person set over him, to he allowed to abstain from the king's meat, and to live on simpler diet. The prince of the eunuchs was naturally afraid to consent. He was responsible for them, and he feared the consequences of their living on pulse and water. This was quite right on his part. He was a servant, and bound to obey orders. It is a good sign of a servant that he attends to the orders of his master. Daniel, having full confidence in God's blessing, begs to be allowed to live on pulse and water for ten days, as an experiment. This is agreed to. And the result justified Daniel's expectation. At the end of the ten days they surpassed all the others.
Now, there was the special blessing of God in this; but how did God make the blessing come? As now, the simpler our food the more good will it do us. Abstinence from wine is good for the health. More evil is done by gluttony and