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slain. We hear nothing of his boyhood; but scarcely was he of age to think for himself, and to profess himself a servant of the true God, but he chose that “good part which could not be taken away from him?
17." “In the eighth year of his reign (i. e. when he was sixteen years of age) while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father 8.' Blessed are they who so seek, for they shall find. Josiah had not the aid of a revealed volume, at least of the law; he was surrounded by the diversities of idol-worship, the sophistries of unbelief, the seductions of sinful pleasure. He had every temptation to go wrong ; and had he done so, we might have made allowances, and said that he was not so bad as the other kings, for he knew no better ; he had not sinned against light. Yes, he would have sinned against light—the event shows it; for if he had light enough to go right (which he had, for he did go right), it follows, that if he had gone wrong, it would have been against light. Not, indeed, so strong and clear a light as Solomon disobeyed, or Joash; still against his better knowledge. This is very important. Every one, even the poorest and most ignorant, has knowledge enough to be religious.
Education does not make a man religious : nor, again, is it an excuse for man's disobedience, that he has not been educated in his duty. It only makes him less guilty than those who have been educated; that is all: he is still guilty. Here, I say, the poorest and most unlearned among us, may take a lesson from a Jewish king. Scarcely can any one in a Christian land be in more disadvantageous circumstances than Josiahnay, scarcely in a heathen : he had idolatry around him, and at the
age he began to seek God, his mind was unformed. What, then, was it guided him ? whence his knowledge ? He had that, which all men have, heathen as well as Christians, till they pervert or blunt it—a natural sense of right and wrong; and he did not blunt it. In the words of the text, “his heart was tender ;" he acknowledged a constraining force in the Divine voice within him-he heard and obeyed. Though all the world had told him otherwise, he could not believe and would not that he might sin without offence with impunity; that he might be sensual, or cruel, after the manner of idolaters, and nothing would come of
7 Luke x. 42.
8 2 Chron. xxxiv. 3.
it. And further, amid all the various worships offered to his acceptance, this same inward sense of his, strengthened by practice, unhesitatingly chose out the true one, the worship of the God of Israel. It chose between the better and the worse, though it could not have discovered the better of itself. Thus he was led right. In his case was fulfilled the promise,
" Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God'.” Or, in the Psalmist's words, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments.” Or (as he elsewhere expresses it), “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts ?.'
Such was the beginning of Josiah's life. At sixteen, he began to seek after the God of his fathers; at twenty, he commenced his reformation, with a resolute faith and true-hearted generous devotion. From the language of Scripture, it would seem, he began of himself ; thus he is left a pattern to all ages of prompt obedience for conscience-sake. Jeremiah did not begin to prophesy till after the king entered on his reformation, as if the great prophet's call were delayed on purpose to try the strength of Josiah's loyalty to his God, while his hands were yet unaided by the exertions of others, or by the guidance of inspired men.
What knowledge of God's dealings with his nation and of His revealed purposes Josiah had at this time, we can only conjecture; from the priests he might learn much generally, and from the popular belief. The miraculous destruction of Sennacherib's army was not so long since, but it proved to him God's especial protection of the Jewish people. Manasseh’s repentance was more recent still; and the Temple itself, and its service, contained much doctrine to a religious mind, even apart from the law or the prophets. But he had no accurate knowledge.
At twenty, then, he commenced his reformation. At first, not having the book of the law to guide him, he took such measures as natural conscience suggested; he put away idolatry generally. Thus he set out, not knowing whither he went. But it is the rule of God's providence, that those who act up to their light, shall
9 Isa. I. 10.
1 Ps. cxi. 10.
2 Ibid. cxix. 100.
be rewarded with clearer light. To him that hath, more shall be given. Accordingly, while he was thus engaged, after a few years, he found the book of the law in the course of his reformations. He was seeking God in the way of His commandments, and God met him there. He set about repairing the Temple ; and it was in the course of this pious work that the high priest found a copy of the Law of Moses in the Temple, probably the original copy which was placed in the ark. Josiah's conduct on this discovery marks his character. Many men, certainly many young men, who had been so zealous as he had already shown himself for six years, would have prided themselves on what they had done, and though they began humbly, by this time had become self-willed, self-confident, and hard-hearted. He had already been engaged in repressing and punishing God's enemies—this had a tendency to infect him with spiritual pride; and he had a work of destruction to do—this, too, might have made him cruel. Far from it: his peculiar praise is singleness of mind, a pure conscience. Even after years of activity against idolatry, in the words of the text, “his heart was tender,” and he still “ humbled himself before God.” He felt full well the immeasurable distance between himself and his MAKER; he felt his own blindness and weakness; and he still earnestly sought to know his duty better than he did, and to practise it more entirely. His was not that stern enthusiasm which has displayed itself in some so-called reformations, fancying itself God's peculiar choice, and
despising others.” Here we have the pattern of reformers; singleness of heart, gentleness of temper, in the midst of zeal, resoluteness, and decision in action. All God's Saints have this union of opposite graces; Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Nehemiah, St. Paul: but in which of them all is the wonderworking power of grace shown more attractively than in Josiah ?
Out of the strong came forth sweetness *;" or perhaps, as we may say more truly, Out of the sweet came forth strength.
Observe, then, his conduct when the law was read to him : “When the king had heard the words of the book of the law, he rent his clothes *.” He thought far more of what he had not done, than of what he had done. He felt how incomplete his reformation had been ; and he felt how far more guilty his whole people were than he had supposed, receiving, as they had, such precise guidance in Scripture what to do, and such solemn command to do it; and he learned, moreover, the fearful punishment which was hanging over them; for in that book of the law were contained the threats of vengeance to be fulfilled in case of transgression. The passages read to him by the high priest seem to have been some of those contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses sets good and evil before the people, to choose their portion. “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil .... I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing." “ A blessing and a curse; a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your GoD ... a curse if ye will not obey 0." And there was more than the mere words to terrify him; there had been a fulfilment of them. Samaria, the ten revolting tribes, the kingdom of Israel, had been led away captive. Doubtless he already knew that their sins had caused it; but he found in the book of the law it had been even threatened them beforehand as the punishment; and he discovered that the same punishment awaited his own people, should they persist in sin. Nay, a judgment had already taken place in Judah; for Manasseh, his grandfather, had been carried away into Babylon, and only restored upon his repentance. Read the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, in order to see what was to be the curse of disobedience; or again, consider the words of the 29th chapter : “Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your
3 Judges xiv. 14.
4 2 Kings xxii, 11.
God ... that thou shouldest enter into covenant with Him, and into His oath;
.. neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath ; but with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God,” (alas! as it had happened in the event, even all ten tribes, and then the whole twelve had fallen away,) “to go and serve the gods of these nations ; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; and it come to pass, when be
5 Deut, xxx. 15. 19.
6 Deut. xi. 26-28.
heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him so that ... the strangers that shall come from a far land ... when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it ... that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein ... Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land ? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?. Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers . . . for they went and served other gods ... and the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and cast them into another land." These words, or such as these, either about the people or relating to his own duties?, Josiah read in the book of the law; and thinking of the captivity which had overtaken Israel already, and the sins of his own people Judah, he rent his clothes. Then he bade the priests inquire of God for him what he ought to do to avert His anger. “Go,” he said, "enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found : for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book 8.' It is observable, that not even yet does he seem to have known the prophets Jeremiah or Zephaniah, though the former had been called to his office some years. Such was God's pleasure. And the priests and scribes about him, though they seconded his pious designs, were in no sense his guides; they were unacquainted with the Law of Moses, and with the prophets, who were interpreters of that law. But prophets were, through God's mercy, in every city: and though Jeremiah might be silent or might be away, still there were revelations from God even in Jerusalem. To one of these prophets the priests applied. Shallum was keeper of the king's wardrobe--his wife Huldah was known to be gifted with the spirit of prophecy. To her they went. She answered in the
7 Vide Deut. xvii.
8 2 Chron. xxxiv. 21.