« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Brethren, who, in their struggle with the enemy, signally approved their fidelity to their legitimate Sovereign. Their welfare he in his turn studies to promote ; and he desires to combine the energies of all his subjects in efforts for their good. Methinks he is like Jehoshaphat of old, who, well knowing that piety must be founded in knowledge, and happiness in piety, sent forth the Princes of his empire, with a select number of Priests and Levites, to instruct his people in the knowledge of God's blessed word.
His edict on this occasion, and the manner in which it was carried into effect, will form the subject of my present discourse. I. Then, we notice the edict of King Jehoshaphat
This was such as became a great and pious monarch : and we shall find it not unprofitable or unsuitable to the present occasion, to enter into a distinct consideration of it. We observe then, that it was a kind and benevolent edict; a wise and politic edict; a good and beneficial edict.
Mark the benevolence displayed in it. He sought the present and eternal welfare of his subjects. He knew, that as men are raised above the beasts by the exercise of reason, so are they elevated in the scale of rational beings, in proportion as their intellectual powers are cultivated and enlarged. Man destitute of knowledge, is a mere savage; but when instructed in the various branches of science, he becomes refined, and civilized, and capable of contributing to the general good. In the very cultivation of knowledge there is much pleasure arising to the mind; and in the application of that knowledge to useful purposes there is an exquisite delight. We need only observe persons when employed in their several vocations, how happy they are, how contented, how cheerful, oftentimes unconsciously proclaiming their happiness, like the birds of the air, in festal songs, or consciously, and with devotion, in songs of praise.
But it was not mere intellectual improvement which Jehoshaphat sought to convey; he wished his people to be instructed in the knowledge of that God whom they professed to fear and worship. This alone could make them truly happy: this alone could impart to them sound wisdom or solid consolation. He therefore gave particular directions that they should be taught “ in the Book of the Law of the Lord,” and this throughout the whole land. O happy people, whose governor so employed the authority with which he was invested! And happy that monarch, who so improved his influence, not for his own personal aggrandizement, but for the best interests of the people committed to his charge! In so doing, he approved himself to be indeed what every governor should be, the friend and father of his people.
Nor was the policy of this measure at all inferior to its benevolence. A people well instructed in moral and religious knowledge will view government as an ordinance of God, and will learn to obey the constituted authorities, not so much from fear of their wrath, as for conscience sake towards God. will view their governors as God's vicegerents upon earth; and will consider allegiance to them as an essential part of their duty to him. Hence will spring up love in their hearts, and a real delight in manifesting, on all proper occasions, their loyalty to their king: they will form a bulwark around his person in case of necessity, and even glory in laying down their lives for him as their greatest benefactor.
The benefits arising from this edict were incalculable. Such was the effect of it, that the fear of Jehoshaphat, and of Jehovah as his protector, fell on all the nations that were round about him ; so that none, however hostile in their hearts, dared to make war against him. Doubtless this resulted chiefly from an impression made upon their minds by God himself: yet it was also produced by a dread of that energy which an united people were ready to put forth at any instant, at the call of their beloved monarch. At the same time that peace was thus secured, prosperity reigned in every part of the
empire; and, as the immediate fruit of it, Jehoshaphat, as well as the people, “ had riches and honour in abundance.” In his own mind too he reaped the fruits of his own benevolence. God smiled upon him, and manifested himself to him, and enabled him to walk with “ his heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord.”
Such was the edict of the pious Jehoshaphat, benevolent, politic, beneficial. And what, I would ask, is the Edict which has been issued by the highest authority in this kingdom? Do we not see in it the same blessed characters as in that which we have been considering? It was“ in the third year of his reigne” that Jehoshaphat sent forth teachers to enlighten and instruct his subjects. The very instant he felt himself at liberty from the more urgent and pressing calls of duty, (such as the fortifying of his land against foreign enemies, and the correcting of some great internal abuses,) he engaged in this good work of diffusing light and knowledge through all classes of the community. In like manner the sovereign of this kingdom has scarcely had time to repair the ravages of war, and to establish his empire, too long weakened and impoverished by a cruel usurpation, before he stands forth as the friend and father of his people, and more especially of that portion of them who have in every age and place been most treated with neglect and disdain, to have them educated in scriptural knowledge and in the fear of God. It is much to be lamented, that the Jewish people have not in general been so attentive either to the learning or morals of their children as might be wished : and hence arose a necessity for some authoritative admonition on the subject. Yet, if I may say it without offence, this neglect has not been more reprehensible in them, than has been the indifference with which the Christian world has regarded it. The monarch (may God recompense it richly into his bosom!) has risen up to remedy the supineness both of the one and the other, and to call forth the
united energies of all to correct and terminate this evil. Yet, whilst he thus consults the best interests of his subjects, with what paternal tenderness has he guarded against wounding the feelings of any, or exciting their religious prejudices! The Scriptures of the Old Testament are alone to be used in the schools that shall be established; even those Scriptures, which Jews as well as Christians believe to have been given by inspiration of God, and to contain truth without any mixture of error. In this is marked the policy, no less than the benevolence, of the edict; for it is not by constraint, but by conciliation and kindness, that good is to be done to any, and more especially to those who have shewn themselves now, for so many centuries, proof against all the efforts of intimidation or force. In this kingdom they form no small body, and, I may add, no unimportant portion of the community. It is well known how extensive is their influence in the affairs of commerce; and how, by their activity, they contribute to enrich the state. Hence it is now generally seen and felt, that they are entitled to the same respect as any other subjects of the realm; and whilst, as in the present instance, they see how deeply their monarch feels interested in their welfare, they cannot but on their part be sensible of the privileges they enjoy under his paternal government, and testify their gratitude to him by every possible expression of loyalty and affection.
What the ultimate effect of these measures will be, may be conjectured from the blessed results of the edict of Jehoshaphat: all will feel themselves happy under the government of such a prince; and he, whilst he is respected abroad, and beloved at home, will have the happiness of seeing his labours crowned with prosperity throughout his dominions, and with peace in his own soul. II. The manner in which Jehoshaphat's edict was
carried into execution is now to be noticedThe promptness with which his commands were
executed deserves the highest praise. All were ready to co-operate in this good work as soon as it was proposed. Princes, and priests, and Levites",” all addressed themselves to it instantly, with one heart and one soul. None accounted their dignity so high, or their functions so sacred, but they thought it an honour to be employed in such a service, and found a delight in fulfilling the wishes of their revered monarch : all entered into the work with zeal, and prosecuted it with diligence; and hence a rapid change was effected both in the temporal and spiritual condition of the whole nation. . And what may not be effected in this kingdom also, if a similar zeal be exercised by “the princes and priests” (the magistrates and clergy) of the land ? With them it must begin. Those who move in a lower station can effect nothing, if they be not aided and countenanced by the higher orders, whose rank in life, or sacredness of character, will give a tone to the general feeling, and combine the energies of the whole kingdom. If it be said, that those for whom the benefit is designed do not feel a desire after it, this only shews how much they need it, and how earnestly we should all embark in a cause proposed by such high authority, and recommended by the soundest dictates of wisdom and piety.
That our obligations to unite in this labour of love may the more distinctly appear, I would beg leave to suggest the following considerations.
First, Loyalty to the king demands our concurrence with him in this good work, and a holy emulation amongst us to carry into effect his benevolent designs. What can the greatest or best of men effect, (what could Jehoshaphat himself have done ?) if there be none to act in subserviency to them, and to follow their directions ? As the most potent monarch upon earth would in vain proclaim war, if there were no soldiers found to enlist under his banners and to