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slew them with a great slaughter: the towns thereof.

so there fell down slain of Israel 20 Neither did Jeroboam refivehundredthousandchosenmen. cover strength again in the days

18 Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers. 19 And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Beth-el with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephrain with

of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.

21 But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.

22 And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo. LECTURE 687.

Our plea against the Romanists.

It seems probable that this is one of the passages, in which those who copied out the Scriptures, of old time, made mistakes as to the numbers transcribed. For some manuscripts, and some of the earlier translations, have tens instead of hundreds of thousands, both in the numbers of these armies, and in the reckoning of the slain. Whichever were the real numbers, the great thing for us to observe is the victory which God gave to the weaker side, and the reasons urged by Abijah to Jeroboam, which in reality made it the stronger.

There is an obvious resemblance between the separation of Israel from Judah, and the severance of our dissenting brethren from ourselves. The members of the true catholic undivided church of Christ may have many sins to lay to their own charge, both as individuals and as a body. But they have the satisfaction of pleading, like Abijah, that with them is a duly ordained ministry, with them duly administered sacraments, with them full purpose of heart to keep the charge of the Lord, as it is written in his word, and as it has been delivered unto them by their fathers on his authority. And especially they may plead this most forcibly, to the sect which is in some respects most near of kin to them, and which also is most vehemently opposed to them, the Romanists. Great as is the number of that body, and mighty their power, taken throughout Christendom, they have with them "golden calves," inventions of men, polluting the simplicity of the Gospel. And by reason of the tyranny with which they long endeavoured to uphold their gross corruptions of the truth, they also have to answer, in no small degree, for the disorder and licentiousness, in discipline and doctrine, which have often followed on the rejection of their yoke. Instead therefore of trembling at their fierce onset, or at their wily ambushments, let us ever be prepared to meet them, in the spirit, and with the language of Abijah: "O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers: for ye shall not prosper."

Asa strengtheneth his kingdom, defeateth Zerah.
valour.

1 So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land was quiet ten years. 2 And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:

3 For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: 4 And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.

5 Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him. 6 And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given

him rest.

7 Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered.

9 And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.

10 Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.

11 And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.

12 So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.

13 And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil.

14 And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them.

8 And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that 15 They smote also the tents bare shields and drew bows, two of cattle, and carried away sheep hundred and fourscore thousand: and camels in abundance, and all these were mighty men of returned to Jerusalem. LECTURE 688.

That we ought to strengthen ourselves by uniting to seek God. When "the land had rest," in the years wherein Asa "had no war," ""he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is

yet before us." He employed the season of peace in strengthening his kingdom. He acknowledged also that it was God who had given them this time of quiet: "because we have sought the Lord our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side." And the result was as might be expected: "So they built and prospered." Here is an example, which Christian nations might profitably apply, and not only nations, but also churches, nay all human societies. For too frequently it happens, that however closely men may league together for mutual defence against an enemy, they are no sooner out of danger from a foreign foe, than they become the prey of inward dissension. So deeply is the love of strife rooted in the corrupt nature of sinful men! So resolved are many to strive amongst themselves at home, if not occupied with strife abroad! So frequent is the spectacle of a nation, that has been united and vigorous in war, distracted by faction in time of peace! And so far from uncommon in history is the yet more painful sight of a church, which when in danger was strong in the Lord, becoming in time of outward safety divided, weak, and worldly minded! Whilst we profit by the dangers to which we have been of late exposed as a church, may we also profit by the peace which of late we have enjoyed as a nation; strengthening ourselves, not by towers and gates and bars; but by uniting to seek God, and by building ourselves up in our most holy faith, and by building up with ourselves, as far as possible, those who are most at variance amongst us, in one duly united church and state!

See how Asa, after all his cities built and fortified, still rested his whole hope of safety in the Lord, when invaded by the enormous host of Zerah the Ethiopian. Observe how devoutly he cried unto God, and said: "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee!" Could the army and the king of Judah go forth to battle in this spirit, with this prayer? and is it not most painful to reflect, that after all the years this example has been on record, and with all the light of the Gospel which has so long been shining in our land, yet it is hard to imagine any case, in which our people and their rulers would meet danger, or encounter difficulty, with any such faith as is here expressed? Is it not most painful to feel conscious, that in our fight with Satan, where we know that God will surely give us victory, if we pray to Him, and trust in Him for it, we so frequently both think and act, as if it were by virtue of our own power, rather than by his help, that we are really expecting to prevail?

May God make us duly sensible, that only by his grace we stand, and that only by prayer can we obtain his grace, through Christ our Lord!

Asa, urged by the prophet Azariah, rooteth out idolatry. 1 And the spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: 2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.

10 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.

3 Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.

4 But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.

5 And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries.

6 And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. 7 Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded.

8 And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.

9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.

11 And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep.

12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;

13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or

woman.

14 And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.

15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about.

16 And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.

17 But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.

18 And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.

19 And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.

LECTURE 689.

The importance of a national profession of religion.

The prophetic words of Azariah the son of Oded refer to a long season, during which Israel had been "without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law." This may probably mean some part of the times of the Judges. For we know that then "there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries." The whole account, however, may be possibly a description by way of parable; not a history of the past, but a representation of what might at any time take place. And whatever be its exact interpretation, we cannot mistake the meaning of the chief lesson it conveys: "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you." These are words which we may all of us apply unto ourselves, both singly and collectively. Singly we may hence learn, that if we would have God with us we must seek Him; and that however surely we have Him with us one while, to our great help and comfort, yet we are liable notwithstanding to be tempted to forsake Him, and that if we do forsake Him, He will without doubt forsake us.

And collectively we may apply the like principle to our conduct, as a civil and religious community. For though we certainly are not under the same dispensation of present reward and punishment as the Israelites, still we hold that the righteous Ruler of the universe does here on earth dispense good and evil, to nations, and to churches, according to their conduct. And we think so, for this reason amongst others, that the case does not admit of retribution in the world which is to come. We shall not there, as here, be gathered into separate communities, nor divided by seas or mountains, by laws, or languages, by tribes or generations. Many a one may then perish everlastingly, who is here enrolled in a community which on the whole serves God devoutly. And many who here are born and die in a God denying generation, may be there commended, so much the more highly, for their faith, and love, and works. Let us therefore, both for our own sake, and for the sake of our beloved church and nation, do all that in us lies to bring it to pass, that we may be a people fearing God. Let us press that all may pledge themselves, by public profession of the Christian faith, "to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul." And though the Gospel no longer allows us, as the Law required the Israelites, to "put to death" all guilty of apostacy, let us according to our share of influence discourage such as far as possible, and protest against their encouragement by others, and use our share of civil power to urge these duties on our rulers, that they should maintain truth and uphold godliness, and above all, that they should in all things honour God.

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