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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Chronicles 16

 

 

Verses 1-10

2 Chronicles 16:1-10

Then Asa brought out silver and gold out of the treasuries of the house of the Lord.

The folly of bribery

Trust in man, not in God--

I. Led to sacrilege in religious things. Gifts bestowed or promised with a view to prevent judgment or corrupt morals abominable. Bribery a canker in constitutional governments, a disgrace in all departments of life.

II. Brought down Divine reproof.

III. Defeated its own ends.

1. Asa missed the opportunity of a double victory. Possible by unnecessary and improper alliances to hinder our good and prevent God from granting deliverance.

2. Asa exposed himself to greater danger. Those who bribe and those bribed not to be depended upon. For gold men will sell their votes, their conscience, and themselves. Cato complained that M. Coelius the Tribune “might be hired for a piece of bread to speak or to hold his peace.” (J. Wolfendale.)


Verses 1-14

Verse 7

2 Chronicles 16:7

Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord.

Asa’s want of faith

Sin like Asa’s has been the supreme apostasy of the Church in all her branches and through all her generations: Christ has been denied, not by lack of devotion, but by want of faith. Champions of the faith, reformers and guardians of the temple, like Asa, have been eager to attach to their holy cause the cruel prejudices of ignorance and folly, the greed and vindictiveness of selfish men. They have feared lest these potent forces should be arrayed amongst the enemies of the Church and her Master. It has even been suggested that national Churches and great national vices were so intimately allied that their supporters were content that they should stand or fall together. On the other hand, the advocates of reform have not been slow to appeal to popular jealousy and to aggravate the bitterness of social feuds. (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)


Verse 9

2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.

Divine providence

We need not concern ourselves with the occasion on which these words were uttered. Spoken by a prophet to Asa, king of Judah, they have been “recorded for our instruction.” The representation sets forth Divine things under human similitudes. Now it can hardly be necessary that we expose the falseness of the opinion that having created this world God left it to itself, and bestows no thought on its concerns. But whilst there are few who hold the opinion, there are many who would limit the providence of God; and it is very easy to put forward descriptions of the magnitude and the power of the Creator, and then to set in contrast the insignificance of man, and to argue from the comparison that it is derogatory to the greatness of God to suppose Him careful of what befalls a house-hold or happens to an individual. But this is poor reasoning; it would not hold good if applied amongst ourselves. If it were possible that a great statesman or potentate, whilst superintending the concerns of an empire, should yet find time for ministering at the bedside of sickness, and be active for the widow and the orphan: well, what would you say--that it was derogatory to him that, without neglecting momentous things, he showed himself capable of attending to things comparatively petty? Nay, you would admire and you would venerate him all the more. Neither is it derogatory--nay, rather, it is essential to the greatness of our God--that whilst He marshals the stars and orders the motions of all the worlds in immensity, He yet feedeth the young ravens that call upon Him, and numbereth the very hairs of our head. But now we will bring this truth before you in greater minuteness, and show what is involved in the saying, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

I. We may first alarm it evident that nothing can happen in any spot of the peopled immensity which is not known to Him who is emphatically the Omniscient--indeed, it were to deny the omniscience of God to suppose any the most trivial incident not included within His knowledge. And it is far more than the inspection of an ever-vigilant observer. It is not merely that nothing can happen without the knowledge of our Maker: it is that nothing can happen but by His appointment or permission, for we must ever remember that God is the first cause, and that on the first all secondary depend. But how beautifully simple does everything appear when we trace one hand in all that occurs! It is God whose energies are extended throughout the earth and sea and air, causing those innumerable and beneficial results which we ascribe to nature; it is God by whom all those contingencies which seem to us fortuitous and casual are ordered, so that events brought round by what men count accident proceed from a Divine and therefore irreversible appointment. It is God by whom the human will is secretly inclined towards righteousness, so that there is not wrought upon earth a single action such as God can approve, to whose performance God hath not instigated. It is God who, acting through the instrumentality of various and apparently conflicting causes, keeps together the discordant elements of society, and prevents the whole framework of civil institutions from being rapidly dissolved and broken up piecemeal. I know that it is not the monarch alone at the head of his provinces and tribes who is observed by the Almighty; I know that it is not only at some great crisis in life that an individual becomes the object of the attention of his Maker; rather do I know that the poorest, the meanest, the most despised, the very outcast of society, shares with the monarch the notice of the Universal Protector. Yea, and that this notice is so incessant and so unwearied, that when he goes to his daily toil, or his daily prayer, when he lies down at night, or rises in the morning, or gathers his little ones to the scanty meal, the poor man is not unnoticed by God; he cannot weep a tear God knows not, he cannot smile a smile God knows not, he cannot breathe a wish God knows not. But whilst the universal providence of God is to the full as incomprehensible as aught else that belongs to Divinity, there is nothing in it but what commends itself to the very warmest feelings of our nature.

II. We come now to the second doctrine laid down in our text--that all the motions of providence have for their ultimate end the good of those whose heart is perfect towards God. And you may examine this doctrine under two points of view--as referring either to the Church at large, or separately to the individuals of whom that Church is composed. With Scripture for our guide, we must see that God’s design, in all His dealings with this earth, has been the glorifying Himself in the redemption and final exaltation of a vast number of our apostate race. Before Christ appeared amongst men, the whole course of human events was so ordered as to prepare the way for the promised Deliverer. If God sent His own Son to deliver man from the consequences of transgression, and to extirpate evil from the universe, we cannot doubt the objects which engaged so stupendous an interposition must still be those to whose furtherance the Divine dealings tend. There can be no other objects commensurate in importance with those, for no others have required so costly a process; and since these as yet have been only partially attained, we must justly conclude that their thorough accomplishment is the proposed end of all the dealings of providence. The globe was partitioned out with a view to the Church, this land assigned to one nation and that to another, with the set purpose of consulting by the distribution the well-being of Israel. It is as though the Psalmist had said that God directs all the tumults and confusions of the world, guiding the flood with holy and merciful intentions towards His people, that the turbid waters may bring them strength and peace. Why is it that the Church has outlived so many a fierce persecution--that in the place of being vanquished she is only to be invigorated by assault? We ascribe nothing to the native energies of the preachers or professors of Christianity: we ascribe everything to the protecting and fostering care of Him who so loved the world as to give His Son. And it is not only in reference to the Church at large that we are warranted in thus speaking of God’s providence. Of each member in this Church we may declare that God watches sedulously over him with the express design of succouring him with all needful assistance. You learn from various portions of Holy Writ that God has a great interest in the righteous, so that the Lord’s portion is said to be His people, and Jacob the lot of His inheritance. He now calls His people His jewels, and declares that whosoever toucheth them toucheth the apple of His eye. We know that many things may happen to the righteous which seem against them, and that it is easy to find in their disasters apparent exceptions to the truth affirmed by the text; yet who that knows anything of Christian experience would deny that the trials which are permitted to overtake the godly serve as means through which their spiritual well-being is advanced, and afford occasions for such communications of grace as prove that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness? It is no proof that the eye of the Lord is not on the righteous that troubles may be found in their portion. When again this man is visited with calamity, death may make inroads in his household, and disorder may pervade his affairs; but the eyes of the Lord are incessantly on him, and if he will but seek his comfort in God, God will show Himself strong by giving him a peace which passeth all understanding. And if anything can encourage the righteous man, and give him confidence amid the onsets of trial, it must be the consideration that the providence of the Almighty is thus perpetually vigilant in his behalf. (H. MeLvill, B.D.)

The eyes of the Lord

I. What we are to understand by the eyes of the Lord. This is figurative. It designs His all-seeing providence; and that, as concerned in a special manner with His own people (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10). The eyes of the Lord, as they are set upon His own people, are like the eyes of doves--expressive of mildness, gentleness, tenderness, and love; but as they are set upon wicked men, His eyes are as flames of fire--expressive of wrath and vengeance (Amos 9:4-8; Psalms 34:15).

II. In what sense these are said to run to and fro throughout the whole earth. This is expressive of His watchfulness over His people (Jeremiah 31:28). As those who are watchful look here and there, and are very diligent in their observations, so the Lord watches over His people.

1. To help them.

2. To counter-work the adversary (Job 1:7).

III. The end of their running thus. To show Himself strong on the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.

1. The descriptive character: “perfect toward Him”; that is, sincere and upright. Where there is “love out of a pure heart and faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5) the heart may be said to be perfect.

2. The exertion of Divine power on their behalf. (J. Gill, D. D.)

The eyes of the Lord

In Scripture these signify--

I. His knowledge (Job 34:21; Hebrews 4:13).

II. His providence.

1. For good (1 Kings 6:3; Psalms 32:8).

2. For evil (Isaiah 3:8). (S. Charnock, B.D.)

God’s providence-a description, and its end

I. The description of God’s providence.

1. Its immediateness: “His eyes.” Not like princes, who see by their servants’ eyes, more than by their own, what is done in their kingdoms; His care is immediate.

2. Its quickness and speed: “run.”

3. Its extent: “the whole earth.”

4. Its diligence: “to and fro.” His care is repeated.

5. Its efficacy. His care doth engage His strength.

II. The end of providence. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The foundations of the doctrine of providence

I. God hath an indisputable and peculiar right to the government of the world. This right is founded upon--

1. That of creation.

2. The excellency of His being. Every man hath a natural right to rule another in his own art and skill wherein he excels him.

II. God only is qualified for the universal government of the world. God only is fit in regard of--

1. Power.

2. Holiness and righteousness. All disorder is the effect of unrighteousness.

3. Knowledge.

4. Patience.

III. There can be no reason rendered why God should not actually govern the world, since He only hath a right and a fitness.

IV. God doth actually preserve and govern the world.

1. Nothing is acted in the world without God’s knowledge. The vision of the wheels in Ezekiel presents us with an excellent portraiture of providence (Ezekiel 1:18).

2. Nothing is acted in the world without the will of God (Ephesians 1:11; Psalms 135:6).

3. Nothing doth subsist without God’s care and power. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The universality of God’s providence

I. It is over all creatures.

1. The highest.

2. The meanest. As the sun’s light, so God’s providence, disdains not the meanest worms.

II. It extends to all the actions and motions of the creature.

1. To natural actions. How do fish serve several coasts at several seasons? why do plants that grow between a barren and a fruitful soil shoot all their roots towards the moist and fruitful ground, but by a secret direction of providential wisdom?

2. To civil actions. Counsels of men are ordered by Him to other ends than what they aim at, and which their wisdom cannot discover.

3. To preternatural actions. God doth command creatures to do those things which are no way suitable to their inclinations (1 Kings 17:4; Jonah 2:10; Daniel 3:1-30).

4. To all supernatural and miraculous actions of the creatures. As when the sun went backward in Hezekiah’s time, and when it stood still in the valley of Ajalon.

5. To all fortuitous actions. The whole disposing of the lot which is east into the lap is of the Lord (Proverbs 16:33).

6. To all voluntary actions. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The mysteriousness of God’s providence

I. His ways are above human methods. Dark providences are often the groundwork of some excellent piece He is about to discover to the world. His methods are like a plaited picture, which on the one side represents a negro and the other a beauty.

II. His ends are of a higher strain than the aims of men. Who would have thought that the forces Cyrus raised against Babylon, to satisfy his own ambition, should be a means to deliver the Israelites and restore the worship of God in the temple?

III. God hath several ends in the same action. Jacob is oppressed with famine, Pharaoh enriched with plenty, but Joseph’s imprisonment is in order to his father’s relief and Pharaoh’s wealth.

IV. God has more remote ends than short-sighted souls are able to espy. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The providence of God

I. The wisdom of God would not be so perspicuous were there not a providence in the world. A musician discovers more skill in the touching an instrument, and ordering the strings, to sound what note he pleaseth, than he doth in the first framing and making of it (Isaiah 28:29). All God’s providences are but His touch of the strings of this great instrument of the world.

II. The means whereby God’s acts discover a providence. He acts--

1. By small means.

(a) In the deliverance of a people or person. A dream was the occasion of Joseph’s greatness. He used the cacklings of geese to save the Roman Capitol from a surprise by the Gauls.

(b) In the salvation of the soul. Our Saviour Himself, though God, was so mean in the eyes of the world that He calls Himself “a worm, and no man” (Psalms 22:6). The world is saved by a crucified Christ.

2. By contrary means. God makes contrary things contribute to His glory, as contrary colours in a picture do to the beauty of the piece. In some engines you shall see wheels have contrary motions, and yet all in order to one and the same end. God cured those by a brazen serpent which were stung by the fiery ones, whereas brass (according to Grotius) is naturally hurtful to those that are bit by serpents. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

A supreme providence the only explanation of many actions

and events in the world:--This is evidenced--

I. By the restraints upon the passions of men. How strangely did God qualify the hearts of the Egyptians willingly to submit to the sale of their land, when they might have risen in a tumult, broke open the granaries, and supplied their wants (Genesis 47:19; Genesis 47:21).

II. By the sudden changes which are made upon the spirits of men for the preservation of others (Genesis 33:4; 1 Samuel 24:17-18; 2 Chronicles 18:31; Esther 6:1-2).

III. In causing enemies to do things for others which are contrary to all rules of policy. The Jews in the worst of their captivities were often befriended by their conquerors, to rebuild their city and re-edify their temple, and at the charge of their conquerors too (Ezra 1:1-2; Ezra 1:7; Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:15; Ezra 4:19; Ezra 6:4-5; Ezra 6:8-9; Ezra 6:11; Ezra 6:22; Nehemiah 2:8).

IV. In infatuating the counsels of men (Isaiah 33:11; 2 Samuel 17:14).

V. In making the counsels of men subservient to the very ends they design against (Genesis 11:4; Genesis 11:8; John 12:32).

VI. In making the fancies of men subservient to their own ruin (2 Kings 3:22-23; 2 Kings 7:6; 7:19-22). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The unequal distributions of providence-a question

If there be a providence, how come those unequal distributions to happen in the world?

I. Answer in general.

1. Is it not a high presumption for ignorance to judge God’s proceedings?

2. God is sovereign of the world. Why should a finite understanding prescribe measures and methods to an infinite Majesty?

3. God is wise and just, and knows how to distribute. If we question His providence, we question His wisdom. We see the present dispensations, but are we able to understand the internal motives?

4. There is a necessity for some seeming inequality, at least, in order to the good government of the world. The afflictions of good men are a foil to set off the beauty of God’s providence in the world.

5. Unequal distributions do not argue carelessness. A father may give one child a gayer coat than he gives another, yet he extends his fatherly care and tenderness over all.

6. Upon due consideration the inequality will not appear so great as the complaint of it. A running sore may lie under a purple robe. As some are stripped of wealth and power, so they are stripped of their incumbrances they bring with them.

II. Answer more particularly.

1. It is not well with bad men here.

2. Neither is it bad here with goodmen.

(a) Sensible experiments of the tender providence of God over them (Psalms 37:19; Psalms 37:39; 2 Timothy 4:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; 1 Peter 4:13-14).

(b) Inward improvements, opportunities to manifest more love to God, more dependence on Him, the perfection of the soul (1 Timothy 5:5; Job 22:10).

(c) Future glory.

(d) Suffering of good men for the truth highly glorifies the providence of God (1 Peter 4:16).

(e) This argument is stronger for a day of reckoning after this life than against providence. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The unworthiness and absurdity of denying providence

I. The evil of denying providence.

1. It gives a liberty to all sin. What may not be done where there is no government?

2. It destroys all religion.

3. It is a high disparagement of God.

4. It is clearly against natural light. Socrates could say, “Whosoever denied providence was possessed with a devil.”

II. The grounds of the denial of providence. This is founded--

1. Upon an overweening conceit of men’s own worth. When men saw themselves frustrated of the rewards they expected, and saw others that were instruments of tyranny and lust graced with the favours they thought due to their own virtue, they ran into a conceit that God did not mind the actions of men below.

2. Upon pedantical and sensual notions of God. As though it might detract from His pleasures and delight to look down upon this world, or as though it were a molestation of an infinite power to busy Himself about the cares of sublunary things.

3. On a flattering conceit of the majesty of God.

4. On their wishes upon any gripes of conscience. Those in Zephaniah were first settled upon their lees, and then to drive away all fears of punishment, deny God’s government (Zephaniah 1:12). Some men, upon a sense of guilt, wish, for their own security, there were no providential eye to inspect them.

III. The various ways wherein men practically deny providence, or abuse it, or contemn it.

1. When they will walk on in a contrary way to checks of Providence.

2. In omissions of prayer (Psalms 14:2; 2 Kings 1:3; Job 15:4).

3. When men will turn every stone to gain the favourable assistance of men in their designs, and never address to God for His direction or blessing (Job 35:9-10; 2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 16:12; Proverbs 3:5).

4. When upon receiving any good they make more grateful acknowledgment to the instruments than to God, the principal author of it (Isaiah 10:13-14; Daniel 5:23; Hebrews 1:16).

5. When we use indirect courses and dishonest ways to gain wealth or honour.

6. When we distrust God when there is no visible means (Isaiah 51:12-13; Psalms 52:7)

7. Stoutness, under God’s afflicting or merciful hand, is a denial or contempt-providence (Daniel 5:23; Hosea 7:9; Isaiah 22:12-13).

8. Envy is also a denial of providence.

9. Impatience under cross providence is a denial and contempt of God’s government (Isaiah 8:21-22).

10. In charging our sins and miscarriages by them upon Providence (Proverbs 19:3).

11. Many other ways.

Belief in Providence a source of comfort

I. Man is a special object of Providence (Genesis 1:26).

II. Holy men a more special object of it (Psalms 33:18; Psalms 37:23; text).

III. Hence will follow that the spirits of good men have sufficient grounds to bear up in them innocent sufferings and storms in the world (Hebrews 6:10).

IV. Hence follows a certain security against a good man’s want (Psalms 34:10; 1 Timothy 4:8). (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Our duty in regard to Providence

I. To seek everything we need at the hands of God.

II. To trust Providence.

1. In the greatest extremities.

2. In the way of means.

3. In the way of precept. Let not any reliance upon an ordinary providence induce us into any way contrary to the command (Psalms 37:5).

4. Solely, without prescribing any methods to Him.

III. To submit to Providence: for--

1. Whatsoever God doth, He doth wisely.

2. God discovers His mind to us by providences (Luke 7:22; Acts 5:38-39).

IV. To murmur not at Providence.

V. To study Providence.

1. Universally.

2. Regularly.

3. Entirely.

4. Calmly.

5. Seriously.

6. Holily; with a design to that duty Providence calls for (Isaiah 22:12).

7. Ascribe the glory of every providence to God. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

Providence follows the rule of Scripture

Whatsoever was written was written for the Church’s comfort (Romans 15:4); whatsoever is acted in order to anything written is acted for the Church’s good. All the providences of God in the world are conformable to His declarations in His Word.

I. All good things are for the good of the Church.

1. The world.

2. The gifts and common graces of men in the world.

3. Angels.

II. All bad things are for their good.

1. Bad persons.

2. Bad things.

(a) A man’s own sin. Onesimus runs from his master, and finds a spiritual father. God makes the remainder of sin in a good man an occasion to exercise His grace, discover his strength, and show his loyalty to God.

(b) Other men’s sins. The revengeful threatening of Esau was the occasion of Jacob’s flight, which saved him from possible idolatry (Genesis 27:43; Genesis 27:46).

Providence glorifies God’s grace in Christ

I. All the providence of God is for the glorifying His grace in Christ (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:22-23).

II. God hath given the power of providential administration of things to Christ, for the good of the Church.

III. God in the Church discovers the glory of all His attributes. What wisdom, power, sufficiency, grace, and kindness He hath is principally for them.

IV. There is a peculiar relation of God in Christ to the Church, upon which account this doctrine must needs be true. God is a father to provide for them (Isaiah 64:8); a mother to suckle them (Isaiah 49:15); Christ is a husband to love and protect them (Ephesians 5:29); a brother to counsel them (John 20:17).

V. The whole interest of God in the world, lies in His Church and people.

VI. It cannot be but all the providences of God shall work to the good of His Church, if we consider the affections of God.

1. His love.

2. His delight (Zephaniah 3:17).

VII. The presence of God in His Church will make all providences tend to the good of it.

VIII. The prayers of the Church have a mighty force with God to this end; because--

1. God delights in the prayers of His people.

2. Prayer is nothing else but a pleading of God’s promises.

3. They are the united supplications and pleadings both in heaven and earth.

Use

I. For information.

1. God will always have a Church in the world.

2. God will, in the greatest exigencies, find out means for the protection of His Church.

3. The Church shall, in the end, prove victorious against all its adversaries, or Providence must miss its aim.

4. The interest of nations is to bear a respect to the Church, and countenance the worship of God in it.

5. We may see hence the ground of most of the judgments in the world.

6. What esteem, then, should there be of the godly in the world!

7. It is, then, a very foolish thing for any to contend against the welfare of God’s people.

Use

II. For comfort.

1. In duties and special services.

2. In meanness and lowness.

3. In the greatest judgments upon others.

4. In His people’s greatest extremities (Isaiah 43:2; Psalms 91:4; John 6:17-18).

5. In fear of wants.

6. In the low estate of the Church at any time.

Use

III. If the providence of God is chiefly designed for the good of the Church--

1. Fear not the enemies of the Church.

2. Censure not God in His dark providences.

3. Inquire into providence and interpret all public providences by this rule.

4. Consider the former providences God hath wrought for the Church in past ages.

5. Act faith in God’s providences.

6. Wait upon God in His providence.

7. Pray for the Church.

8. When you receive any mercy for the Church in answer to prayer give God the glory of it.

9. Imitate God in His affection to the Church.

10. Look after sincerity before God. (S. Charnock, B. D.)

The look of God

I. God looks upon all things distinctly. He looks upon every parcel and opens the whole pack of human affairs.

II. He beholds every thing and person perfectly, fully, quite through.

III. In seeing he governs everything effectually, and works it to His own ends.

IV. He seeth all things together. (J. Caryl.)

God’s loving providence over His people

There is something sadly natural in the conduct of Asa as described in the context. It is so hard for us to feel that our interests are secure unless we are manipulating them ourselves. A soldier in the battle seizes yonder knoll, driving off with his superior valour the enemies who were holding it. It is nobly done, and it will be well if the plan of his general includes the capture of that knoll. But if not, when the tide of battle rolls off in another direction, the valiant soldier will be left unsupported in the midst of the returning enemies. How many men have been utterly undone by the accomplishment of their own plans, through their own vast industry and heroic enterprise, simply because they had not made their plans subordinate to the purposes of God, the supreme commandant of every life. Keep your eye upon the pillar of fire and cloud which moves over the desert!

I. How eagerly, then, God consults the welfare of his people.

II. How minutely careful of us is God.

III. How complete is God’s supervision of our welfare. (J. M. Ludlow, D.D.)

Divine Providence

The term “Providence,” as now commonly applied to God, does not occur in Holy Scripture. It occurs only in two passages in the Apocrypha, viz., Wisdom of Solomon 14:3; Wisdom of Solomon 17:3. It is, nevertheless, a term convenient and proper for the statement of a Scriptural doctrine. By those of the ancient philosophers who admitted the existence of a God, or of a plurality of gods, terms of correspondent grammatical import were employed, to express that Divine superintendence by which all things in the material creation were fitted and directed to their proper ends, and by which the universe was kept from falling back into that state of chaos which was supposed to have preceded the present orderly and beauteous frame of things. After their example, we have learned to employ the term “Providence,” for the purpose of describing “the conduct and direction of the several parts of the universe by a superintending and intelligent Being.” My purpose is to invite your attention to such views of the providence of God as more immediately affect the higher interests of man.

I. First, then, we inquire into the general proofs evincing a Divine providence.

1. The first of these proofs is drawn from the moral fitness and necessity of such a Providence. The Psalmist teaches us he is a “fool” who says “There is no God”; and surely he is not less so who, professing to believe in the existence of such a God as the Jehovah of the Scriptures, can say, “There is no Providence.” Some writers on this subject have gone so far as to assert that, in the abstract, the idea of a God without a providence involves a contradiction. But the truth of that position may be reasonably questioned. It we suppose a God, invested with no higher attributes than those which were applied to the false deities of ancient heathenism, where is the folly of farther supposing Him to dwell in a remote and selfish seclusion from terrestrial things? In this respect, the followers of Epicurus gave good proof of their consistency at least when, believing only in such gods as those referred to, they not only denied them to be the governors, but also the creators, of the world; it being, as they rightly judged, but reasonable to conclude that such gods had neither the wisdom nor the power to create, or govern, such a world as this. And they were equally consistent when, having no distinct notion of any intelligent Being to whom the lofty attributes of eternal existence and universal power might be considered as pertaining, they attributed eternity to matter, and give the empire of the world to chance. Were there in reality no higher object of worship than the daemon-gods of Greece and Rome, and were there, consequently, no Providence but such as these gods might be supposed to be capable of exercising, it were surely consistent with good reason and benevolence at least to wish the sceptre of the world’s dominion might be wrested from their grasp, and that, rather than be subject to such rule, the course of nature and of all events might be committed to the sportive dance of atoms and the blind rush of accidental causes. But if, as taught in Scripture, we acknowledge, as the first cause of all created things, a Being absolutely perfect, and therefore infinite in wisdom, in goodness, and in power, we must at the same time admit a Divine Providence as still sustaining and governing the universe which He has made; and especially we must admit there is a Providence, to administer and overrule the affairs and interests of men. Much as it has laboured on that point, “the wisdom of this world” presents us with no principles which can at all suffice to show how anything created can even continue to exist unless by a perpetual exertion of wisdom and power on the part of Him who first called it into being; or how, upon the supposition that the Divine guidance and support should be withdrawn, the world could do otherwise than immediately sink back into the nothingness from which it originally sprung. Even supposing the material creation, in “the dew” of its “morning,” and in the beauty of its primaeval excellence, to have received the impression of such properties and laws as would have been sufficient, but for the positive intervention of some disturbing cause, to perpetuate its existence and its order, yet we cannot contemplate the character and aspect of the world, as it exists at present, and especially we cannot contemplate its moral character and aspect, without perceiving the necessity of a Divine Providence, to counteract the evils which have gained access to it. That the universal Creator should leave, without a providence, a world like this, in which evil of all kinds has won so large and terrible a sway, and in which there are so many fearful tendencies to universal mischief and confusion, would neither be consistent with wisdom, nor goodness, nor justice, on any other supposition than that of man’s having been judiciously abandoned, without hope of redemption, to reap the natural fruit of his own evil and rebellious doings.

2. The second proof of a Divine Providence is found in the positive and repeated testimony of Holy Writ.

3. A third proof evincing a Divine Providence is found in certain miraculous attestations which have occasionally marked its interposition. We are enabled to point out numerous occasions on which God has come forth from the “hiding-place” in which He usually dwells and carries on His operations and has shown Himself, as it is stated in my text, by tokens which could not but be seen, and which could not be mistaken. There is the flood coming on “the world of the ungodly,” whilst Noah and his family, being “warned of God,” are directed to the means of their exemption from the general destruction. We point to “the cities of the plain, turned into ashes by fire and brimstone, which the Lord rained upon them out of heaven,” whilst righteous Lot is escorted by angelic attendants to a place of safety. We will exhibit to him the long roll of those “mighty acts and wonders” which are displayed in the history of the Israelitish people. We contemplate the strange deliverance of Daniel and his three countrymen from the power of savage beasts and from the rage of the devouring flame. We will show him how Nature herself--the imaginary deity whom infidels pretend to worship--has in many instances forgotten her own laws, and been arrested, or even turned backwards, in her course; and we will challenge him to show us how these stupendous anomalies are to be accounted for, unless upon the supposition that in these instances there was the interposition of a Power superior to anything that has ever been understood by the term Nature--an interposition which must necessarily lead us to admit the providence for which we are contending.

II. The general characteristics of that Divine Providence which is demonstrated to exist.

1. This Providence is universal, “for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” By a universal Providence we mean a Providence which is at the same time general and particular. Indeed a Providence which is Divine must necessarily bear both these characteristics. No argument can be adduced in favour of the one which is not equally applicable in favour of the other; and we cannot exclude either of them from our notion of that Providence by which the world is governed without admitting into our notion of the Deity by whom that providence is exercised an imperfection of which He is incapable. For, in excluding either a general or a particular Providence, we necessarily suppose some portion of our world, of greater or less extent, from which the Divine presence and care are totally excluded. It is true that we are utterly confounded in every attempt we make to estimate the wisdom and power and condescension which are required to be in constant exercise, in order to the maintenance of an inspection so vast in its extent, and yet so minute in its details. But from this feeling of astonishment no objection would arise against the doctrine either of a general or a particular Providence, were it not for those monstrously absurd comparisons which we are wont to institute between the Almighty and ourselves, together with our strange forgetfulness of the important truth that God is everywhere present at one and the same time; and that to One whose knowledge and power are subject to no bound or imperfection, it must be quite as easy to attend to many things, however numerous or complicated they may be, as to attend to only one.

2. A second characteristic of the providence of God is its beneficence. In all its operations it regards, as its final object, the welfare of mankind in general; and as far as may be found consistent with that object, the welfare of individuals in particular. This general purpose of beneficence is to a great degree apparent in the general provision which is made for human sustenance and comfort. It is impossible to view the astonishing arrangements which everywhere display themselves, for the supply of “food convenient for us,” and for the general preservation of our race, without being prompted to exclaim, “Thou crownest the year with Thy goodness; Thy paths drop fatness.” And the moral ends contemplated by a Providence which is thus mindful of our bodily necessities, and of our humblest natural infirmities, must be, in even more than an equal degree, characterised by a pure and infinite beneficence. There may at first, indeed, appear to be something almost incompatible with such a doctrine, in the affliction and misery which desolate the earth. But the difficulty arising on that ground is easily resolved by such considerations as the following:

3. A third characteristic of Divine Providence is its mysteriousness. I do not say that there is any mystery as to the general object which that Providence regards. We have already “seen the end of the Lord, that He is pitiful and of great mercy.” But of the course which He pursues to the attainment of that end, it may frequently be said, that “His path is in the whirlwind, and His way in the great deep, and His footsteps are not known.” And surely a Providence which is Divine must necessarily, in the detail of many of its plans and operations, appear to be mysterious to creatures so short-sighted as we are. It is certainly right, because perfectly consistent with just notions of the God whom we adore, that we should acknowledge the existence of mysteries in providence; but why should we profess to wonder at such mysteries, while there remain so many mysteries in Nature? I have said that the general principles of the Divine administration of the world are clearly made known. But I remember the saying of a great man, now no more, that “things pertaining to God may be mysterious, in proportion as they are revealed”; and I cannot but feel the application of that paradoxical yet just position to the point which is before us. Were God a finite being, like ourselves, the revelation of the principles on which He acts, however vast and comprehensive in their range and application those principles might be, would not, perhaps, be such as we should be unable adequately to conceive. But principles which know no limit, in themselves or in their application, save that which is imposed by the will, or by the necessity, of a Divine and incomprehensible nature, must necessarily, in whatever degree they are revealed to us, remain mysterious because of their infinity; and the more nearly we are enabled to contemplate those principles, the more overpowering--I had almost said, the more bewildering--will be the effect of their united splendour, both on our mental and spiritual vision. And then, besides the physical reason to which I have referred, why the providence of God should in many of its dispensations be mysterious, there is a moral reason--a reason arising out of the beneficence by which the operations of that providence are shaped to their intended issue. For were those operations free from mystery, then would our faith want those trials which constitute its most important and profitable exercise; and in wanting those trials, it would want, at the same time, the arena on which it wins its brightest victories, and becomes entitled to its richest and most glorious reward. Think, for example, of the difference which it might have made to Abraham if in his path to the attainment and confirmation of the promise in regard to his son Isaac, there had been no adverse hope against which he might continue to “believe in hope,” and no apparent impossibilities in the midst of which he might still be “strong in faith, giving glory to God.”

4. There remains to be noticed yet one other characteristic of the providence of God, and that is, its entire subservience to the purposes of His redeeming grace. Indeed, it is altogether of that grace that there exists at all a Providence of such a character; in other words, had there been no redeeming grace, then no such Providence could have existed. No; it is then only accounted for on principles justly claiming to be considered “rational,” when it is set forth as the result of “the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the part of persons who maintain a contrary opinion, we sometimes hear the question, “How can the death of Christ, as an atoning sacrifice, be made to seem consistent either with perfect justice or with perfect goodness?” But we may retort that question with another, which they will find it much more difficult to answer. Suppose our fallen world to have been left without redemption, and that no means had been devised, in the counsels of the Divine grace and wisdom, for the recovery of its guilty population to “the favour and the peace of God,” where then would have been the consistency--nay, where the possibility, of a Providence so condescending and beneficent as that which now appears? Or where would have been the actual benefit to man of a Providence to correct and modify the course of outward things, if he had still been doomed, for want of a Redeemer, to bear for ever the burden of a guilt for which there was no expiation? But let us take that doctrine along with us, and we then discover an apt and harmonious reason for such a Providence, by which its utmost beneficence is justified. And, as that characteristic of the providence of God which renders it especially dear and valuable to us originates in, or operates at least as the result of, the “grace” which “came by Jesus Christ,” so, as already stated, it is ever in subservience to the purposes of the same grace that its operations are conducted. It is thus in those extensive operations which involve the character and fats of nations and empires. It were vain for us to indulge in speculation as to the objects which Jehovah might contemplate, on the supposition of man’s having continued in his original uprightness. We have the fact of his departure from that character into a state of guilty estrangement and hostility. And taking the world in its present circumstances, and seeing that “God so loved that world,” fallen as it is, as to “give His only begotten Son” for its redemption, we may be assured that there can be no object dearer to the heart of God than that His Son should “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied,” in the reception of “the heathen for His inheritance,” and of “the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.” As the providence of God thus stands, and ever must stand, connected with the purposes of His redeeming grace, so it is in those cases where the grace of God specially prevails, that this Providence specially exerts its powerful and benignant operation; or, as stated in the text, it is “on the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” that the Lord “shews Himself strong,” and for their sakes more especially His “eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” In other words, He is eminently the God of providence to those who bow before Him, and rejoice in Him, as the God of comforting and sanctifying grace. Doubtless, this was one of the great truths designed to be set forth by those numerous providential interpositions which shed so illustrious a light upon the early history of the Israelitish people. On this express condition, that they should “have no other gods before Him,” and that they should “keep His statutes and His judgments diligently, to do them,” Jehovah engaged on His part to “shew himself strong” on their behalf, in such a manner as should render them the astonishment and envy of surrounding nations. And, on the other hand, the judgment so frequently inflicted on that people during their journeys through the wilderness, and in the subsequent periods of their history, and more especially their present wonderful dispersion throughout other nations, go to remind us, with equal emphasis and certainty, that it is only in proportion as our heart is “perfect toward Him” that God can be expected to “shew Himself strong” on our behalf. We thus perceive that the great lesson intended to be taught by all the mighty acts and wonders which God did for Israel is, that the same God will ever in a peculiar manner, ears for those who, being Christ’s, are therefore “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise,” whilst those who are yet “aliens,” or outcasts from His spiritual Israel, though not excluded entirely from His providential care, shall still enjoy that care in an inferior degree. It is on this ground that we discover the foundation of those promises which ensure to all God’s people, in their individual as well as their collective character, an adequate supply of all their bodily and temporal necessities. For if, as intimated in the history of the Jewish people, the providence of God is the handmaid of His grace, and, as such, is commissioned with the special care of those “whose heart is perfect toward Him,” then, unless we would again charge an all-perfect Being with infirmity, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion, that all those things which Nature absolutely needs, and the providing of which often brings so severe a burden on the mind, “shall (certainly) be added.” Again, the principle that the operations of God’s providence are subservient to the purposes of His grace sheds no inconsiderable light upon the mystery which is “supposed to be presented when, whilst the ungodly “increase in riches,” and “have more than heart could wish,” the man whose heart, if not absolutely perfect toward God, is yet, in general, upright and sincere before Him, is “plagued till the day long, and chastened every morning.” It is not that He who claims as His own, “the gold and the silver, and the cattle on a thousand hills,” would merely “for His own pleasure” deny to His people the advantages of health and riches. But He regards their eternal salvation as being an object infinitely more important than their worldly comfort, and to this one great object all others must be subordinate and secondary.

1. In the first place, the doctrine of a Divine Providence, that Providence being beneficent as well as universal, condemns that excessive anxiety with which we are so prone to burden and distress ourselves.

2. Secondly, this doctrine inculcates the duty, and when heartily embraced, it will inspire the feeling, of a grateful acquiescence in our lot, however far removed that lot may be from the circumstances which we should have chosen for ourselves.

3. More especially, this subject, as connecting the operations of God’s providence with the purposes of His grace, calls upon us to look well to it, that our own “hearts are perfect towards Him”; and that, in order to their being so, they are the subjects of that grace which can alone destroy their deceitfulness and enmity, and render them a holy and acceptable sacrifice. (J. Crowther.)

God the guardian of the world

I. That God’s guardianship of the world is universally inspective “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” God sees the whole of a thing. Of those objects with which we are most acquainted, we know but a little of their outside; the essence of everything is hid beneath an impenetrable veil from us. Few, indeed, are the things we are permitted to see even the outside of. Space limits us. Our widest horizon is not a handbreadth to the heavens as compared with the universe. Duration limits us. Wonderful things were transpiring, even on planet, ages ere we woke into conscious thought. But neither space nor duration limits the knowledge of God; He is in all places; He exists through all times. Whatever is, has been, will be, or can be, are in His eye. All actualities and possibilities are there. “All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” If the eye of a child has sometimes been known to paralyse the arm and frustrate the intentions of him who has been bent on some criminal deed, how would not the lightning glance of God check thee from all evil?

II. That God’s guardianship of the world is personally exercised. He does not watch and superintend the world through the instrumentality of others; His eyes, His own eyes, are employed. He does not, like human potentates, get a knowledge of His empire by hearsay and report, but by His own personal inspection. It is a glorious truth that God Himself is in our world. He is not merely here by representation. He does not look after the universe as parents after their children, merchants after their business, monarchs after their dominions--by proxy. He employs others, it is true, but He is with them and in them--the force of all causes, the motive of all motives. Nor is He here merely by influence, just as the author is in the book, or as the telegraphic officer is at the time wherever he transmits his message. Those heavenly bodies, which fill thoughtful minds, as they “gaze upon them shining,” with unutterable emotions, and seem to engulf the spirit into their own immeasurable vastness, we are told, radiate and revolve by law. Man is born, sustained, enjoys, suffers, lives, and dies, by “laws.” Blessed thought! the great Father of the world is here, not merely by representation, or influence, but in person. The world has not only His agents and His works, but His eyes--His all-seeing Self is here.

III. That God’s guardianship of the world is morally designed. Why does He thus so sedulously and constantly guard the world? “To shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” God guards the universe for the interests of the good. It is not material Nature in any of its wondrous combinations of beauty and sublimity, not blooming landscapes, mighty oceans, starry spheres, revolving worlds, or refulgent systems, that interest Him most. No; it is His adopted ones, His loving children, though little and afflicted, that engage His sympathies. He says, in effect, “I keep up the machinery of the universe only for the good of My children. I have no affection for it, ‘but for the saints that are in the earth, in whom is all My delight’: wherever they are, ‘ Mine eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually.’” This subject teaches--

1. The true spirit of life. If God is the all-seeing Guardian of the world, whose eyes pierce into every avenue of existence, what should be the spirit of life? Not the spirit of empty frivolity and childish trifling, treating all things as if made for foolish jests and giddy laughter, but the spirit of solemnity clothing all objects with a Divine significance.

2. The true interests of life. What are they? Secular possessions? mental attainments? social honours? No, but a perfect heart.

3. The true Judge of life. Our life has many judges, at many tribunals are we tried, and many, and often diverse, are the verdicts returned. Some are too favourable, and some too adverse. The few instances of accuracy are random guesses, not righteous deductions. But there is one true Judge; it is He whose “eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (Homilist.)

The guardianship of God

I. The world had a Guardian.

II. That the guardianship of the world is of the most minute character.

III. That this guardianship of God is of the most loving and gracious character. (W. G. Barrett.)

God’s thoughts toward good men

I. Why does God exercise all His power of observation and control in this world in behalf of good men? The answer is that they of all creatures best illustrate His character and glorify Him most. They alone--

1. Were originally created in the Divine likeness.

2. Have been born again into His spiritual image.

3. Glorify Him in the highest degree by holy lives.

II. How have God’s powers of observation and control been exercised in their behalf?

1. The process of the earth’s development during the vast geologic periods of the first five creative days all meant that man was coming, and that God’s eyes were running forward to prepare him a home.

2. In connection with the creation of living creatures, by the aid of comparative anatomy we can see God’s eyes running forward through all the orders of animate life up to man.

3. Having given him a body fearfully and wonderfully made, He has made abundant provision for the supply of all his wants.

No mist before the eyes of God

We see a Divine purpose in the discovery of America, in the art of printing, in the exposure of the Gunpowder Plot, in the contrivance of the needle gun, in the ruin of an Austrian or Napoleonic despotism; but now hard it is to see God in the minute personal affairs of our lives. We think of God as making a record of the starry host, but cannot realise the Bible truth that He knows how many hairs are on our head. It seems a grand thing that God provided food for thousands of Israelites in the desert, but not how He feeds hungry sparrows. We cannot understand how He encamps in the crystal palace of a dew-drop, or finds room to stand, without being crowded, between the alabaster pillars of a pond-lily. Cromwell, Alexander, Washington, or an archangel, is not more under Divine inspection than your life or mine. Pompey thought that there must be a mist over the eyes of God because he favoured Caesar. But there is no such mist. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

To shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.--

God waiting to show Himself strong

I. God has shown himself strong on behalf of men. It is often the knowledge of God’s ability to help that causes us the greatest difficulty, and paralyses our faith in Him. We do not feel able to say quite as confidently as we might that all His promises are yea and amen, or else we limit their reference, and say that they have only to do with certain orders of things. Now we have this fact before us: God is able, He must be, to control all things. His knowledge is infinite; His wisdom, His strength eternal. As it is, while we acknowledge His ability we limit its exercise, and find in this reason for our independent action. We see, in opposition to the limit which we are often ready to place on God’s interference on our behalf, the wonderful variety and modes of the help given to men as recorded in the Scripture. There is not a condition but God has appeared in that, strong to help. What wisdom and power are here shown on behalf of men! Lost by sin, we are restored by faith in Christ.

II. God looks out for opportunities of showing Himself strong. His eyes run to and fro throughout the earth. He is thus represented as watching men for the purpose of revealing Himself, so that when He sees the opportunity He is there ready to do it. He is not reluctant to give.

III. Why, then, do we not always receive? How is it we make mistakes, complain of want of life and light and progress? Here is the reply. The opportunity for which He waits is a heart perfect toward Him. This is the fitness which is always needed ere He shows Himself strong. “How wilt Thou manifest Thyself to us?” etc. “My Father will love him, and We will take up our abode with him.” We are not so dependent on the condition of our life as we think. Let the heart be right, and everything else will be transformed. But what fitness is here required? Asa did not trust God, but his own wisdom and gold and silver. Apply the general truth of God as for all, without considering that God, though the absolute monarch of all, does not act arbitrarily towards any. Thus here God does not manifest His strength to men always. Far from it. Asa found that God’s strength did not help him; he had wars all the remainder of his life. We are often left in our weakness, otherwise there would be no such thing as failure in the details of life. We ask why does not God make bare His arm when He sees the weak struggling against greater forces. Be it nation, be it tribe, or people, or individual, He knows the need, He measures it, and at a time and under conditions most calculated to ensure the eternal and lasting good of His creatures, He comes forth to help and to save. That this is His way of dealing with men may be seen in the greatest and highest gift He has given. We gather, in conclusion--

The heartening certainty

Asa is in trouble. Baasha has captured and fortified Ramah and so hemmed in Jerusalem. Is not that a frequent type of life? Is not every man often thrust into straits as Asa was? Is there not for every man some threatening Ramah over against his Jerusalem.

1. Here is a man whose work in life seems sometimes vaster than his energies. How can life’s work get done--the support of a family, the meeting of obligations, etc.?

2. Here is a man confronted with some special obstacle, e.g., unholy competition in business, etc.

3. Here is a man under the shadow of the Ramah of disappointment.

4. Here is another man who is dissatisfied with his pernicious way of life.

5. And there is Doubt, another Ramah often built across our way. Is there any help for a man in the presence of these Ramahs? Our Scripture is the statement of the heartening certainty. “Perfect” in our Scripture means pure intent. Once I was becalmed upon the sea. I was in a sailing ship. For some days the wind died utterly away. There was not the curl of a minute ripple even on the ocean’s surface. We were drifted here and there, now backward and then forward, as the tides rose and as they fell. Of course we could not get on thus. There was no inherent power of motion in the vessel. What did the captain do? Order the sails furled? Let the man at the helm sleep? No, he did the best he could. Every sail was hung broadly on the yards. The helm was firmly held. The vessel was kept pointed toward her port. In a word, the captain kept the vessel in pure intent; not perfect in power; she had no power. And when, at last, the wind did come, the sails were filled, and we were wafted into harbour. This is the heartening certainty. This is the meaning of our Scripture. The man who thus holds himself in pure intent, keeping his sails spread and his helm steadily pointed toward the right, and fixed, and from the wrong, that man God shall see, and He shall send upon him the breezes of a Divine strength, and waft the man on into accomplishment, victory, heaven. (Wayland Hoyt, D.D.)

Perfection discriminated

We must discriminate between purity of heart and maturity of Christian character. The entire cleansing received by faith is perfect health of soul; but it is not perfect development. Perfect health is the entire absence of disease. Perfect holiness is the entire absence of sin. Christian purity brings finality to nothing but inbred sin. It is the field cleared of the noxious weeds, not the ripe waving harvest. It is the best preparation for growth, not the consummation of growth. Sin in the heart makes us like a child that is sickly, or a tree with a worm at the root. Some hope by cultivating the graces of the Spirit to grow into purity, which is like a man cultivating the vegetables in his garden to grow the weeds out from about the roots of the plants. Common sense says, “Pluck up the weeds, and give the plant a fair chance for growth and development.” This is the Divine method. God cleanses the heart from inbred sin, after which growth is always more rapid and symmetrical; advancement in knowledge, and love of God, and all spiritual excellence, becomes possible then as it never was before. Maturity is the result of experiences, trial, conflict, and requires time; but in purity we grasp by faith the sin consuming power that sweeps the heart clean at a stroke. (Thomas Cook.)


Verse 10

2 Chronicles 16:10

Then Asa was wroth with the seer.

A reluctant conscience

It is said that straw which had been used for the bedding of the lions at Wombwell’s menagerie was sold, and placed in a stable as bedding for some horses. No, sooner did the horses enter than they began to show signs of alarm, snorting, snuffing the air, and trembling as though conscious of a threatening presence. Horses in this country have had no experience of the hostility or strength of carnivora; but there is a persistency in hereditary powers which certain objects can stimulate into activity. The conscience of man exhibits a similar persistency of sense, if not by self-reproach or remorse, at least by a reluctance to enter on the consideration of sin. It is not too much to infer that all is not right, when pain, alarm, aversion are felt when inquiry is suggested. (Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)


Verse 11-12

2 Chronicles 16:11-12

And, behold, the acts of Asa, first and last, lo, they are written in the books of the kings.

Asa; or failure at the last

Asa’s case is a Scriptural declaration, that one who has begun well, who has even done much for God, may fall miserably, may fail at last. What were the causes of his fall?

I. He was tried by great success. Nothing is more liable than success to produce self-confidence, and neglect of Him who bestoweth on the wise their wisdom and on the strong their strength. Unless s man watches himself very narrowly, pride will insinuate itself even into the midst of his thanksgivings; complacent thoughts of his own foresight underlie his recognition of God’s providence; confessions of his own good desert qualify his confessions of sin.

II. He was placed in the perilous position of having to guide and instruct others. This is a great snare to any one. The mother who teaches her child to pray; the father who watches over his son’s moral progress; the master who is a strict censor of the behaviour of his servants; the Scripture-reader, the district visitor, the nurse of the sick, the almoner of the poor; yea, even the minister of God who has professionally to bring before his people the means of grace and hope of glory; these persons are all in danger of neglecting themselves--of placing themselves, as it were, ab extra, to the duties which they have to inculcate. They are tempted to forget themselves, to abate their self-discipline, and when the novelty of their employment has passed away, to fall back on other things; it may be, to end with languor, disgust, or carelessness, if not with utter faithlessness and sin. (D. Hessey.)


Verse 12-13

2 Chronicles 16:12-13

And Asa, in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet

Mind-cure

That sickness is twin born with sin is the oldest tradition in the world.
Our maladies arise from something finer than the germs any microscope can detect; and if all disease has its origin in the ill-disposed spirit, in a different well-disposed spirit it may have its cure. There can be no doubt that a mind morbid or in health affects the body. Some persons, by their presence and air, make us sick or well. Temperance is a virtue before it is a bodily trait. All vice digs a mine of ruin which no physician can countermine. What doctor can prescribe for an inordinate affection, from his pocket-book or medicine-chest? A little mind-cure were better than a complete apothecary’s shop; and in one’s own mind, often more than in another’s, the remedy lies. Safety and peril reside in the same region of the affections, even as the very sea that tosses brings us to port. Like cures like; the hair of the dog his own bite; and herbs, as George Herbert says, the flesh they find their acquaintance in. There is no malady which guilty intrigues, extravagant passions, and corroding cares may not produce or increase; and none which good affections will not alleviate or remove. Many a heap of flowers have I seen on coffins that would not have been made by plane and hammer so soon had a tithe of the green leaves, lilies, and roses been strewn along the way. Christ’s miracles were wrought on a promise of faith, for the blind eye, for the withered hand, and for the remorseful conscience in him whom He assured, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee,” an insane compunction being in this case the evil root. Peter commanded the cripple to stand on his feet, perceiving that he had faith to be healed. The good Samaritan poured out something more than oil and wine into the robbed traveller’s wounds. There are in us gashes and ghastly wounds, perhaps unknown to the inflictors, which no sword or dagger ever made. A word or a look was enough to stab us; shall no words or looks suffice to make us whole? No medicaments, only mental cure, can either probe them or bind them up. Right ordering of our active powers is a medicine, as well as that merry heart of which the Preacher speaks. The steadfast will is a life-preserver, and buoys up against spiritual drowning. Heal the mind tired and sore with brooding on absent or unresponsive objects: with labour that eases it, while it wearies the muscles and makes the sweat, according to the old decree, run down the face. As the girders and cross-ties of the bridge distribute the pressure on it of heavy loads, so various duty lightens by dividing every burden of grief or pain. Such considerations may show how far a sane body is not only inhabited, but made, by a sane mind. Let us notice more particularly the connection between sickness and sin.

I. They have the same origin.

II. They have the same propagation and spread.

III. Why, then, should not the cure of sickness run parallel with its continuance and cause? Disorder is inherited. Ezekiel protests against the proverb that the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Nevertheless, it is true. For example of this communication or transmission, take the illustration of fear. What a leaven it is! Terror is not only a wretchedness, but a disgrace, an exposure to harm. You will be likely to have what you dread. What you rehearse you will enact. This is the shorthand history of disease, misery, and crime. Bonaparte, in his better days, thought the bullet was not run and moulded he should be hit by, though cannonballs ploughed the earth into powder at his side; felt no alarm for himself from the plague in Egypt, and fortified his soldiers against it, with that brave deportment of his own. To what but panic is due the large destruction of life in buildings falling or on fire, in battles like that of Bull Run, and in wrecks at sea? We must be of good heart to be secure. How many have been sick of a thought or of a certain company or of a single companion! How many have got well with thoughts alone that could cure! By one who served in our civil war I was told of sick soldiers who, in their despair, voluntarily turned their faces to the wall and died, because they wanted, and had made up their mind, to die. If as they lay moaning on their beds had come some token of affection, the step of some Florence Nightingale, or any good message, they would have opened their eyes, stretched their limbs, and lived! A grain, a hair, the twentieth part of a scruple, in delicate conditions and a tremulous suspense determines the scale; and the balance hangs for us all to put the atom into, so intimate is the relation between body and mind. We decide each other’s fate every day. Balzac tells us of a mother who suddenly expires after one more of her unnatural daughter’s hard words; and he adds that the slaughter by savages of those too old to continue on the march is philanthropy in the comparison. This is happening every day. A gentle remembrance from one--a note, a flower, a book, a hand-grasp--to assure us our days of usefulness are not over, enables us to live and labour still. The supernatural acts through the natural. Let us make the connection and be all of us well. Be its fault or defect what it may, I greet, therefore, the new departure which lays the stress on the mind. (C.A. Bartol, D.D.)

The sin of Asa

1. Though it is not my purpose to dwell upon the general features in this history, I cannot help remarking how strongly one is inclined in hearing it to exclaim, “Lord, what is man! In his best estate, moral as well as physical, he is altogether vanity.” Here is a person that appears to have been piously educated, that in his youth was piously and deeply impressed; that when clothed in royal purple still remembered his responsibility to a higher power, and felt and acknowledged his dependence on it; that in his mature years departed not from the way in which he had been trained up; and that knew by a single personal experience that it is a way of pleasantness and a path of peace; in his old age guilty of the greatest inconsistencies, to say the very least. May we not reasonably suppose that, during his long prosperity, his heart had become in a measure hardened by the deceitfulness of sin; that indolence had corrupted, and pride, taking occasion from the happy condition of his people, of which he had been the instrument, had puffed him up; and that prayer, in consequence, had been restrained before God? Be sober, be vigilant, be prayerful, be humble, is the moral of this melancholy tale.

2. This monarch’s history may also teach us that, what we deem our strongest point of character may in fact prove our weakest. Asa’s distrust in Divine, and over-trust in human power, was the last sin, most probably, which he thought would ever beset him. “Though all men forsake Thee,” said St. Peter, “yet will not I.” His courage he was sure would abide, however that of the other disciples might falter. That he felt was not his weak point; and probably it was not naturally. When we are conscious of weakness, and in consequence lean constantly on an Almighty arm, then our strength never faileth. How can it? In the confidence of this it was that the apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ strengthening me.” On the other hand, let a man feel strong in himself, and of consequence lean on himself, in the things of religion, we are told we can do nothing. The lesson, then, to be learned from the history of Asa, in this view of it, plainly is, to glory in nothing as of ourselves, to distrust ourselves even in our strongest point, and to count all our sufficiency as of God through Christ.

3. A third particular in this narrative, well worth noticing, is the pertinacity which Asa exhibited in his sin, and how in consequence one transgression led on to another. David committed some most fearful sins, and a prophet was sent to reprove and warn him. His confession was, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Not so Asa. His crime, though indeed not so horrible, was equally certain; yet when the prophet reproves him, the historian tells us “he was in a rage with him because of this thing”; and added to the sin, and to a denial of it, persecution of God’s servant for delivering God’s message. The sin of Asa, though certain and heinous, as I have said, was not so palpable and overt as that of David. It lay more exclusively between God and his own soul. It was an offence which shortsighted men, who cannot read the heart, could not with propriety charge him with. The sins which are known with certainty only to Omniscience are the last which corrupt human nature is willing to acknowledge. It hides itself from its own guilt and from its obligation to confess and forsake its sin, under the cover of its fellow-creatures’ ignorance. From this hiding place, to which Asa had manifestly fled, man could not dislodge him. God’s resources, however, were not exhausted.

When His prophet failed to do it, He sent another messenger to the king in the shape of a most painful disease which finally proved mortal.

1. Health, it is generally acknowledged, is the very greatest of all personal and temporal blessings. By its influence on the inner man it gives new glory to objects already bright, and pours light on that which would otherwise be dark. It converts to luxuries the plainest food, and adds a sweetness to a cup of cold water which nectar in the hand of an invalid partakes not of. Health is valuable not only as an exemption from pain and anxiety, but as a positive good. It causes positive happiness to spring up--to well up from the depths of the soul, the operation of which the man may be unable to explain, but to the mysterious sweetness of which he is ready to testify with a rejoicing, and, would that we could say always, a grateful heart. I do not mean to say, however, that the blessing when in possession is always adequately realised and appreciate. Like other things, the loss of it, at least for a time, is in many cases necessary to open our eyes to its value. The fact that the natural issue of sickness is death is, of itself, enough to give health an inestimable value; and that fact is felt by him who has felt the gnawings of disease; and who that has reached even middle life has not experienced them?

2. But though it is thus inevitable, disease may be mitigated and its fatal consequences postponed. This is effected by one of the greatest mercies which Providence has vouchsafed to man: I mean the healing art. It is not common, perhaps, to regard it in this light, but most certainly it ought to be so regarded. This art is one of great dignity and beneficence. It is found in every country, and among the most savage and most cultivated nations of the earth; and though it seems to have advanced more slowly than many other--perhaps most other--arts and sciences, yet so early was its commencement, and so universal has been its cultivation, it has now attained great perfection. In most departments, where once human aid was unattempted or unavailing to the patient, it is astonishing what can be done for his relief, and for his restoration to society and the full enjoyment of it. This blessed art, moreover, is but an imitation of a merciful provision of nature; even as when pursued and practised on its proper principles, it consists in a co-operating with, and taking advantage of, the powers of nature. With the recuperative and healing properties of nature a true practitioner of the healing art is a co-worker. It is his high calling, in a scientific manner to aid and minister to and increase this beneficent provision. He is not occupied in helping to gratify an idle vanity, nor in pandering to luxury and over-indulgence. His business is, in the way described, to relieve distress, to dry the tear of sorrow, to rekindle the lamp of hope. It has been acutely observed that there is a likeness in the practice of this art, not only to the healing power of nature referred to, and to the course of that Providence by which both nature and art have been ordained, and to the all-merciful conduct of God manifest in the flesh while He sojourned on the earth, but also in the methods which Providence uses ordinarily for the attainment of these benevolent ends. “Both are designed to restore what is lost, and to repair what is disordered; both have the production of ease and happiness for their ultimate object; both frequently make use of pains and privations as the means of procuring it, but neither of them employs an atom more of these than is necessary for that purpose.”

3. Now from all this it follows that though nothing is expressly said in commendation of this art in the Holy Scriptures, nor any command given to resort to it for relief under our bodily ailments, yet the art and the use of it are manifestly according to the mind and will of God. The mere fact that God has put healing virtue into the productions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and given man the power to discover its existence, is sufficient warrant, in the silence of Scripture, for the thankful use of it wherever it may be necessary. It has been thought by some that the sin here condemned was resorting not to regular physicians, but to those who attempted cures by charms and other superstitious devices. Such conduct, though not generally thought so by those who indulge in it, is essentially atheistic. He was seeking good from a source not sanctioned by Heaven. He was in pursuit of health in a quarter which God did not bless. In a word, he was not seeking it of Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift. This was atheism. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that Asa ran into this sin. He was guilty enough, and furnished sufficient ground for the censure in the text, without going to this extreme. Let us suppose, what the Scripture narrative makes probable, that through the influence of prosperity and its attendant snares and temptations, the heart of Asa had waxed cold; that his religious feelings had declined; that whereas before, God was in his thoughts as his dependence, his protection, his comfort, his consolation, his joyful portion, now he lives in forgetfulness of Him, or, if thoughts of God ever enter his mind, they come but seldom and are speedily dismissed. While living habitually in this way, sickness smites him, violent and severe, and very naturally alarming. He sends for the physicians--for many of them. His dependence is on the powers of nature to the exclusion of the Divine Author of these powers. He looks anxiously to human skill, but feels no want, or offers no prayer for the Divine blessing on it. Asa seems to have sought a cure, as he would have done had he never heard of that almighty Being in whose hand are the issues of life and death. We see here that the Lord is a jealous God, and will not give His glory to another, and that His glory and His right as God is to be recognised by His intelligent creatures everywhere, in all the exigencies, duties, and privileges of life. In instituting the present system of means and ends, He did not intend that it should be forgotten that He planned the whole; and that the whole, destitute of any self-sustaining power, is sustained only by Him. He not only created all things, but also upholds all things by the word of His power. This is a fact, and a fact manifestly connected with His glory. He expects, therefore, that all intelligent creatures feel it and acknowledge it. There are two errors--opposite extremes, which He would have them carefully avoid. The first is a reliance upon Him to the exclusion or neglect of the means which He has commanded to be used. At first view it might seem as if such conduct were putting special honour upon Jehovah; but in truth it is open rebellion against His will. He hath not commanded this at our hands. It is a strange offering--an unclean sacrifice. In His works and in His Word, God has enjoined the diligent use of means; it is impious to turn away from the commandment, even under the pretence of honouring Him. The other extreme, and equally presumptuous, is a reliance on the means to the neglect of the Divine agency and blessing. If the first was an arrogant theism, this is a gross and stupid atheism. Paradoxical as it may sound, our duty and the dictate of pure reason is, that we use means as diligently as if God’s aid were altogether unnecessary, and rely on God as sincerely as if means were unavailing. This is Scripture; this is the highest reason; nay, this human nature herself teaches when in extremity and unperverted by a theory. Who, when in conscious danger of his life, does not with a convulsive eagerness grasp at any and every means of safety, and at the same time lift a voice of agonising supplication for the Divine assistance? Our duty, then, plainly inculcated by the text, is to use means and to trust in the Lord, and to do this not of necessity, because death is imminent, but from a principle of obedience to His will, respect for His honour, and love to His name; and to do it also not only in extreme cases, but at all times. It belongs to such a spirit, as a matter of privilege as well as duty, to seek to the Lord also, and rely upon His help. In conclusion, I would observe that the text teaches a lesson in all analogous cases. For instance, if such is the temper of mind in which we should look for medicines to heal the body, the same should we have in the use of food for the maintenance of life. A blessing asked, when we take our meals, is only in conformity with these principles. So our Lord when on the earth regarded it, for He sanctioned it by His practice. And again it plainly says to those whose calling in life is trade, that whilst they industriously employ all honourable means for the maintenance and advancement of themselves and their families, they should bear in mind that there is an overruling Providence which sees through the complications of events as man cannot, and can give them such issue as may be pleasing in His sight. In short, the text teaches us that we should all, at all times and under all circumstances, realise the presence of God and lean upon His power and goodness, vouchsafed us through Jesus Christ our Lord. (W. Sparrow, D. D.)

The disease of sin and its true Physician

I. Sin is a disease under which all men are labouring.

II. To get rid of the disease of sin men resort to forbidden and unauthorised means.

III. They ought to depend on Christ as the only effectual and infallible physician of souls. (W. Sparrow, D. D.)

To the medical profession

Here is King Asa with the gout. In defiance of God he sends for certain conjurors or quacks. With the result “And Asa slept with his fathers.” That is, the doctors killed him. In this sharp and graphic way the Bible sets forth the truth that you have no right to shut God out from the realm of pharmacy and therapeutics. If Asa had said, “Oh, Lord, I am sick; bless the instrumentality employed for my recovery! Now, servant, go and get the best doctor you can find,” he would have recovered. The world wants Divinely directed physicians. Men of the medical profession, we often meet in the home of distress. We meet to-day by the altars of God. As in the nursery children sometimes re-enact all the scenes of the sick-room, so to-day you play that you are the patient and that I am the physician, and take my prescription just once.

I. In the first place, I think all the medical profession should become Christians because of the debt of gratitude they owe to God for the honour He has put upon their calling. Cicero said: “There is nothing in which men so approach the gods as when they try to give health to other men.”

II. The medical profession ought to be Christians, because there are so many trials and annoyances in that profession that need positive Christian solace.

III. The medical profession ought to be Christians, because there are professional exigencies when they need God. Asa’s destruction by unblessed physicians was a warning. There are awful crises in every medical practice when a doctor ought to know how to pray. I do not mean to say that piety will make up for medical skill A bungling doctor, confounded with what was not a very bad case went into the next room to pray. A skilled physician was called in. He asked for the first practitioner. “Oh!” they said, “he’s in the next room praying.” “Well.” said the skilled doctor, “tell him to come out here and help, he can pray and work at the same time.” It was all in that sentence. Do the best we can and ask God to help us.

IV. The medical profession ought to be Christians, because there opens before them a grand field for Christian usefulness. (T. De Witt Talmage.)

Sickness

The great truth taught us in this verse is--that afflictions, in their measure, nature, and duration, result neither from chance nor necessity, nor second causes, but primarily from the wise, sovereign, and righteous appointment of the Eternal.

I. Asa’s disease. The former part of this verse mentions what this disease was--“And Asa in the thirty, and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great.” Commentators suppose that this disease in his feet was the gout, and that it was a just punishment for putting the prophet’s feet in the stocks. How varied the disease to which human nature is liable.

1. The person afflicted--Asa the king. This circumstance teaches us that when the Almighty wills afflictions, none can escape them--no, not even kings. When kings commit evil they must expect to be punished as well as others. King Jehoram sinned against the Lord, and the Lord visited him with a disease in his bowels. King Uzziah transgressed the Lord’s commandments, and the Lord smote him with leprosy: “And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a separate house, being a leper.” Asa was diseased in his feet. Honours, riches, power shield us not from disease. When God gives the commission, afflictions enter the palace as well as the meanest hut.

2. The violence of Asa’s disorder. “His disease was exceeding great.” Sometimes we think our trials very heavy; but when compared with those of others we find them light. Hence, if your case is very painful, it is not singular.

3. The period of its continuance. Asa was diseased in his feet two years. When the Lord afflicts us for a month, a week, yea, sometimes, when we are in pain only one day, we think it a long time. But how short the period of our pains when compared with others! It might have lasted for many years.

II. Asa’s duty. When it is said that Asa sought not unto the Lord, it implies that he ought to have done so.

1. The purposes for which you should seek unto the Lord in your afflictions. The advice which Eliphaz gave to Job in his affliction was most excellent, and is suitable to us on all occasions: “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward. I would seek unto God, and unto God would commit my cause.” The afflicted should seek unto God, in disease, that they may know its design. “Shew me,” prays Job, “wherefore Thou contendest with me.” The Lord’s way, both in mercy and in judgment, is in the sea, and His footsteps, oftentimes, are not seen. Since, therefore, none can give us the information we need but God Himself, and since also it is so important for us to know the design of Our trials, let us not do as Asa did, but as Eliphaz recommends--seek unto God. When diseases visit us we should seek unto God, that He would give us grace to sustain them. None but He who lays these burdens on our shoulders can sustain us under them. That these visitations may be duly improved is another end we should propose in seeking unto the Lord. God should be sought unto in affliction, that He may remove them. The Lord should be sought unto in sickness, that His righteousness in afflicting may be devoutly acknowledged.

2. The manner in which God should be approached unto in these circumstances. First, in faith--the Christian must exercise faith in his heavenly Father’s providence, promises, and revealed character. Secondly, in humility--the Christian has merited all he endures, and has nothing of his own to plead. Thirdly, with resignation.

3. Some reasons why the Lord should be sought unto may be specified.

III. Asa’s sin. Asa’s sin is a common sin--the way of the multitude, Asa’s sin was a great sin--he put the creature before the Creator. Asa’s sin, unrepented of, is a ruinous sin. “ Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord?” Asa’s conduct arises from many causes.

1. Ignorance. Sin has so darkened the mind that many have no right views of their relation to God.

2. Inattention. Some know these things, yet give them little or no serious attention. God is neither in all their ways nor in all their thoughts.

3. Independence. Sin has made man so proud that, if it were possible, he would do without God altogether.

4. Presumption. Many expect health, ease, and success without God’s assistance.

5. Unbelief. Multitudes have no vital faith in God, His Word, nor in the necessity, efficacy, and advantages of prayer.

Learn from this subject--

1. Means may be used, but we must be careful not to abuse them.

2. The best of men do not always keep in the same gracious frame of mind. Compare 2 Chronicles 14:2 with the text, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”

3. The same sins that were prevalent in Asa’s day are prevalent now. (H. Hollis.)

Asa and the physicians

I. It is interesting to notice who this sick person was. It was Asa, one of the kings of Judah. A king has no poverty to contend against; but--alike with his meanest subjects--he has sickness. Sickness is impartial, even as death. No luxury can materially soften it, no precaution can keep it away, no wealth can stay its course. What was Asa’s course? He sought to the physicians. Surely he was, so far, right. It is thought that these physicians were charmers, bringers in of foreign superstitions, singers of useless incantations, and that herein lay Asa’s wrong. The question does not relate to the kind of physician he went to, but only to the fact of his going. He did no wrong in seeking human help. We are never to give up at the first approach of sickness and wait for a special wonder of cure. It is not that he was wrong in seeking to the physicians, but very wrong in some other particulars.

1. He did not seek to the Lord, without whom human physicians may vainly exercise their skill and talents. Neither will prayer dispense with medicine nor medicine with prayer.

2. Asa was a king. The inconsistency which, in an unknown subject, would provoke but little comment, grows serious in the life of royalty. We expect nobleness, manliness, and exemplary conduct from kings. Asa set a bad example to his subjects and was false to his royal order. Asa was also false to God, for he was head of the Church and yet dishonoured prayer.

3. Asa suffered his disease to make him unjust and irritable. He cast Hanani into prison for telling him God’s holy will.

4. Asa belied a previous life of piety. One of his prayers in time of health, when marching against his numerous enemies, had been more inspiring than the most stirring war-cry or the most martial summons to certain victory. “Lord! it is nothing to 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 the multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee!” But now Asa was sick he forgot the trust he had formerly placed in the God of Israel. Sickness, more terrible than an army with banners, spoiled this king of his faith.

II. The general lesson taught by sickness.

1. Health is the gift of God. Many who are ready to acknowledge recovery to be so, and who gratefully thank God for it, forget that good health is a far greater blessing than recovery.

2. Health is a talent. What has been done with it?

3. Prepare for sickness by continuing mindful of its approach.

4. As regards our conduct to those who are sick. Asa was wrong, impatient, faithless; but the duty of his attendants and subjects was to hear with him. Sickness is trying. What seems like impatience to lookers-on would seem different were the places reversed.

5. The great lesson of all--a lesson of avoidance from Asa’s fault--is to commit ourselves to the care of God; to seek, if able, to earthly physicians; but to seek with brighter hopes and fuller certainty to the Great Healer Himself (S..B. James, M.A.)

Retribution

From the theological standpoint of the chronicler’s school, these invidious records of the sins of good kings were necessary in order to account for their misfortunes. That sin was always punished by complete, immediate, and manifest retribution in this life, and that conversely all misfortune was the punishment of sin, was probably the most popular religious teaching in Israel from early days till the time of Christ. This doctrine of retribution was current among the Greeks. When the Spartan King Cleomenes committed suicide, the public mind in Greece at once inquired of what particular sin he had thus paid the penalty. When in the course of the Peloponnesian war the AEginetans were expelled from their island, this calamity was regarded as a punishment inflicted upon them because fifty years before they had dragged away and put to death a suppliant who had caught hold of the handle of the door of the temple of Demeter Theomophorus. (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)

The most serious punishments of sin

These are not pain, ruin, disgrace. Their are the formation and confirmation of evil character. Herbert Spencer says “that motion once set up along any line becomes itself a cause of subsequent motion along that line.” This is absolutely true in moral and spiritual dynamics: every wrong thought, feeling, word, or act, every failure to think, feel, speak, or act rightly, at once alters a man’s character for the worse. Henceforth he will find it easier to sin and more difficult to do right; he has twisted another strand into the cord of habit; and though each may be as fine as a spider’s web, in time there will be cords strong enough to have bound Samson before Delilah shaved off his seven locks. This is the true punishment of sin: to lose the fine instincts, the generous impulses, and the nobler ambitions of manhood, and become every day more of a beast and a devil. (W. H. Bennett, M. A.)

Our disinclination to rely upon God only

Some years ago my wife and I were walking through the streets of Boston, having recently left our place of residence and living in a flat. My wife was without a servant; the summer was unusually hot even for our country, and the task of preparing the meals for the family was a grievance. Like a good husband, I had great sympathy with my wife, and so I rose in the morning and fit the fire. One day I saw a device advertised for cooking by oil, and after a little while I strained a large point, bought the stove, and brought it home in triumph. I said to my wife, “You will not have to be roasted any more over that old kitchen range”; but she was sceptical, as good wives are wont to be, and when I went in to see how the cooking was going on, I found a roaring fire in the old range as well, in case the new one would not work. I think we all want something to fall back upon, and like to have a roaring fire in the old range--to trust in our own efforts instead of relying on God. (G. F. Pentecost.)

God left out of the calculation

I knew a man who professed to love the Lord, and who really did so. He got into great difficulties, and racked his brain all night without avail for a way out of them. In the morning he went to the squire and the rector, and racked their brains about his troubles, but to no good effect. He then came to me, and asked me to pray with him about them, and my reply was, “No, I will not; you have racked your own, the rector’s, and the squire’s brain, and now you wish to make Jesus only the fourth instead of first. I won’t take any part in doing that.” He fell on his knees with such a beseeching look for forgiveness, and prayed, “Oh, how could I forget Thee, Lord? Yet even now I come and ask guidance.” It is needless to say that the Lord graciously heard and answered, and gave him a triumphant issue out of all his troubles. (Christian Herald.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 16:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-chronicles-16.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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