Tuesday, April 9, 2013



by Edward D. Griffin

"Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken."
2 Kings XX. 19.

Sometime after the miraculous destruction of the army of Sennacherib, king of Nineveh, who had come up against Jerusalem, Hezekiah was brought low by disease, and the sun was carried back ten degrees as a gracious token that he should recover. This wonderful change in the heavens was probably noticed by the astronomers of Babylon. Merodach-baladan, who had begun to aspire to that dominion which a few years after was transferred from Nineveh to Babylon, knowing the hostility which existed between the Ninevites and the Jews, and learning the reason of that strange phenomenon in the heavens, wished to cultivate the friendship of a prince whom he regarded, not only as an enemy to his rival, but as one who the God of heaven delighted to honour. Having heard of the sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, he sent ambassadors to him, with "letters and a present," "to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land." The good king, elated by this attention from a remote and distinguished potentate, was weak enough to make a display before the ambassadors of all the wealth of his kingdom. In this matter "God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart": and the trial proved that "his heart was lifted up." In this thing "Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him:... therefore there was wrath upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem." The prophet was sent to say to him, "Behold, the days come, that all that is in thy house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons which shall issue fro thee,...shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." This was the humiliating and distressing message to which the penitent king made the reply in our text: "Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken." He "humbled himself for the pride of his heart," and with a chastened and subdued spirit consented that the will of the Lord should be done. Here was submission: here was a glorious triumph over a selfish heart here was, what every creature ought to render, a cheerful and absolute subjection to the empire of eternal rectitude and love. Shall I call your attention to the holiness and happiness of such a temper, and to the universal obligation on mankind to offer this homage to their God and King? In doing this I will,–

I. Explain precisely what the temper is; and,
II. Consider the holiness and happiness of it, and the universal obligation on mankind to exercise it.
I. I will explain precisely what the temper is.

It is a temper of universal and absolute submission to the will of God. There is a forced submission,–a yielding because we cannot help it; but this is not the thing required. There is an acquiescence in the will of God when that will sends prosperity; but this is only a consenting that another should make up happy. The only true submission is that hearty acquiescence in the will of God which arises from supreme love to Him. The reason why the wicked do not submit is that they love themselves and their own enjoyments most. While such a temper continues, they must of course value their own gratification more than the divine pleasure, and approve of the will of God only so far as that will is tributary to them. This selfishness is the root and core of all rebellion. The only cure, the grand catholicon, is that heavenly charity, the fruit of a new creation,–that pure and wonderful benevolence, which actually loves God better than ourselves, and wishes above all things that His will may be done; that a will which is benevolent and wise in all its acts, and which constantly seeks the best good of the universe, may prevail, whatever becomes of us. This is pure and supreme benevolence. This is the very spirit and life of true religion. This is the only spirit in the world that can produce universal, and absolute submission to the will of God; and this cannot fail to do it. When our own wishes and interests are less dear to us than that universal interest which is wrapt up in the divine will, what can tempt us to unsubmission? what is there for us to oppose to that will? what interest have we to maintain against the wishes of God? But so certain as we love another interest better than that which the divine will protects, we shall set up that interest against God, and resist whenever He lays His finger upon it. True submission then is the necessary effect of supreme love to God, and can arise from no other principle. It cannot for a moment be separated from it. It is the most certain test of supreme love; the want of it excluding all claim to that affection, the existence of it decisively supporting that claim. If we love God better than all other objects, we shall, for the time being, submit to Him under every circumstance; if we love another object better, we shall rise up against Him when that object is taken away. The submission then for which I plead arises from a supreme attachment to the divine will. It is a noble conquest over selfishness (the great disease of fallen man), and a benevolent subjection of our own wishes and interests to the will of the wise and holy Guardian of the universe.

In these remarks I do not confine my views to that submission which is produced by a sudden effort in the crisis of some great calamity, nor to that which yields under evils more common, but serious enough to be denominated trials. I have reference chiefly to that habitual delight in God which, in the thousand things of daily occurrence, is satisfied with His appointment, rather than with any arrangement which our wishes could have suggested; to that humble, sweet, subjected spirit which goes through each day rejoicing in the government of God, delighted to see the universe safe under the shadow of His throne, satisfied to be, with all our interests, in His hands, contented with the crosses and derangement of our plans which He appoints, be the instruments who they may, and generally, which carries about a choice that God should decide all events.

This submission is to be distinguished from that morbid inactivity and aversion to care, which, retiring from exertion, leaves God to be the only agent in the universe; which puts off burdens upon Him just as the indolent shift them off upon each other; which, instead of exerting a dependent agency with an eye fixed upon an overruling Providence, leaves God to perform both His part and ours. That may be called submission to a providential dispensation, which really is indolence shrinking from an effort to change the posture of affairs. Submission does not exclude a fetch of thought, a change of plans, a resort to various expedients, a laying of the mind down to invention, a course of vigorous and long continued exertions to avert an evil and to secure a good. It does imply a diligent use of all appointed means to obtain what God has commanded us to seek; for submission comprehends obedience. The opposite is rebellion. It is an essential part of God's plan, and for His glory, that creatures should obtain good by their own activity; otherwise there would be no use for their immortal powers. This activity He has therefore enjoined. "Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," is the Christian's motto.

II. I am to dwell a little on the holiness and happiness of such a temper, and the universal obligation on mankind to exercise it.

To love the righteous will of God, in which are balanced all the interests of the universe,–which is perfectly wise and benevolent and right; to love that will better than our own interests, and to subject our interests and wishes to that; must be holy if any thing is holy, must be pure and sublime benevolence. How generous and noble is the temper! How infinitely superior to the littleness and meanness of a selfish spirit! And it is precisely what God commands. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me." "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." No one can doubt, after reading these texts, that God requires supreme love from all His rational creatures. If then holiness consists in obeying God, it consists in rendering Him that supreme love which will produce the submission in question. What can be holiness, what can be goodness, if it is not subjection to the will of eternal wisdom and benevolence? What temper in the universe can be better than that sweet and heavenly charity which subjects all our wishes and interests to that will? which is more anxious that a will should be done which protects the best interests of all worlds than for any personal gratification? This is the very essence of that benevolence which comprehends in itself all the right feelings that can exist in any world or relation. In its operations and fruits it is the complete sum of all moral excellence. It cannot fail to bring forth all that is lovely and right. It is itself the seminal principle of all.

This submission to the will of God, so far as it operates, necessarily excludes all evil passions and conduct. For instance, it excludes all discontent. For one who knows that the providence of God is universal, and extends to the most minute events, and who is willing that the will of the Lord in all things should be done, and delights in that will more than in any thing which that will can take away; what ground can there be for discontentment? If events are crossing to his feelings, still his supreme desire is gratified, for the will of the Lord is done; and though he may suffer, he would by no means change a single circumstance about which the divine will has been clearly expressed. This it was which taught the apostle "in whatever state" he was "therewith to be content." The slightest feeling of discontentment shows that the submission is not perfect. We may be dissatisfied with an arrangement which it appears to be in our power to alter, and about which we have an agency still to exert, because the divine will is not yet expressed. Thus the disciples did not cease their entreaties and say, "The will of the Lord be done," until they had exhausted arguments to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem. But when the pleasure of God is known, a particle of discontentment evinces a want of submission. With proper resignation we shall feel, under any cross event, that we have nothing to do, in mind or body, but to use the means which God has appointed to remove or support the evil. A ruffled mind, we shall know, is not one of those means. We may still suffer, as under the loss of a near friend or under bodily pain; but one may sweat blood without discontentment so long as he can say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." Submission will exclude every feeling of undue anxiety. In looking forward into the wide expanse of futurity, or in contemplating the issue of any particular event, the Christian knows that nothing can happen but what the will of God appoints. While that will engages his supreme regard, how can he be anxious? He may be concerned and careful about doing his duty in the use of proper means to prevent what he deems an evil; but with entire submission to the divine will, how can he be anxious about the event? All such anxiety proves that his submission is not perfect. Submission to God will exclude every angry and every impatient feeling towards men. There is a holy indignation against the wickedness of others which still remains; but all malevolent resentment and impatience (which arise from an unwillingness to have our own interests assailed), will give way when it is considered that, whoever are the instruments, God has appointed the trial. As soon as the heart is thus reconciled to the personal suffering, all resentment against the instrument will cease. Thus David, when Shimei cursed him said, "Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him."

Every angry passion, then, every impatient feeling, proves that our submission is not complete. It follows of course that submission will exclude every complaining word, every angry or bitter word, every impatient word. When all discontent, anger, bitterness, and impatience are banished from the heart, they will leave the lips; "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Every complaining, angry, bitter, or impatient word, then, proves that our submission is not complete. Submission will cure all distrust of God. In every case of distrust we suspect God of not being sufficiently attentive to our interest. That is plainly setting up our interest against Him. The subjection of our interest to His will is an effectual remedy against all this. Submission will cure every inordinate desire after wealth, honour, pleasure, friends, ease, or whatever else we regard. An inordinate desire is an unsubmissive desire. The two phrases are, in mortals, perfectly synonymous. Simply to desire these things is no sin; the evil consists in desiring them disproportionately, in desiring them more than the honour of God, or at least raising them so near to a level with God as to obstruct an entire subjection to His will. This being the definition of inordinate desire, it is plain that submission is its precise and only cure. Submission is an effectual cure of all envious feelings towards our neighbour. Those distinctions at which envy grieves are of God's appointment. Complete submission to His will will do all the uneasiness away. Every envious feeling proves that our submission is not complete. Submission will prevent every unlawful assault upon our neighbour's person, influence, or good name. All these acts are attempts to change, by means which God has forbidden, that posture of things which God in His providence has appointed. Submission to His will would prevent all this: it would leave with God all those changes in the condition of men which we ourselves are not permitted to make. A remarkable instance of this fruit of submission occurred in the life of David. When he found Saul asleep, Abishai's advice was to kill him: but David answered, "The Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall descend into battle and perish: the Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord's anointed." On the same ground submission will prevent every resort to unlawful means to secure an object. By forbidding the use of unholy means, God has manifestly required us to submit to those evils which we cannot remove without such means. If then we are submissive to His will, we shall never make such a resort. It follows of course that submission will exclude every falsehood, and I may add, every transgression. The temptation to transgress is a desire for some object which we cannot obtain without going counter to a divine precept. Where the object is placed in this predicament by the providence of God, it is plain that submission to providence will take away all motives to transgress. I add finally, that submission, so far as it extends, must quench every evil passion, and thus extinguish the inward fire from which all outward eruptions proceed. If it suppresses every inordinate desire, every feeling of discontent, all distrust of God, every motive of impatience, anger, bitterness, and envy, every feeling which sets up a private interest against God, what is there left that can be pronounced evil? The heart is cleansed at once of everything that pollutes or offends, and is made entirely subject to the empire of eternal purity and love. Thus submission to the will of god, so far as it goes, excludes everything that is morally evil, and is the essence of that sublime benevolence which includes everything that is holy and good. Nothing is necessary but his principle to tranquilize the universe. If all rational creatures are submissive to the will of God, all are brought together and harmoniously united in one rule of action, in one supreme motive, in one single will, and that will nothing less than the will of infinite rectitude and goodness. Is not this a universe complete in order, beauty, and happiness?

Thus the holiness of this temper appears. And its happiness is no less evident. Submission to God, as we have seen, excludes all those uncomfortable passions which make the wicked like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. It clears away everything that can agitate or corrode the mind. And as its very life-blood consists in supreme delight in the will of God, it has always the happiness of knowing that its dearest object is safe; that the ground of its highest exultation and joy is secure; that the will of infinite wisdom and benevolence will in all things be done. This is the grand relief for all the miseries of man. It not only subdues great calamities, but gives a pleasant form to the numberless circumstances which hourly arise, and spreads a brighter hue over the whole web of life. Instead of all things going wrong, everything falls out as it should do. The happy shepherd of Salisbury Plain, when asked what sort of weather he thought it would be on the morrow, replied, "It will be such weather as pleases me, because it will be such weather as shall please God." That man was happier than a prince. O the serenity and tranquillity of the mind whose will is thus swallowed up in the will of God.

And in respect to the universal obligation, who can doubt that this is precisely the temper in which all moral agents ought to unite? The very definition of moral agents is, that they are under obligation to feel and do right and to avoid wrong. But in the temper under consideration, all the right feelings in the universe are involved, and by it all the wrong feelings in the universe are excluded. If then there are any such beings as moral agents, they are under obligation to exercise this temper. If rational creatures are not bound to feel thus, rational creatures are not moral agents; and then there is no such thing as moral obligation, no such thing as right and wrong, no ground for praise or blame, no foundation, but in a mistake, even for those emotions of resentment and gratitude which we feel towards our fellow-men. If you revolt from these conclusions, you must go back to the full admission that all men are under indispensable obligations to yield unlimited submission to God. Is He not our rightful King, and are we not His subjects? Is not His will perfect? Has not the Creator and Proprietor of all things a right to govern His own world according to His own pleasure? Has He not a right to extend His control to those numberless circumstances which rise up in our daily course? Has he not a right to come into our enclosure, our family, and touch those interests which we have been most accustomed to consider our own? Why should we fret against the dispensations of Providence? They are all the dispensations of God. His care extends to the smallest matters. He puts nothing out of His hands. Those things which vex us from hour to hour were as really appointed by Him as the ordinances of day and night. Why should we be disquieted by their occurrence? The will that appoints them is perfectly benevolent, and has nothing for its object but the best god of the universe. It is infinitely wise, and cannot fail to select the best means for this end. Is it not our duty to love supremely Him who is supremely lovely? Has He not fastened this duty upon us by the whole strength of His authority. Has He not expressly said to each one of us, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart? And are we still loving our little conveniences better than Him? Are we still setting up our petty interests in opposition to His will? Under all the appointments of His providence from hour to hour, and in respect to the most minute circumstances, we are bound to own Him as our sovereign King, from whose will neither there is, nor do we wish there should be, any appeal. That will make us proof against the vexations of disappointment and the uneasiness of desire. That will spread a heavenly calm over our minds, and render us serene and happy under every change of life.

This is the religion of the Old Testament and the New. Under the severest trials this resignation has all along been exemplified in the history of the Church. "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord," said Job when all his children and possessions were destroyed. "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" was his language when covered with one tormenting ulcer from head to foot. When the two sons of Aaron were swept from the earth by the vengeance of God, "Aaron held his peace." When the message came, denouncing the utter destruction of Eli's house and the death of his two sons in one day, Eli answered, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." When David was driven out from his royal city by the revolt of his kingdom and the rebellion of his son, he said to Zadok the priest, "Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again and show me both it and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him." When Hezekiah heard that most humiliating denunciation, he said, as in our text, "Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken." When the Church was driven from her burning cities to Babylon, her language was, "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" When He who was set for our example sweat blood, he said, "Not my will, but thine be done."

In more general and common matters, the same acknowledgment of God and the same resignation to His will have all along been exemplified. A general acquiescence and joy in His government have always distinguished His true servants. All down the ages they have sung, "The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." Even in that part of His government which is directed against the wicked, they have solemnly acquiesced. "Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments." When John saw in Patmos the fall of spiritual Babylon, he heard a voice saying, "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her." He then reports: "After these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, nto the Lord our God...And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped him that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." Such was the animated jubilee which was held in heaven over the destruction of spiritual Babylon.

Such is the religion of the Old Testament and the New: not an imaginary submission in a case existing only in supposition, but a real, habitual submission under events and trials actually occurring; not a submission excited only now and then by some awakening calamity, but a practical and steady acquiescence in the divine government; not a submission yielded only in view of the merciful issue of events, but a holy approbation of the final destruction of the wicked. This is the religion of the Bible. Nothing short of this will be accepted of God. This is the religion which sound reason approves as the only homage due to the Sovereign of the world. This is precisely the religion which will unite and bind and harmonize the universe. This is a religion worthy to be the service of a God. Possess this religion, my dear hearers. Exercise it in profound, absolute, universal submission to the divine government: and it shall be well with you in ages yet to come, when the hopes of the wicked shall perish. While they eternally pine to see a God reigning without their consent, you will have a preparation for never failing joy; and under the shadow of that throne which your suffrages have supported you shall repose in everlasting safety and blessedness. Amen.

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