I. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS GOOD ABOUT JEHU'S ZEAL. From the day that Jehu got his work to do, he lost no time in the doing of it. He was eminently a man of action. That he had good qualities no one can doubt. There are many things that are attractive about Jehu. He was a brave and fearless soldier. Decision, earnestness, promptness, thoroughness, - these were the chief features of his character, His decided character impressed itself on every detail of his life. When he was still far off from Jezreel, the watchman upon the city wall was able to distinguish him in the dim distance by the way he drove his horses. "The driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously." He did not waste many words. When the messengers of King Jehoram rode out to meet him with the question, "Is it peace?" his answer to one after the other of them, without reining in his homes for a moment, was, "What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me." Neither did he waste words when he came to deal with Jezebel and Jehoram. He knew that in such work as he was engaged there is danger in delay. We may learn much from what was good in Jehu's character. Zeal itself is a grand thing. It is men of zeal who have revolutionized the world. Moses was a man of zeal. So was Elijah. So was Daniel. So was St. Paul. So was Martin Luther. SO was John Knox. All these men were mocked at as fools and fanatics and enthusiasts in their time. But every one of those men has left his mark for good upon the history of the world. We may say the same of such enthusiasts as William Wilberforce and John Howard, and, to come to more modern times, as Plimsoll, the sailors' friend. It is the world's enthusiasts that have been its greatest benefactors. Yes; we want more zeal; we want more enthusiasm. It is the fashion amongst many to sneer at enthusiasm, and to mock at zeal. But let those who mock at enthusiasm show what they can do compared with what the enthusiasts have done. Give me the man who has an enthusiasm about something. Give me the man who thinks that life is worth living, and that there is something worth living for. Let it be study, let it be business, let it be one of the learned professions - the man who has enthusiasm in his work is the man that is most likely to succeed. If there is any one who should show enthusiasm, it is the Christian. Who should be so full of zeal? Who has so much cause to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Who can point to such a leader as the great Captain of our salvation? What example so inspiring as the example of Christ? What name is such a watchword as the precious Name of Jesus - the Name above every name? Who can look forward to such a prospect as that which awaits the faithful Christian? "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." Who has such resources at his disposal as the Christian for work and conflict? Zeal! surely the Christian ought to overflow with zeal. Zeal! when he thinks of his Savior and his cross. Zeal! when he thinks that heaven with all its glory awaits him. Zeal! when he thinks of the welcome from the King. Zeal! when he thinks how short his time is here. Zeal! when he thinks of the perishing and needy all around him. Yes; it is well to have within your heart the glow and fire of Christian zeal. What if the careless and the callous, the godless and the worldly, mock? You have a heart, you have a hope, you have a strength, that is above their shallow sneers. And, having Christian zeal, let it not spend itself in mere sentiment, profession, or words. But let it show itself in action prompt and decisive, in earnestness and thoroughness of life. "Whatever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men."
II. THERE WAS MUCH THAT WAS WRONG, AND THERE WAS SOMETHING WANTING, IN JEHU'S ZEAL.
1. There was much that was wrong mingled with Jehu's zeal.
(1) In the first place, there was boastfulness. "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." The man who thus parades his good deeds is lacking in one of the first elements of true goodness and usefulness, and that is humility. Yet there has been a good deal of that kind of zeal for God in all ages. The Pharisees considered themselves very zealous for the Law of God, but they sounded a trumpet before them when they gave their alms, and loved to pray standing at the corner of the streets. We have not the sounding of the trumpet nowadays in the same form, but we have other ways of making known our generous and philanthropic acts. There is nothing wrong in these acts being made known. On the contrary, a public acknowledgment of charitable and religious contributions is necessary to guard against fraudulence and deceit. It is of use also to remind others of their duty and stimulate them, perhaps, to greater liberality. But when we give our alms in order that we may be known to have given them - "to be seen of men" - we give from a wrong motive - we do that which Christ condemned. It is the same with all branches of Christian work. And it seems to be one of the dangers of modern Christian life that there is too much temptation to boast of mere numbers in our Churches, or of so much money accumulated, or of so many converts made. Too many Christian workers act like Jehu when he said, "Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord." True Christian work is far quieter than this.
(2) There was something worse than boastfulness in Jehu's zeal. There was cruel treachery and deceit. When he came to Samaria, he gathered all the people together and said, "Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much." Then, under the pretence of offering a great sacrifice to Baal, he assembled all the worshippers of Baal in the temple of that false deity, and, having thus unfairly and deceitfully entrapped them, caused them to be put to death. It was an act of deceit for which there was no excuse. Matthew Henry truly observes, "God's service requires not man's lie." What a contrast to Elijah's honest, outspoken conduct when he, single-handed, confronted the prophets of Baal, and put their god and his God to the test! No cause will ever prosper, no matter how much zeal may be manifested in it, if it is built up by the treachery and deceit of those who are at the head of it. Let us never so far accommodate ourselves to the false morality of our time as to do evil that good may come. God can, and does, bring good out of evil. But those who do the evil must suffer for it, according to that Divine law of retribution which was so plainly and terribly fulfilled in the case of Ahab and Jezebel.
2. In addition to all this, there was something wanting in all Jehu's zeal. He had not the love of God in his heart. He had indeed obeyed God's command and fulfilled his commission in one particular direction, but the ruling motive in his actions would seem to have been personal ambition. It was no hatred of idolatry as such that caused him to destroy the worship of Baal. Perhaps it was because it was a foreign worship. It certainly was not his zeal for the pure worship of God, because we read, "Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan" (ver. 29). And again, "But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart" (ver. 31). We may learn here that a man may have the outward form of godliness without the power of it. He may appear to be a foremost worker in the cause of religion, and yet have no religion in his own heart. He may even appear to be a great religious reformer, and yet he may be utterly destitute of any personal reformation of character. Jehu was able to pull down, but he built nothing up. Why? Because his own character and life were not founded on the rock. He had not begun at the beginning - the fear of God and the Law of God. "He took no heed to walk in the Law of God with all his heart." See to it that your zeal springs from a right motive, and that it works in ways of which God will approve.
III. NOTE HERE SOME LESSONS ABOUT GOD'S DEALINGS.
1. God often makes use of even godless men. Perhaps you start at this. Yes; but it is true. He uses them for certain purposes. There are some things which do not require a high kind of character. So God sometimes uses even wicked men to be the executioners of his judgments. The kings and nations whom he used to execute his judgments upon Israel were by no means righteous themselves. Many of them were grossly corrupt. But they were the rod in his hand to chasten and punish his offending people. We might give many illustrations from history. To take one only. King Henry VIII. of England was far from being a model man, yet God in his all-wise providence used his quarrel with the pope to be the means of furthering and establishing the Reformation in England. It was in the time of Henry VIII. that for the first time the papal supremacy in England was overthrown.
2. God gives such agents of his justice and providence their own reward. We find this in the case of Jehu. For the good he had done, God rewarded him. He had set his heart on the throne, and God gave it to him. The measure of our desires is very often the measure of our blessings. If we set our ambition on earthly rank, or riches, or honor as our chief good, we shall very likely get them. But in getting them We shall perhaps lose something that is far better worth having. "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
3. For God's work of salvation, he uses consecrated men. Jehu was of use as a destroyer, as an image-breaker, but he was no national or moral reformer in the true sense. He was of no spiritual benefit to others. For such work God uses only those who themselves have received spiritual blessing. There is a limit to the extent and to the ways in which he will use godless men. Even David - God's own servant, who had repented of his sins - was not permitted to build a house to his Name, because his hands were stained with blood; he had been a man of war all his days. David was permitted to provide and store up the material, but to Solomon, David's son, was given the great honor of buildings, a temple to the God of Israel. If we want to be of use in God's service, we must be thoroughly consecrated to God. We must be vessels meet for the Master's use. "Their hands must be clean, who bear the vessels of the Lord." It is personal character that gives power for God's service. It is personal character that gives fitness for God's fellowship here and hereafter. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." - C.H.I.
Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.
I. THE INDICATIONS OF A ZEAL ESSENTIALLY DEFECTIVE. It will be proper here to notice —
1. The motives which usually prevail. They are such as are accordant with the reign of selfishness. Of course, it is not intended to enter into a minute and extended investigation of the various motives which may be brought into play, in connection with the exhibitions of religions zeal. A few may suffice which are known to have an influence on the minds of men with regard to missionary operations. For instance, natural compassion for the temporal miseries of our species. Far be it from us to speak in terms of disparagement of such a feeling, it is excellent, so far as it goes; as on its influence, in a great measure, depends the preservation of the general framework of society. It need scarcely to be remarked, that, however excellent this feeling of compassion may be, it may exist, and in a strong degree, apart from any concern for the glory of God or the welfare of men's souls. A desire to propagate our own opinions and practices in matters of religion has often produced considerable effect on the minds of men. The vanity to be esteemed benevolent may also prove a powerful motive to exertion.
2. The degree of excitement produced by an appeal to such motives may be as strong as any of which nature is capable. Such as we have referred to evidently animated the Arabs in the infancy of the Moslem faith, and fined them with a vigour and a daring that scorned all opposition and difficulty, and that resulted in wonderful success. And were not these the motives co which appeal was made, when by the preachings of Peter the Hermit, and of the Pope, the indignation of Europe was roused; and when her potent states vied with each other in pouring forth their armed multitudes to meet the Saracens in the Holy Land — when the victorious soldiers waded through the blood of their foes to sing praises to Christ at His altar, as if in defiance of the precept which He had enjoined on His followers — "Bless them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you"?
3. There are certain limitations, by which such motives will be necessarily restrained. The coincidence of the gratification of self-love with the claims of philanthropy will ever determine the extent of activity. And this coincidence we cannot expect to be of long continuance. Some novel and therefore more popular cause will divert the attention.
4. The improbability of enjoying the Divine blessing while actuated by such motives. That God may bless, notwithstanding their influence, we are not inclined to doubt, but certainly, we are not warranted to expect a blessing, unless taught to act on higher principles. Let us therefore seriously examine ourselves with regard to our real motives.
II. THE INDICATIONS OF A ZEAL PERMANENTLY INFLUENTIAL; of which it may be predicted at the outset of its career that it will prove co-extensive with the energies of life.
1. Such zeal must arise, we apprehend, from the effectual application of the Gospel to the heart. Without this, we cannot conceive how a man can really desire the increase of true religion, as he can have no just idea of its nature.
2. Motives corresponding with this experience will incline the believer to seek the conversion of sinners in the heathen world. Such we conceive the following to be. A desire to promote the glory of God, whose character is dishonoured by the practices of idolatry.
3. Universality and permanence of zeal are thus secured. Selfish zeal is partial; in the case of Jehu, the idolatry of Baalim is overthrown; but an idolatry equally offensive is countenanced at Bethel and Dan. He who acts under the influence of the motives peculiar to a renewed mind, is likely to aim at universality of obedience to Divine directions; and as He who has begun a .good work in him, .will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; his zeal, allowing for some variations of intensity and modes or exercise, will continue till time is exchanged for eternity.
4. Some important illustrations of the zeal which springs from the power of religion within. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave a perfect exemplification of this zeal. Of course His zeal was displayed under very different circumstances from ours, and was free from the internal counteraction that we too often feel; but in this leading feature, we observe the general analogy; His zeal proceeded from the purity of His character, it was the index of His religious feeling, of His regard for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls.
5. The intensity of our zeal will depend on that of our religion: the one cannot languish without the other. Hence our real prosperity may be more deeply involved in the vigour of our zeal for the Lord than we have perhaps suspected: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" (Psalm 122:6). The health of a tree is promoted, rather than injured, in bearing fruit.
1. The undertaking in which Jehu was engaged was the extermination of the family of Ahab. By the murder of Naboth, and by habitual idolatry, Ahab stood condemned to death under the impartial justice of the Divine law. The sentence was denounced. It is not however by a single characteristic that genuine zeal is ascertained. In colour the counter may exhibit a perfect resemblance of the unadulterated gold. But how stands the comparison as to. weight, as to solidity, as to ductility? Let us bring the zeal of Jehu to the test of additional criterions.
2. In the prosecution of his object Jehu speedily displayed a ferocious and cruel spirit.
3. Zeal necessarily bears a character of publicity. It manifests itself in action; and, when directed to objects of extensive importance, is constrained to labour before the eyes and amidst the concourse of men. Genuine zeal for religion, thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Christian humility, though it cannot retire from notice, courts not popular observation. Steadfast, yet unobtrusive, it submits to the general gaze, to the general noise of tongues, which, without relinquishing its appointed office, it cannot avoid; but pushes not forward vain-glorious pretentions, delights not to become the spectacle of wonder, the theme of applause.
4. The zeal that is from above is, first, pure. However ardent in the prosecution of its object, it resorts not to means which are unjustifiable. It abominates craft and duplicity. It abhors the suggestions of that worldly wisdom, which teaches to do evil that good may come.
5. Genuine zeal for religion is, in the strictest import of the terms, zeal for the Lord. Its prime object is the glory of Jehovah, the honour of His name, the purity of His worship, the influence of His law. Is such the zeal of Jehu? Are his cruelty, his ostentation, his falsehood, no more than heterogeneous mixtures, stupendous indeed in collective magnitude, yet no more than extraneous impurities, unnaturally adhering to a latent yet actual zeal for religion; clouding and debasing the living flame, yet without extinguishing or superseding it?
(T. Gisborne, M. A.)
1. It will be my endeavour to show you how to acquire this assurance; and, first of all, avoid religious excitement avoid the cultivation of feelings which, however sincerely entertained at the time, have to confess their hollowness in the searching privacies of the chamber. We are told, remember, to "pray in secret" — "not to let our right hand know what our left doeth" — "to commune with our own heart, and to be still"; we are to ask God to try and prove our sincerity, as being able to accomplish what is not in the power of either ourselves or of the world. Until, therefore, we are assured, by secret self-examinations, that these rules and descriptions are practically exemplified in our own lives, we should avoid obtaining, by public excitation, a character for religious zeal to which conscience in private gives the lie. When once a man feels that he has a character for religion to sustain before the world, which he cannot support satisfactorily when alone — when to men he must appear one thing, and he involuntarily knows that to himself he is another — he has made the first step towards hypocrisy, and hypocrites God always deserts!
2. Let me tell you another way of both increasing and proving your zeal, which is this — be fervent in prayer. You will often find — the very best of you, I fear — that when your prayers are ended your thoughts have throughout been wandering, and that scarcely a petition which fell from your lips had any real sense attached to it: other things were in your mind, interesting and absorbing it.
(A. Gatty, M. A.)
Monday Club Sermons.It is the son of Rechab, the founder of a monastic sect which, amid prevailing idolatry, is still true to Jehovah. He gives, doubtless, a priestly benediction, or approving word, for the sanguinary work already done. It invites the quick reply, "If our hearts are at one in this, — you, man of peace and I, of war, — then let us strike hands in ratification." The clasp is strong, and the stern ascetic is drawn up into the chariot, to have breathed in his ear, the still more horrible Secret which the avenger is hasting to execute. Here we get our first lesson.
I. BAD MEN ARE GLAD OF THE APPROVAL OF RELIGIOUS TEACHERS IN THEIR SCHEMES. The multitudes exhibit the deep and unshaken belief that there is an impartial and omniscient Power, who maintains a perfect government in His universe. Spite of all denial, infidelity, and bravado, the wicked have the stubborn conviction that God will visit for their sins.. At the same time, the desire is strangely parent of the hope, that He can be persuaded to mitigate the judgment, or consent to their malign plans. His representatives are regarded as clothed with a certain authority which may be helpful or prejudicial. If their sanction can be obtained, the evil-doer often fancies the Lord is thereby committed. The anathemas of Pope Gregory brought the haughty Henry IV. to his feet in abject entreaty, while the tormenting conscience of Charles IX. was quieted, for a little, at the news of the "Te Deums" sung in Rome over the massacre of the Huguenots. The Divine will was thought, in both cases, to accord with the act of His vicegerents. It seems to be forgotten, that, if any servant is false, his Lord is not therefore untrue; if he is mistaken, his liege is not also; if he gives permit to wrong, the "God without iniquity, just and fight," does not. The statutes of Christian states may allow and protect slavery, prostitution, dram-selling, easy divorce, but he who thinks therefore to have secured the approval of his Maker in such practices is utterly deceived. The wink of devils ought to bring even a slender saint to his senses. The smile and applause of the wolf ought to create suspicion in his unwary partner. While the world endures, he will try to secure the alliance of the shepherd. Returning to the pair, of such contrasted presence, hurrying on towards Samaria, we catch another sentence from the excited soldier's lips, "Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord." At once we bethink ourselves that —
II. TRUE PIETY IS NEVER BOASTFUL. Jehu verily thought that he cared much for Jehovah, as he gloated in imagination over the complete destruction of the worshippers of Baal. Idolatry had proved the weakness of the nation and undermined the throne. He was king, and would sit secure only when these perfidious, irreligious subjects were slain. He found that, to rid the earth of them, was to exalt his own name and prestige. The "stroke of policy" was a stroke of piety. He and the Lord were fighting together. He, at any rate, would get great glory out of it. "My zeal" must advertise itself — can never survive unless it does. Holy ardour, on the contrary, is never aware of its own exhibition. The scourge in the hands of the Christ was the token of his zeal for the honour and purity of His Father's house. It was a ready means to a worthy end — aimed at effect indeed, but not display. John the Baptist, of fiery purpose, was content to be only "a voice," that the Messiah might be seen. Mary's box of ointment has shed its sweet perfume of loving unworthiness through the centuries, but she never dreamed of its mention as a costly offering. All the really great things which the disciples of Christ have performed have been without ostentation or consciousness of their superiority. It is a Hindu saying that, "Lowliness excites no man's envy," but it does inspire the like grace in a sincere heart. Well had it been for this hero of Israel, if he could have heard the later word of one, every whit his equal in false zeal, but who had learned in the white light of Divine rebuke, that "the things which are despised hath God chosen, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence." We watch now for the illustration of the single-hearted soldier's zeal, and witnessing the trap set and sprung, and the revolting butchery, are forced to conclude —
III. THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ARE LIKELY TO REGARD THE SUGGESTIONS OF THEIR PASSIONS, AS THE DIVINE COMMAND. It was a momentous order which Jehu received from the prophet, to destroy the whole reigning family. It came to a ready spirit. By the solemn law of the nation the unfaithful king and all related to him had forfeited their claim upon life. It was a fatal transgression to depart from the Living God. The executioner might be pestilence, or flames leaping from the clouds, or an invading host, or some mighty man armed for the work. Right thoroughly it had been done. The ghastly pile of seventy heads of princes, laid on either side of the gate of Jezreel, had witnessed to this servant's energy and fidelity. The taste of blood had created, as in the tiger, an imperious thirst. A wild glare was in his eye as the Rechabite tried to read its secret. Interpreting his orders that not only the dynasty of Ahab, but that of Baal too, must fall by the sword, he set about it in terrible earnest. Craft and cruelty combined against priest and devotee. All who had come up to the solemn festival came, instead, to the shambles, and not one escaped. So Mahomet-Ali conquered the Mamelukes; so Amalric stamped out heresy in Languedoc, bidding: "Kill them all. The Lord will know who are His." It ws the complete and final overshow of the accursed system of Baal worship. Was it not, like the hangman's act, a dread necessity? We cannot answer; but, till we find precise instructions for such wholesale slaughter, we shall presume he exceeded his commission. So have men ever since been construing their low .inclinations, as being also the good pleasure of their Creator. Every form of sin has "had such apology." Divinities have been invented to favour and further the most depraved appetites, while, to-day, not a few are trying to believe that God is "altogether such an one as" themselves. To make our own moral standards, is to antagonise the eternal laws. The closing scene of the tragedy passes before us. It is evident from it, that —
IV. TO DESTROY ONE FORM OF SIN IS NOT TO ABOLISH ALL. We see this zealous soul going straightway to offer sacrifice at the shrine of the golden calves, after the fashion of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. Even if Jehu had been familiar from youth with this corrupted religious system, he did know that at Jerusalem the .true God was worshipped, not in the likeness of living things. His besom could have swept away the altars and images of the one form of idolatry as well as the other. Not seeing nor embracing his opportunity, he gave the lie to all professions of love and jealousy for the Lord. "His zeal for righteousness did not turn inwards and burn up his own sins." The popular faith answered well enough for him. He would be as good as the average. What a pattern of the modern saint! Hot in indignation toward that which affects him not; very careful where his seeming interests are involved, the old couplet fits him well, as all who —
Compound for sins they are inclined to,
Condemning those they have no mind to.Such easy terms do men make with God! Such choices are they ready for, and pride themselves in! Making a merit of temperance, they indulge in lust; lavish with their wealth, they are vindictive toward one who has wronged them; harping much on philanthropy, they are untrustworthy. One sin cherished is enough to keep the soul for ever under condemnation. A slight flaw in the diamond renders it unfit to be set in the crown. Heaven is lost by withholding the whole heart. This career, so startling and dramatic, terminated sadly. Reward was given for his grim but appointed service. Judgment was visited for his profane worship. His strong arm lost its terror. His last days were clouded by the denial of his ambition, that his name might abide in the rulers of the future. Furious driving is sure to end in wreck, unless the omnipotent hand is also upon the reins, guiding the impassioned soul along the King's highway. That he spurned it is plain, as we read in Hosea: "And I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and I will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel."
(Monday Club Sermons.)
1. Zeal is the same word as fervour. In its forcible original meaning, it is the bubbling up of the boiling spirit; the opposite of an impassive, cold-hearted indifference; the outburst of that generous indignation which cannot endure to see right trampled underfoot by might; the overflowing of that gratitude, devotion, love towards God, which counts no toil irksome and no suffering intolerable if it may express its own sense of His greatness, of His goodness, of His long-suffering of Christ, and draws others by its example to know and to speak good of His name; the glowing warmth of that Divine humanity which would willingly spend, and be spent, in snatching but one or two brands from the burning. This is what we mean by zeal. The zeal of Jehu was of a lower order than this. Yet even Jehu may reprove. Would that there were more of us — must I say, that there were any of us? — who could say in any true sense, like Jehu, "Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord!" Any zeal for God, even an ignorant, a mistaken, a rash zeal, were better far for us than none. Instead of it what have we? We show our zeal for God — if that sacred name can thus be parodied — chiefly by the infliction of arbitrary and most dis. proportionate punishment upon offenders, not against the moral law of God but against the moral law of the world. Where God has spoken, man may sin and scarcely suffer; where the world has spoken, no sorrow and no suffering, no lapse of time, no sincerity of repentance, and no consistency of amendment, is allowed to replace the erring man or woman within the pale of a human sympathy, or even of a Christian charity. Such is zeal for God, when debased and disfigured by the modifying hand of man.
2. And this brings us to apply to ourselves, in the way of counsel and warning, the unfavourable part of the character before us. Jehu had a zeal for God, but Jehu nevertheless took no heed to walk in God's law with all his heart.(1) There is great force in that word, "took no heed" — observed not, as the margin renders it — to walk in God's way. We all know what heedlessness is in a child. In the things of religion, in the ways of God and of the soul, we are all too much children. To the heedlessness of human nature most of our sins may be traced up. "Wherewithal shall a man cleanse his way?" etc. (Psalm 119:9).(2) Jehu took no heed to walk in God's law "with all his heart." Is not this the fault in our service, the cause of our heedlessness, that the heart is not right with God? Therefore it was that Jehu gave zeal, but could not give obedience; gave zeal, but could not give consistency; gave zeal, but could not give love. And therefore it is that we too often give neither zeal nor obedience, neither zeal nor love. Christian zeal, like Christian- faith, worketh by love. If you are tender to the suffering, if you are plain with the sinful — yet both alike in humility and in all kindness — then you may hope that your zeal has something in it of Christ. But, most of all, look within. Look to the heart. See whether there is any love of God there.
(The Dean of Llandaff.)I. OUR ZEAL SHOULD BE A LASTING AND INCREASING PRINCIPLE. Not like light from the thunder-cloud, the evanescent result of passing circumstances, but rather like the great luminary of heaven, steadily beaming on our path, cheering us in every situation, and gilding with hope the dark prospect of the grave,
II. TO ACQUIRE THIS ASSURANCE, AVOID RELIGIOUS EXCITEMENT. We are told to "pray in secret" — "not to let our right hand know what our left doeth." We are to ask God to prove our sincerity; the recesses of the soul are His dwelling-place. Until we are assured, by self-examination, that these descriptions are exemplified in our own lives, let us avoid obtaining, by religious public excitation, a character for religious zeal to which conscience in private gives the lie.
III. GENUINE ZEAL, FOR GOD IS FOUNDED AND MATURED IN THE HEART AND CHARACTER BY THE COUNSELS OF THE SPIRIT. After Paul's conversion, three days of blindness and fasting were necessary for the conviction of his error and the growth of a counter resolution. His sub. sequent zeal in the ministry shows that the principles must be established by an inward conviction, and not be moved by mere outward impressions (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27).
IV. INSTEAD OF CONGRATULATING OURSELVES, THEN, THAT WE KNOW NOTHING OF THESE FEELINGS, LET US BE HUMBLED THAT WE ARE DEVOID OF THEM. In wanting them altogether, we want that without which religion is an empty profession.
V. WHEREVER THERE IS A TRUE FAITH, THERE WITH BE A ZEAL WHICH WILL THINK NOTHING TOO GOOD TO GIVE UP FOR (Galatians 2:20). Pray for (Romans 10:2), which manifests itself in a holy love, and consistent obedience. Such a zeal had Daniel, Shadrach, etc.; Paul (Acts 21:13); David (Psalm 73:24, 25). Such a zeal may not, at present, obtain the applause of men; but it will not be forgotten when (Luke 12:8), and when every act flowing from love to God in Christ shall be recorded before assembled worlds.
I. FALSE ZEAL. Jehu is an instance of this. Proceeding from —
1. Natural energy of character (2 Kings 9:20, 24, etc.).
2. Sense of being appointed and qualified for some particular service (2 Kings 9:1-7).
3. Seeking praise. of men (text). The heart may nevertheless be not right with God — may be going after its idols (2 Kings 10:29, 31).
II. TRUE ZEAL. St. Paul is an instance of this. In him zeal for the Lord was visible, prominent, as in Jehu; but with this difference: in Jehu it resembles the fitful flashes of a thunderstorm, sudden and vivid, contrasting with, yet not dissipating, the darkness out of which it springs. In St. Paul it ever burns with clear and steadfast light, illuminating the entire course of his life, and shedding a halo of glory around his martyr death. We see its commencement (Acts 9:6); its continuance (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:13, 14); its close (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Whence this difference? St. Paul was naturally an idolater no less than Jehu. His idols were self-righteousness, Judaism, Pharisaism — zeal very similar to that of Jehu (Philippians 3:4-6). These, however, were overthrown when Jesus was revealed to him as his Redeemer, convincing him of, and cleansing him from, sin; making known to him the true character of God. Thenceforward his motto was, "God, whose I am, and whom I serve" (Acts 27:23).
III. LESSON FOR US. No true zeal for God until and unless we know Him as the "only true God and Jesus Christ," etc. (John 17:3). No true zeal for Him until we have personally realised His loving, self-sacrificing zeal for us in our salvation through Christ Jesus.
(R. Chester, B. A.)1. Jehu had great executive ability. His fast driving was characteristic. He was impetuous, but not reckless. Having formed a purpose, he rushed to its realisation. He brought things to pass. He combined energy with tenacity, and was capable of rapid decision. He was not so dominated by fixed notions that he could not speedily and silently retrace his steps when he found himself on the wrong path. Like Napoleon at Austorlitz, he knew the value of five minutes. He had a strong personal magnetism that coerced his associates into willing and even eager subservience. A true descendant of Jacob, he was versed in the science of dissimulation. He had the claws of a tiger, but they were muffled in velvet. His step was quick, but stealthy. He was not only rapid, but persistent. He never tired. His speedy pace was ceaseless, on and on. His deadly work did not stop half-way, but utterly extirpated the dynasty of Ahab and the worship of Baal.
2. But Jehu's character was stained by vindictiveness, The bloody role assigned to him by the Omnipotent was congenial to his nature. He was ready enough to obey God so long as the Divine command fell in with his own ambitious and bloodthirsty passions. A man who wished the stones cleared away from a little plot of ground once called together the boys of the neighbourhood, and setting up a mark outside of his ground, proposed that all should throw stones at it. The stones were soon removed. How ready we are to do God's will when it happens to coincide with our own feelings! "We seize eagerly, says Goethe, upon a law that will serve as a weapon to our passions."
3. Jehu was a kind of human tiger, and only too glad to have God use him as such. He had, indeed, a sense of destiny, like Napoleon or Stanley; but this destiny impelled him along the grooves of his own lust for rule and thirst for blood. His personal enemies, — the family of Ahab, which stood between him and the throne, the worshippers of Baal, who might cause his royal head to rest uneasy, — he went at them as if armed with a firman from the Almighty. He was like an executioner hacking his victim to pieces with fierce glee. It was as if a Christian, moved by Scripture precepts drawn from a far-away age and from a legal dispensation, should beat his child in anger. How different the spirit of a father whom I knew! After using the rod prayerfully, reluctantly, and even tenderly, he broke it up and threw it into the fire. Jehu was like some of the old divines, who seemed to preach hell with a gusto. Jehu is like a minister secretly rejoicing over the heresy of a successful rival and suddenly becoming valiant for the very phase of truth which his erring brother has slighted.
(E. Judson, D. D.)Romans 10:2, finds fault with the zeal of the Jews because it is "not according to knowledge," There is a great deal of this kind of zeal in our day. The less people know the more zealous they are often. It is easier to agitate a shallow pool than a deep lake. It is easier to kindle a pile of shavings than a ton of coal. And so it is with men and women. And hence it comes to pass that the one-idea folks are the most enthusiastic. Their single lonely notion of reform stirs them up as a strong wind sweeps the forest leaves, or gathers clouds of dust in the open roadway. It is all surface agitation. It is noise and bluster, fuss and fury, but makes no permanent impression. Alas, how the world has been excited, and still is, by zeal that is not according to knowledge! Men catch a fraction of some great truth; they rush into print or on the platform; they think they know all that the world needs to know; they imagine they have the panacea for all its ills; they agitate; they organise; they denounce everybody who does not believe that their fraction is "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Another party gets hold of another fraction, and is equally zealous for their panacea; and the war goes on like that of boys who splash each other from the opposite sides of a narrow pool.
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