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LIFE OF JOSIAH,

CHAPTER XVII.

HIS CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH.

Youth is the appropriate season to begin a religious life. But beautiful as is early piety, many things oppose its growth. Not to mention the natural distaste of the human heart for holy duties and joys, there are many hinderances to prevent the young from entering the pleasant paths of wisdom.

If the youthful heart is tender, so is it often thoughtless, and unwilling to be saddened by concern for the future welfare of the soul. If the young are not too much occupied by the cares of busy life to find leisure for sober reflection, they are apt to be filled with what is equally engrossing and hostile to serious thoughts, the love of pleasure and amusement. If they are susceptible to good impressions, they are easily led astray by bad influences. Their hearts are so closely knit together, that one irreligious youth often finds it no difficult task to draw the whole circle of his companions into the same vortex of dissipation and ruin.

Religion involves the exercise of self-denial; but the young want instant gratification, and are slow to part with present ease or pleasure to secure a future good. Religion demands a cordial submission to the will of God; but the young are prone to dislike restraint, to think humility weakness, and submission to authority tameness of spirit unworthy those who boast of their freedom. Religion commands, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth ;" but the young are apt to put far off the evil day, and to think it will be time enough to prepare for heaven when the frosts of age begin to chill the relish for earthly good.

How beautiful then is early piety flourishing in spite of all these hinderances! No wonder if angels, after executing their errands of

mercy, sometimes linger on earth to view these tender plants of righteousness, which spring up and diffuse fragrance in the wilderness of giddy mirth.

Examples of early devotedness to the service of God are recorded now and then on the pages of inspiration ; but none more satisfactory and striking than that of young Josiah. He was the son of Amon king of Judah, whom he succeeded on the throne at the age of eight years.

“ And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand nor to the left." As if, in the breaking up of the Hebrew commonwealth, the usual course of providence was also broken up, we find here another instance of a pious youth in the bosom of an apostate family. But the deviation from the general principle of God's moral government, that a religious training will be followed by a virtuous life, and an ungodly training by a life of wickedness, may, in the case of Josiah, be more apparent than real.

Though it is generally a great loss to be deprived of paternal guidance in childhood, the death of Amon-alas, that this may ever be said with truth of any parent—was probably a blessing to his son. It freed him from the example of a depraved father, and left him, as we may reasonably conjecture, to the guardianship of men who were worshippers of Jehovah. We may well suppose that they who took the lead in placing him on the throne, were friendly to the house of David, and adhered to the religious institutions established by Moses. Josiah may also have had a pious mother, under whose superintendence he would come more directly, in consequence of his father's premature removal. Among the Jews, “the mother of the king enjoyed great political influence." Many a child has found maternal vigilance a full compensation for the want of paternal counsels and care.

Josiah was six

years old at the death of his grandfather Manasseh, and may have received impressions from the example and admonitions of that penitent prince,

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which conspired with other means to turn his young feet to the ways of piety. No doubt the elements of future conduct are often lodged in the minds of children long before this period. Though we must ascribe to grace alone the early attachment of Josiah to the service of Jehovah, we cannot doubt that some instrumentality of this kind was employed to mould his character.

Josiah must have been favored with natural qualities of uncommon excellence, to withstand the temptations by which he was so soon beset. If he had not possessed unusual docility and selfcontrol, he would not have submitted to tutors and governors when already a crowned monarch. We could scarcely expect the application necessary to qualify one to rule over a kingdom, from a mere boy wielding the sceptre of power, and having within reach abundant means of self-indulgence. He must have had discretion and forecast far beyond his years, to devote himself, in such circumstances, to the attainment of the qualifications needful for discharging the duties of a king. “ Education on a throne,” it has been observed, “is a difficult matter.” With a mature mind and settled principles, one might successfully combine the dignity of a monarch and the duties of a pupil ; but with the thoughtlessness and caprices of youth, success in such an experiment would be rare. Had not Josiah, in his very childhood, been deeply im

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