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SERMON XII.

THE OBEDIENCE OF THE RECHABITES.

JEREMIAH xxxv. 13, 14.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel ;

Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words ? saith the Lord. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment : notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking ; but ye hearkened not unto me.

That the record of the dealings of God towards his chosen people, would afford us some information respecting his general government of the world, might easily be conjectured, by any one who considered, that the great principles of his

government, depending on the immutable relations of good and evil, must be alike unchangeable ; and that the characters which are opposed to his purity, or which are in unison with his righteousness, will invariably meet with their correspondent recompence and reward. We are not, however, left to draw examples for the guidance of our actions, from the history of God's people, upon the mere grounds of conjecture, however plausible or consistent. The same power that ruled the events of former ages, has caused them to be recorded for the express purpose of our instruction ; and the wisdom that has thus recorded them, has declared this purpose in the clearest terms. “ Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come.” This purpose, then, of the divine Spirit, has invested the pages of the Bible with an importance that belongs to no other history : inasmuch as the causes and circumstances of the various events are explained, not according to the imagination of fallible and short-sighted man, but according to the wisdom and knowledge of Jehovah himself. It has therefore been usual, in all ages of the church, to make use of the example of the Jews, to illustrate the consequences of obedience or disobedience to the will of God. And well would it be for us, if, while we read of Judah's rebellion and iniquity, and wonder at her per

verseness and ingratitude, we should turn our thoughts to the close examination of our own hearts; and instead of confining the expression of our feelings, either of sorrow or indignation, to her calamities, or her sins alone, learn to tremble for ourselves, lest we also fall into condemnation, and leave behind us the record of our privileges and our ingratitude, of our iniquities and our punishment.

The chapter before us contains an impressive appeal to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, from the prophet Jeremiah, upon their continued neglect of the word of God, and the commandments of the Most High. After having so long (to use the words of another prophet) " stretched out his hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people,” the Lord endeavoured to show them their folly and ingratitude, by setting before them the example of a race of men, who had, for a series of years, complied with the injunctions of their progenitor, and still refused to break the commandments which he had given. Thus did he, according to the words of Moses, them to jealousy by those which were not a people ;” and “provoke them to anger” by those whom they might esteem only a “foolish nation.”

It appears that the descendants of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, moved with fear of the invading army of the king of Babylon, had left the pastoral habits, to which the institutions of their ancestor

move

ness.

had accustomed them, and, for security from the Chaldeans, had taken up their residence, for a time at least, at Jerusalem. The history of this singular people, as far as we know its details, is an example of the strictness, with which families have often observed the customs and habits of life, originally adopted by their forefathers : an obedience, arising sometimes from the great respect paid to the founder of their race; and sometimes from the force of habit, and the tendency of the human mind, to substitute such observances for a more perfect rule of righteous

“ These Rechabites, being a family of the Kenites, descendants of the father-in-law of Moses, though never incorporated with the Jews, were still held as friends and allies, and were, moreover, worshippers of the one true God.” The person from whom they derived their name and their manner of life, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, was distinguished in the time of Jehu, the king of Israel, for his zeal against the idolatrous worshippers of Baal ; and assisted that king in the destruction, which he wrought against Ahab and his posterity. The regulations which he gave his descendants for their habits of life, were not, however, the result of any religious feeling, but were chiefly intended to promote temperance and industry among them. They were commanded to abstain from wine, to occupy no settled habitations, or fields, or vineyards ;

but to dwell in tents; traversing the country in quest of pasture for their cattle, and, by their temperate and quiet conduct, to avoid all contentions with their neighbours, as by their comparative poverty, they invited not the hands of the spoiler. Thus these commands answered the intention of him who gave them, that his family might live many days, in the land wherein they were strangers.

When, therefore, these simple and almost patriarchal men came to Jerusalem, for safety and security from the army of the Chaldeans, Jeremiah was commanded to prove their constancy in adhering to the institutions of their fathers; that he might thus rebuke the Jews for their disobedience to the laws of God, in that they were less observant of his commands, than were these Rechabites of the single injunction of their ancestor. pbet was also commissioned to promise, that the result which Jonadab intended to arise from his institutions, should indeed be accomplished; and that the feeble “ plant which had grown up under the shadow of the mighty cedar of Israel, should flourish long after that proud tree bad fallen.” Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me for ever." And, assuredly, the promises, as well as the threatenings of God, have been fulfilled. To this day, the house of Rechab boast of their descent, and retain their customs; and though

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