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and to have contained them within the limits of obedience. It was the father of Rehoboam, and the son of David that had led Israel into idolatry; Solomon hath drawn contempt upon his father, and upon
his If Israel have cast off their God, is it marvel that they shake off his anointed ? Irreligion is the way to disobedience; there can be no true subjection, but out of conscience; they cannot make conscience of civil duties, who make none of divine.
In vain shall Rehoboam hope to prevail by his officer, when himself is rejected. The persons of princes carry in them characters of majesty; when their presence works not, how should their message? If Adoram solicit the people too late with good words, they answer him with stones. Nothing is more untractable and violent than an enraged multitude. It was time for Rehoboam to betake himself to his chariot; he saw those stones were thrown at him in his Adoram.
As the messenger suffers for his master, so the master suffers in his messenger. Had Rehoboam been in Adoram's clothes, this death had been his; only flight can deliver him from those that might have been subjects : Jerusalem must be his refuge against the conspiracy of Shechem.
Blessed be God for lawful government: even a mutinous body cannot want a head. If the rebellious Israelites have cast off their true sovereign, they must choose a false: Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, must be the man. He had need be skilful, and sit sure, that shall back the horse which hath cast his rider. Israel could not have any where met with more craft and courage than they found in this leader.
Rehoboam returns to Jerusalem lighter by a crown than he went forth ; Judah and Benjamin stick still fast to their loyalty: the example of a general rebellion cannot make them unfaithful to the
house of David : God will ever reserve a remnant free from the common contagion. Those tribes, to approve their valour no less than their fidelity, will fight against their brethren for their prince, and will hazard their lives to reduce the crown to the son of Solomon. A hundred and fourscore thousand of them are up in arms, ready to force Israel to their denied subjection. No noise sounded on both parts but military; no man thought of any thing but blood; when suddenly God sends his prophet to forbid the battle, Shemaiah comes with a message of cessation : “ Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel, return every man to his house; for this thing is from me, saith the Lord.” The word of one silly prophet dismisses these mighty armies: he, that would not lay down the threats of his rigour, upon the advice of his ancient counsellors, will lay down his sword upon the word of a seer. Shall we envy or shame to see how much the prophets of the Old Testament could do: how little those of the New? If our commission be no less from the same God, the difference of success cannot go away unrevenged.
There was yet some grace in Rehoboam, that he would not spurn against that which God challenged as his own work. Some godless ruffian would have said, Whosoever is the author, I will be revenged on the instruments. Rehoboam hath learned this lesson of his grandfather, “I held my peace, because thou Lord hast done it.” If he might strive with the multitude, he knew it was no striving with his Maker: quietly therefore doth he lay down his arms, not daring, after that prohibition, to seek the recovery of his kingdom by blood.
Where God's purposes are hid from us, we must take the fairest ways of all lawful remedies; but where God hath revealed his determinations, we must sit down in a humble submission; our struggling may aggravate, cannot redress our miseries.
As there was no public and universal conflict betwixt the ten tribes and the two, so no peace. Either king sound reason to fortify the borders of his own territories. Shechem was worthy to be dear to Jeroboam ; a city, as of old, seasoned with many treasons, so now auspicious to his new usurpation. The civil defection was soon followed by the spiritual. As there are near respects betwixt God and his anointed, so there is great affinity betwixt treason and idolatry; there is a connexion betwixt, “ fear God” and “honour the king;” and no less betwixt the neglects of both. In vain shall a man look for faith in an irreligious heart.
Next to Ahithophel, I do not find that Israel yielded a craftier head than Jeroboam's : so hath he plotted this conspiracy, that, whatever fall, there is no place for challenge; not his own intrusion, but Israel's election hath raised him to their throne : neither is his cunning less in holding a stolen sceptre. Thus he thinks in himself; If Israel have made me their king, it is but a pang of discontentment; these violent thoughts will not last always; sudden fits have commonly sudden recoveries; their return to their loyalty shall forfeit my head, together with my crown; they cannot return to God, and hold off from their lawful sovereign; they cannot return to Jerusalem, and keep off from God, from their loyalty; thrice a year will their devotion call them up thither, besides the exigence of their frequent vows; how can they be mine, while that glorious temple is in their eye, while the magnificence of the royal palace of David and Solomon shall admonish them of their native allegiance; while, besides the solicitation
of their brethren, the priests and Levites shall preach to them the necessity of their due obedience, and the abomination of their sacrifices in their wilful disobedience; while they shall, by their presence, put themselves upon the mercy, or justice, of their lawful and forsaken prince? Either therefore I must divert them from Jerusalem, or else I cannot live and reign ; it is no diverting them by a direct restraint; such prohibition would both endanger their utter distaste, and whet their desire to more eagerness: I may change religion, I may not inhibit it. So the people have a God, it sufficeth them; they shall have so much formality as may content them : their zeal is not so sharp but they can be well pleased with ease. I will proffer them both a more compendious, and more plausible worship; Jerusalem shall be supplied within mine own borders. Naturally men love to see the objects of their devotion; I will therefore feed their eyes with two golden representations of their God, nearer home: and what can be more proper, than those which Aaron devised of old to humour Israel?
Upon this pestilent ground, Jeroboam sets up two calves in Dan and Bethel, and persuades the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem ; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” Oh the mischief that comes of wicked infidelity! It was God's prophet that had rent Jeroboam's garment into twelve pieces, and had given ten of them to him, in token of his sharing the ten tribes; who, with the same breath also, told him, that the cause of this distraction was their idolatry. Yet now will he institute an idolatrous service for the holding together of them, whom their idolatry had rent from their true sovereign to him. He says not, God hath promised me this kingdom; God hath conferred it; God shall find means to maintain his own act; I will obey him, let him dispose of me. The God of Israel is
wise and powerful enough to fetch about his own designs: but, as if the devices of men were stronger than God's providence and ordination, he will be working out his own ends by profane policies. Jeroboam being born an Israelite, and bred in the court of a Solomon, could not but know the express charge of God against the making of images, against the erecting of any rival altars to that of Jerusalem; vet now, that he sees both these may avail much to the advancing of his ambitious project, he sets up those images, those altars. Wicked men care not to make bold with God, in cases of their own commodity. If the laws of their Maker lie in the way of their profit or promotion, they either spurn them out, or tread upon them at pleasure. Aspiring minds will know no God but honour. Israel sojourned in Egypt, and brought home a golden calf; Jeroboam sojourns there, and brought home two: it is hard to dwell in Egypt untainted. Not to savour of the sins of the place we live in, is no less strange, than for wholesome liquor, tunned up in a musty vessel, not to smell of the cask. The best bouy may be infected in a contagious air. Let him beware of Egypt that would be free from idolatry.
No sooner are Jeroboain's calves up, than Israel is down on their knees: their worship follows immediately upon the erection. How easily is the unstable vulgar carried into whatsoever religion of authority! The weather-cock will look which way soever the wind blows: it is no marvel if his subjects be brutish, who hath made a calf his god.
Every accessary to sin is filthy, but the first authors of sin are abominable. How is Jeroboam branded in every of these sacred leaves ! How do all ages ring of his fact, with the accent of dishonour and indignation ! " Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that made Israel to sin.” It was a shame for Israel that it could be made to sin by a Jeroboam: but, О cursed name of Jeroboam, that would