« FöregåendeFortsätt »
fully this very act was revenged upon Israel service with a loud inclamation of judgment. in the wilderness; yet he dares renew it in Doubtless the man wanted not wit to know Dan and Bethel. No example of judgment what displeasure, what danger, must needs can affright wilful offenders.
follow so unwelcome a message ; yet dares It is not the metal that makes their gods, he, upon the commission of God, do this but the worship, the sacrifices. What sa affront to an idolatrous king, in the midst crifices could there be without priests? No of all his awful magnificence. The proreligion could ever want sacred masters of phets of God go upon many a thankless divine ceremonies : God's clergy was select errand. He is no messenger for God, that and honourable, branches of the holy stem either knows or fears the faces of men. of Aaron ; Jeroboam rakes up his priests | It was the altar, not the person of Jero. out of the channel of the multitude; all boam, which the prophet thus threatens ; tribes, all persons, were good enough to his yet not the stones are stricken, but the spurious devotion. Leaden priests are well founder, in both their apprehensions : so fitted for golden deities. Religion receives dear are the devices of our own brain to us, either much honour or blemish, by the as if they were incorporated into ourselves. quality of those that serve at her altars. There is no opposition whereof we are so We are not worthy to profess ourselves sensible as that of religion. servants of the true God, if we do not hold That the royal altar should be thus pol. his service worthy of the best.
luted by dead men's bones, and the blood Jeroboam's calves must have sacrifices, of the priests, was not more unpleasing, must have solemn festivities, though in a than that all this should be done by a child day and month of his own devising. In of the house of David; for Jeroboam well vain shall we pretend to worship a god, if saw, that the throne and the altar must we grudge him the just days and rites of his stand or fall together; that a son of David worship.
could not have such power over the altar, It is strange that he, who thought the without an utter subversion of the godregs of the vulgar good enough for that vernment, of the succession; therefore is priesthood, would grace those gods by act. he thus galled with this comminatory preing their priest himself; and yet, beholddiction. The rebellious people who had where the new king of Israel stands before said, “ What portion have we in David ?" his new altar, with a sceptre in one hand, hear now, that David will perforce have and a censer in the other, ready to sacrifice a portion in them; and might well see to his new gods, when the man of God what beasts they had made themselves in comes from Judah with a message of judg. worshipping the image of a beast, and sacriment! O desperate condition of Israel, ficing to such a god, as could not preserve that was so far gone with impiety, that it his own altar from violation and ruin. yielded not one faithful monitor to Jero All this while, I do not see this zealous boam! The time was, that the erecting of prophet laying his hand to the demolition but a new altar, for memory, for monument, of this idolatrous altar, or threatening a on the other side of Jordan, bred a chal-knife to the author of this depravation of lenge to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and religion ; only his tongue smites both, not Manasses; and had cost much Israelitish with foul, but sharp words of menace, not of blood, if the quarrelled tribes had not given reproach. It was for Josias, a king, to shed a seasonable and pious satisfaction: and the blood of those sacrificers, to deface now, lo, how the stronger stomach of de- | those altars : prophets are for the tongue, generated Israel can digest new altars, new princes for the hand; prophets must only temples, new gods! What a difference there denounce judgment, princes execute. is betwixt a church and kingdom newly Future things are present to the Eternal. breathing from affliction, and settled upon It was some two hundred and sixty years the lees of a misused peace!
ere this prophecy should be fulfilled; yet But () the patience and mercy of our the man of God speaks of it as now acting. long-suffering God, that will not strike a What are some centuries of years to the very Jeroboam unwarned! Judgment ho. Ancient of days ? How slow, and yet how vers over the heads of sinners, ere it light. sure, is the pace of God's revenge! It is If Israel afford not a bold reprover of Je- not in the power of time to frustrate God's roboam, Judah shall. When the king of determinations ; there is no less justice, Israel is in all the height both of his state nor severity in a delayed punishment. and superstition, honouring his solemn day What a perfect record there is of all with his richest devotion, steps forth a pro- names in the roll of heaven, before they phet of God, and interrupts that glorious be, after they are past! Whatever seeming contingency there is in their imposition, yet | sue for favour where they have spent their they fall under the certainty of a decree, | malice. and are be ter known in heaven ere they It well becomes the prophets of God to be, than on earth while they are. He, that be merciful. I do not see this seer to stand knows what names we shall have, before upon terms of exprobration, and overly con. we or the world have a being, doth not oft testations with Jeroboam, to say, Thine reveal this piece of his knowledge to his intentions to me were cruel: had thine hand creature; here be doth, naming the man prevailed, I should have sued to thee in that sliould be two hundred years after ; vain; continue ever a spectacle of the fear. for more assurance of the event, that Israel | ful justice of thy Maker, whom thou hast may say, this inan speaks from a God who provoked by thine idolatry, whom thou knows what shall be. There cannot be a wouldst have smitten in my persecution : more sure evider.ce of a true godhead, than but he meekly sues for Jeroboam's release, the foreknowledge of those things, whose and, that God might abundantly magnify causes have yet no hope of being ; but be- both his power and mercy, is heard, and cause the proof of this prediction was no | answered with success. We do not win more certain than remote, a present de favour of heaven, if we have not learned monstration shall convince the future: - to do good for evil. “ The altar shall rend in pieces, the ashes | When both wind and sun, the blasts of shall be scattered." How amazedly must judgment and the beams of favour, met tothe seduced Israelites needs look upon this gether to work vpon Jeroboam, who would miracle! and uliy do they not think with not look that he should have cast off his themselves, while these stones rend, who cumberous and misbeseeming cloak of his are our hearts whole? Of what an over- idolatry, and have said, Lord, thou hast ruling power is the God whom we have stricken me in justice, thou hast healed me forsaken, that can thus tear the altars of in mercy; I will provoke thee no more. his corrivals ! How shall we stand before This hand, which thou hast restored, shall bis vengeance, when the very stones break he consecrated to thee in pulling down these at the word of his prophet? Perhaps some bold abominations; yet now, behold, he beholders were thusaffected; but Jeroboam. goes on in his old courses, and as if God had whom it most concerned, instead of bowing neither done him good nor evil, lives and his knees for humiliation, stretched forth dies idolatrous. No stone is more hard or his band for revenge, and cries, Lav hold insensate, than a sinful heart; the changes on him! Resolute wickedness is impatient of judgment and mercy do but obdure it, inof a reproof, and, instead of vielding to the stead of melting. voice of God, rebellechi. Just and discreet reprehension doth not more reform some sinners than exasperate others.
CONTEMPLATION III. — THE SEDUCED How easy is it for God to cool the courage of proud Jeroboam! The hand which his rage stretches out. dries up, and cannot JEROBOAM's hand is amended, his soul is be pulled back again ; a d now stands the not ; that continues still dry and inflexible: king of Israel, like some antique statue, in yet, while he is unthankful to the author of a posture of impotent endeavour, so dis. his recovery, he is thankful to the instru. abled to the hurt of the prophet, that he ment: he kindly invites the prophet whom cannot command that piece of himself. he had threatened, and will remunerate him What are the great potentates of the world, whom he endeavoured to punish. The in the powerful hand of the Almighty? Ty. worst men may be sensible of bodily farants cannot be so harmful, as they are yours. Civil respects may well stand with malicious.
gracelessness. Many a one would be liberal The strongest heart may be brought down of their purses, if they might be allowed to with affliction. Now the stout stomach of be niggardly of their obedience. Jeroboam is fallen to an humble depreca- As God, so his prophet, cares not for tion : “ Entreat now the face of the Lord these waste courtesies, where he sees main thy God. and pray for me, that my hand duties neglected. More piety would have may be restored me again.” It must needs done well with less compliment. The man be a great strait that could drive a proud of God returns a blunt and peremptory heart to beg mercy, where he bent his per- denial to so bounteous an offer : “ If thou secution ; su doth Jeroboam, holding it no wilt give me half thine house, I will not go scorn to be lieholden to an enemy. In ex- in with thee; neither will I eat bread, nor tremities, the worst men can be content to drink water in this place." Kindness is more
safely done to an idolater, than taken from of Judah for the reproof of that sin which him : that which is done to him obligeth was acted under his nose? why did he lie? him; that which is taken from him obligeth | why did his family partake with idolaters ? us : this obligation to us may be occasion If he were not a prophet of God, how had of his good; our obligation to him may oc- he true visions? how had he true messagrs casion our hurt: the surest way is to keep from God? why did he second the menacing aloof from the infectiously wicked.
word of that prophet whom he seduced? The prophet is not uncivil, to reject the why did he desire that his own bones might favour of a prince without some reason; he be honoured with his sepulchre? Doult. yields no reason of his refusal, but the com less he was a prophet of God, but corrupt, mand of his God. God bath charged bim, resty, vicious. Propliecy doth not always “ Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn presuppose sanctification . many a one hath again by the same way that thou camest." had visions from God, who shall never en. It is not for a prophet to plead human or joy the vision of God. A very Balaam, in carnal grounds for the actions of his func his ecstasies, hath so clear revelation of the tion : he may not move but upon a divine Messiah to come, as scarce ever any of the warrant. Would this seer have looked with holiest prophets; yea. his very ass hath the eyes of Aesh and blood, he might have both her mouth miraculously opened, and found many arguments for his yielding: He her eyes, to see and notify that angel, which is a king that invites me; his reward, by was hid from her master; vea, Satan him. enriching me, may benefit many; and who self sometimes receives notice from God of knows how much my further conversation his future actions, which else that evil spimay prevail to reform him ? How can herit could neither foretell nor foresee. These be but well prepared for good counsel by a kinds of graces are both rare and common : miraculous cure! How gainfully should my rare, in that they are seldom given to any; receipt of a temporal courtesy be exchanged common, in that they are indifferently given with a spiritual to him! All Israel will fol- to the evil and to the good. A little holilow him either in idolatry or reformation : ness is worth much Illumination. which way can be devised of doing so great Whether out of envy to hear that said service to God and the church, as by re- by the seer of Judah, which he either knew claiming him? What can yield so great not or smothered; to hear that done by likelihood of his reclamation, as the oppor another, which he could not have effected, tunity of my further entireness with him and could not choose but admire; or whether But the prophet dares not argue cases where out of desire to make trial of the fidelity of he had a command; whatever become of so powerful a messenger, the old prophet Jeroboam and Israel, God must be obeyed; | bastens to orertake, to recall that man of neither profit nor hopes may carry us cross God, who had so defied his Bethel; whom to the word of our Maker. How safe had lie finds sitting faint and weary under an this seer been, if he had kept him ever upon oak in the way, taking the benefit of that this sure guard, which he no sooner leaves, shade which he hated to receive from those than he miscarries !
contagious groves that he had left behind So deeply doth God detest idolatry, that him. His habit easily bewrayed him to a he forbids his prophet to eat the bread, toman of his own trade; neither doth his drink the water, of a people infected with tongue spare to profess himself. The old this sin ; yea, to tread in those very steps prophet of Bethel in vites him to return to which their feet have touched. If this in- a repast ; and is answered with the same hibition were personal, yet the grounds of words wherewith Jeroboam's offer was reit are common. No pestilence should be pelled: the man of God varies not a sylmore shunned than the conversation of the lable from his message. It concerns us to misreligious or openly scandalous. It is no take good heed of our charge, when we go thank to us, if their familiarity do not infect on God's errand. A denial doth but invite us with their wickedness.
the importunate : what he cannot do by I know not what to think of an old pro- entreaty the old man tries to do by per. phet that dwells in Bethel, within the air suasion : “ I am a prophet as thou also art, of Jeroboam's idol, within the noise of his and an angel spake to me by the word of sacrifices; that lives where the man of God the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee dares not eat; that permitted his sons to into thine house, that he may eat bread be present at that idolatrous service. If he and drink water." There is no temptation were a prophet of God, what did he now so dangerous, as that which comes shrouded in Bethel? why did he wink at the sin of under a vail of holiness, and pretends auJeroboam? what needed a seer to come out thority from God himself. Jeroboam threat
ens, the prophet stands undaunted ; Jero- not of any check : his will is but one, as boam fawns and promises, the prophet holds himself is ; and therefore it is out of the constant: now comes a grey-headed seer, | danger of contradiction. and pleads a counter-message from God: Methinks I see the man of God change the prophet yields and transgresses. Satan countenance at this sharp sauce of his may affright us as a fiend, but he seduces pleasing morsels; his face beforehand is us as an angel of light.
dyed with the paleness of death. Methinks Who would have looked for a liar under I hear him urging many unkind expostulahoary hairs, and a holy mantle ? who would tions with his injurious host, who yet disnot have trusted that gravity, when there misses him better provided for the ease of was no colour of any gain in the untruth? his journey than he found him. Perhaps Nothing is so apt to deceive as the fairest this officiousness was out of desire to make semblances, as the sweetest words. We some amends for this late seducement. It cannot err, if we believe not the speech for is a poor recompense. when he hath be. the person, but the person for the speech. trayed his life, and wronged the soul, to Well might this man of God think, an aged cast some courtesies upon the body. man, a prophet, an old prophet, will not, This old Bethelite, that had taken pains sure, belie God unto a prophet; no man to come and fetch the man of God into will forge a lie, but for an advantage. What sin, will not now go back with him to accan this man gain by this match, but the company his departure. Doubtless he was entertainment of an unprofitable guest ? | afraid to be enwrapped in the judgment Perhaps, though God would not allow me which he saw hanged over that obnoxious to feast with Jeroboam, yet pitying my head. Thus the mischievous guides of faintness, he may allow me to eat with a wickedness leave a man, when they have prophet. Perhaps now that I have ap- led him to his bane; as familiar devils for. proved my fidelity in refusing the bread of sake their witches, when they have brought Bethel, God thinks good to send me a gra- them once into fetters. cious release of that strict charge. Why | The man of God returns alone, careful, should I think, that God's revelations are no doubt, and pensive for his offence, when not as free to others, as to me? and if this a lion out of the wood meets, assaults, and prophet hath received a countermand from kills him. O the just and severe judgments an angel of God, how shall I not disobey of the Almighty, who hath brought this God, if I do not follow him!
fierce beast out of his wild ranges into the Upon this ground he returns with this highway, to be the executioner of his ofdeceitful host; and, when the meat was fending servant! Doubtless this prophet now in his mouth, receives the true mes. was a man of great holiness, of singular sage of death, from the same lips that fidelity, else he durst not have been God's brought him the false message of his invi- herald to carry a message of defiance to tation ; thus saith the Lord, “ Forasmuch, Jeroboam, king of Israel, in the midst of as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the all his royal magnificence; yet now, for Lord, and hast not kept the commandment varying from but a circumstance of God's of the Lord thy God, but camest back, and command, though upon the suggestion of hast eaten bread aud drunk water in the a divine warrant, is given for a prey to the place forbidden thee, thy carcass shall not lion. Our interest in God is so far from come to the sepulchre of thy fathers." O excusing our sin, that it aggravates it: of woful prophet! when he looks on his host, all others, the sin of a prophet shall not he sees his executioner; while he is feed- pass unrevenged. ing of his body, he hears of his carcass ; at The very wild beasts are led by a provithe table he hears of his denied sepulchre ; dence; their wise and powerful Creator and all this for eating and drinking where knows how to serve himself of them. The he was forbidden by God, though bidden lions guard one prophet, kill another, ac. as from God. The violation of the least cording to the commission received from charge of God is mortal: no preterices their Maker. What sinner can hope to can warrant the transgression of a divine escape unpunished, when every creature of command. A word from God is pleaded on God is ready to be an avenger of evil ? The both sides : the one was received immedi- beasts of the field were made to serve us; ately from God; the other related mediately we to serve our Creator. When we for. by man: one the prophet was sure of; the sake our homage to him that made us, it is other was questionable. A sure word of no marvel if the beasts forget their duty to God may not be left for an uncertain : an us, and deal with is not as masters, but as express charge of the Almighty admitteth | rebels. When a holy man buys so dearly such a slight frailty, of a credulous mis. , it to the sepulchre : and now, when he taking, what shall become of our heinous hath sufficiently witnessed to all passengers and presumptuous sins?
that this act was not done upon his own I cannot think but this prophet died in hunger, but upon the quarrel of his Maker, the favour of God: though by the teeth of he delivers up his charge to that old pro. the lion, his life was forfeited for example, phet, who was no less guilty of this blood his soul was safe ; yea, his very carcass was than himself. left, though torn, yet fair, after those dead. This old seducer had so much truth, as ly grasps; as if God had said, I will only both to give a right commentary upon God's take thy breath from thee, as the penalty intention in this act, for the terror of the of thy disobedience: a lion shall do that disobedient, and to give his voice to the which an apoplexy or fever might do. I certainty of that future judgment which his owe thee no further revenge than may be late guest had threatened to Israel: somesatisfied with thy blood.
times it pleaseth the wisdom of God to exViolent events do not always argue the press and justify himself, even by the tongues anger of God; even death itself is to his of faulty instruments. Withal, he hatli so servants a fatherly castigation.
much faith and courage, as to fetch that But, О the unsearchable ways of the carcass from the lion; so much pity and Almighty! The man of God sins, and dies compassion, as to weep for the man of God, speedily: the lying prophet that seduced to inter him in his own sepulchre; so much him survives ; yea, wicked Jeroboam en-love, as to wish himself joined in death to joys his idolatry, and treads upon the grave that body which he had hastened unto of his reprover. There is neither favour death. It is hard to find a man absolutely in the delay of stripes, nor displeasure in wicked: some grace will bewray itself in the haste; rather whom God loves he chas- the most forsaken breasts. tises, as sharply, so speedily, wbile the rest It is a cruel courtesy to kill a man, and prospers to condemnation : even the rod of then to help him to his grave; to betray a loving father may draw blood. How much a man with our breath, and then to be. happier is it for us, that we die now, to live dew him with our tears. The prophet had for ever, than that we live a while, to die needed no such friend, if he had not met for ever!
with such an enemy: “ The mercies of the Had this lion set upon the prophet for wicked are cruel." hunger, why did he not devour, as well as kill him ? why did he not rather kill the beast than the man? since we know the CONTEMPLATION IV. - JEROBOAM'S WIFE. nature of the lion such, that he is not wont to assail man, save in the extreme want of Ir is no measuring of God's favour by other prey. Certainly the same power that the line of outward welfare : Jeroboam, the employed those fangs restrained them, that idolatrous usurper of Israel, prospers betthe world might see it was not appetite that ter than the true heirs of David ; he lives provoked the beast to this violence, but the to see three successions in the throne of overruling command of God. Even so, o Judah: thus the ivy lives, when the oak is Lord! thy powerful hand is over that roaring dead. Yet could not that misgotten crown lion, that goes about continually seeking of his keep his head always from aching: whom he may devour: thine hand withholds he hath his crosses too. God whips somehim, that though he may shed the blood of times more than his own: his enemies smart thine elect, yet he cannot hurt their souls ; | from him as well as his children ; his chil. and while he doth those things which thou dren in love, his enemies in judgment. Not permittest and orderest, to thy just ends, simply the rod argues love, but the temper yet he cannot do lesser things which he of the hand that wields it, and the back desireth, and thou permittest not.
that feels it. First, Jeroboam's hand was The fierce beast stands by the carcass, stricken, now his son; Abijah, the eldest, as to avow bis own act, and to tell who the best son of Jeroboam, is smitten with sent him, so to preserve that body which sickness. As children are but the pieces he had slain. O wonderful work of God! of their parents in another skin, so parents the executioner is turned guardian ; and, are no less stricken in their children, than as the officer of the Highest, commands all in their natural limbs; Jeroboam doth not other creatures to stand aloof from his more feel his arm, than his son: not wicked charge, and commands the fearful ass that men only, but beasts, may have natural brought this burden thither, not to stir affections. It is no thank to any creature thence, but to stand ready prest, to carry I to love his own.