« FöregåendeFortsätt »
HIS MESSAGE LIKE THEIRS.
maintained in the Temple at Jerusalem, was more at variance with the mind of the God of Abraham than the worship of the calves of Bethel, than the sacrifices offered by the priests of the high-places. When he went before Nero, and no man stood with him, he was in fact crying out, not to a single altar, but to all those at which Rome and the world were offering incense, “You shall be rent in pieces, your ashes shall be strewed upon the earth, and the hands, pontifical or imperial, which serve before them shall be withered.” When he was preaching the everlasting Gospel, the Gospel of Christ's full redemption of mankind, to all kindreds and nations and tribes, he was saying to that age and to all ages, “Fear the true God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of love, and give glory to Him. For all who give glory to any but Him, to any earthly, brutal, sensual
power, shall share its certain downfall and perdition."
And we too brethren, we need not the glorious company of the Apostles only, but the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, to strengthen us in the faith of God's elect, to inspire us for the work which we have to do. We need to believe that they, different parts of the same family in Heaven and earth, are watching us in our race and strife here below. We need to hear the voices of old Prophets testifying in broad and simple language, that every petty tyranny and superstition of the earth which lifts itself up against God and against man, shall be put down; as well as to hear the full cry of the Saints beneath the altar, who have triumphed by the blood of the Lamb and the word of His testimony, “ How long O Lord, faithful and true, wilt thou not judge and deliver the earth !” We need it because we ought to
BOTH ARE OUR HELPERS.
be prepared to resist unto blood striving against sin—the sin which defied the Law—the sin which rejected the Gospel,--the sin which is rebelling against both now, in ourselves and in the world.
AHAB AND ELIJAH.
LINCOLN's Inn, 4TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.-FEB. 1, 1852.
2 KINGS, I. 3.
But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise,
go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, “Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go up to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?”
The worship of the calves which Jeroboam set up in Bethel and in Dan, is carefully distinguished in Scripture from the worship of Baal, which was introduced by Ahab into Samaria. Jeroboam wished to separate the ten tribes from those which followed the house of David, by giving them sacrifices and priests of their own. From the words which he is said to have used, “ these are thy gods, oh! Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt,” it is probable that he affected to restore the idolatry which Aaron had sanctioned in the wilderness. He or his priests would suggest the thought to the people, or their own hearts would suggest it to them, that what the high priest approved could not be very wrong, that Moses had no right to break the calf in pieces, that the people in Jerusalem who followed
HOW FOREIGN WORSHIP BEGINS.
the law of Moses were really departing from a good old example, that they were returning to a national service. The step from this ultra local worship to a foreign Phoenician worship seems a very long one. Yet it was natural and easy. We cannot tell exactly what the calf signified to the Egyptian, still less what it signified to the Hebrew slave in the desert, or to the revolted tribes. It been merely adopted as a traditional symbol, no special force being attached to it. But a people trained in the law of Moses must have associated some recollection of an unseen Being even with the most worthless image. How strong such associations may be in any mind, how long they may continue, we have happily no means of determining. We only know that the conscience of the idolater becomes at once stupified and sensitive; more and more incapable of appreciating moral distinctions; more and more alive to terrors. The thought of a righteous Being is appalling; from an object of trust he passes into an object of horror. How to appease Him is the question. The old forms may not be the right. Other nations which seem happier and more prosperous, have other gods and sacrifices. It might be well to try them. The most powerful neighbour must be most worthy of imitation.
A king like Ahab meets the demands of a people in this state. The Scripture which speaks of the cities which he built, and his ivory house, and his might, and the wars which he warred, leaves the impression upon our minds that he was intellectually superior to his predecessors, of a higher ambition, less narrow in his notions. He had not the dread which Jeroboam felt of intercourse with Jerusalem, he cultivated the friendship of Jehoshaphat. At the same time he took to wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, VIII.]
JEZEBEL AND BAAL.
king of the Sidonians. And with her he naturalized a worship certainly very much more august and imposing than that which had been practised by the kings that were before him. There may, or may not, have been animal forms connected with the service of this God of Ekron. The name would seem only to impart a comprehensive notion of lordship, a notion which might express itself in a number of different symbols, which certainly would not be limited to the one of the calf, or be likely to adopt that as its favourite. Baal would become Baalim; the general lord and ruler would soon be multiplied and divided into a number of lords and rulers; but there would be attached to them all a much grander feeling of dominion than could ever have entered into the mind of one who was bowing to the likeness of a calf which eateth hay.
Ahab would therefore seem to himself, as well as to a great many of his people, an improver and expander of the popular faith. Foreign priests, with much more knowledge probably than those lowest of the people whom Jeroboam had consecrated, would come into the land. A number of the native priests would be quite ready to adopt the worship which the king and queen favoured. . Though they might have some new rites to learn, though they might not like the strangers, or might be despised by them, yet they would not be conscious of any great change in themselves or their devotions. In their dark groves, on their hill altars, they had been seeking to propitiate some unknown fearful divinity. For that divinity they had now found a name. The Egyptian idol might suggest thoughts sometimes of the dark power, sometimes of Him who had made a covenant with their fathers; the Phænician taught them to understand the distinction, to feel