Imagens das páginas



[Serm. VI.

tion for which they look. They may ask to be taught the mystery of daily self-sacrifice—how to give up their own tastes, opinions, wishes. They may ask that they may never be tempted to give up one atom of God's truth, or to dally for one moment with the falsehoods of themselves or of their brethren; because truth is the one ground of universal peace and fellowship, because falsehood and division are ever increasing and re-producing each other.




1 KINGS, XVI. 7. Also by the hand of the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani,

came the word of the Lord against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam ; and because he killed him.

BAASHA occupies no very remarkable place among the kings of Israel, nor Jehu, the son of Hanani, among the prophets. But the narrative in the text is a compendious statement of the relations in which the kings and prophets of the ten tribes stood to each other after the division of the kingdom. I wish to consider this subject upon the present occasion, taking it up from the time of which I spoke in my last sermon, and continuing it to the reigns which received a new character from the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha.

A man of God, who, we are told, came out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel, marks the transition point between the older history and the new. The chapter

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

which contains the tragedy of his life and death, has been selected for one of our Sunday lessons, with much fearlessness I think as well as wisdom. For there is none which a timid, distrustful reader of the Bible would be more ready to pass over, and few which throw more real light upon its moral and method. This man of God came to Bethel while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.“ And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, * Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.' And he gave a sign the same day saying, “This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken. Behold the altar shall be rent, and the ashes which are upon it shall be poured out.' And it came to pass when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, * Lay hold on him. And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. And the king answered and said unto the man of God, "Intreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again.' And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.”—1 Kings, c. xiii., 1-7.

I would at once dismiss the question, whether the name Josiah which occurs in this place, was actually pronounced by the prophet, or was introduced afterwards when the books were put together, as marking the person who accomplished the threat. That point seems to me of very




little consequence indeed. I do not think the substance of the prophecy would derive the least weight from the presence of the name, or lose the least from the omission of it. The cases of such definite foretelling are rare in the Scriptures. I only recollect two; this and the use of the name Cyrus in Isaiah, of which I may have to speak hereafter. It is extremely rash and dangerous to deduce the nature or characteristics of prophecy from doubtful and excepted cases. We may be sure that when we are tempted to do so, we shall overlook the points on which the Scripture most desires to fix our attention.

The great business of the prophet, is evidently to denounce the altar and the sacrifices in Bethel. It has been set up as a rival altar to that in the Temple of Jerusalem ; it is the beginning of a new system of sacrifices ; new priests will be required to perform them. “Of course,” the rationalist teacher exclaims,“ these were the offences of Jeroboam. He was an intruder upon the special privileges of the Jerusalem hierarchy; he had courage to introduce priests taken from the lowest of the people; he broke through the formalities of the Levitical law. Such a man in our days would be called a reformer or asserter of national and individual independence. Therefore he is denounced by the ecclesiastics who have compiled the Jewish records.” Yes, if the establishment of visible, sensual worship, be a great step in the progress of the human intellect--if the introduction of a set of priests continually at work to make that worship more visible, more sensual, more gross, be a mode of fulfilling the aspirations of those who desire moral and spiritual liberty—if the breaking through the fetters of a law which restrained all sacerdotal inventions whatsoever, and bore witness continually that sacrifices were not offered to appease a tyrant, but to

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

remove an obstacle between a righteous Lord and His unrighteous subjects—if the consequent establishment of a devil-worship-be that which wise men of the nineteenth century after Christ call reformation, Jeroboam deserves all their patronage, and the man of God who came out of Judah to pronounce a curse upon his altar, all their wrath. And this is precisely the question, not for this passage of the history only, but for every subsequent passage of it. The revolting kings of Israel, in whom modern enlightenment discovers the champions of human progress, were introducing the most unlimited sacerdotal tyranny, were making that sacerdotal tyranny an instrument of regal tyranny. The priests of the high places, the prophets of the grove, were building their own power upon the degradation of the multitudes whom they drew after them, were using that power to confirm every unrighteous decree, to remove every real moral restraint from the kings. The prophets who we are told would never have been praised except in a book compiled by the supporters of a certain set of caste interests, were bearing a protest at the hazard of their lives, for a righteous order which no caprices of human superstition or human will could set aside, for a spiritual authority which not only did not demand the slavery of the conscience but was incompatible with it, for an actual relation between the Most High and His creatures, which not only did not involve their regarding Him as an object of terror or distrust, but proved such habits of mind to contain the very essence of sin.

Men like the one we are now considering, are said to speak the word of the Lord, or sometimes in the word of the Lord. Their function assumes that the thoughts of man's heart and the utterances of it, are of all things the

« AnteriorContinuar »