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THE HIGHER ZEAL OF THE PROPHET. (Serm. IX.
thereof,” these were the words which a king of Israel of Jehu's house, spoke to Elisha as he lay sick and dying. He felt that a power was passing out of the world which was greater than his, and than that of all the kings who had been before him, because it was power, which-doubtless amidst innumerable confusions and errors, a thousand selfwilled efforts and self-confidences—had yet in the main been consecrated to the God of truth and meekness, had been used in conformity with His mind, and therefore had spread health and peace around it. Was it better to kill the seventy sons of Ahab or to bring up sons of the prophets ? To be the executor of God's vengeance on the land or to shew that He was the healer of its sicknesses ? To make it clear that Death is the certain wages of sin or to affirm by acts and words that there is One who raiseth the dead? Which mission was the nobler in the old time? Which must be nobler for those who believe that God gave His only begotten Son not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved ?
THE SHEPHERD PROPHET.
LINCOLN's INN, SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY.-FEB. 15, 1852.
AMOS, VII. 10–15. Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam, king
of Israel, saying, “Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos saith, ' Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. Also Amaziah said unto Amos, “ Oh thou seer go flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there. But prophesy not again any more in Bethel, for it is the king's court and the king's chapel.” Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah," I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son. But I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, 'Go prophesy unto my people Israel."
THE Jeroboam spoken of in this passage was the fourth king of the house of Jehu. From the time of Jehu, we hear of thc Syrians under Hazael, as the great oppressors of the Samaritan kingdom. “In those days” (that is before the death of Jehu) it is said, " the Lord began to cut
THE SUCCESSORS OF JEHU.
Israel short; and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel.”—2 Kings, c. X., v. 32. So of his son Jehoahaz, it is recorded," he followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He delivered them into the hand of Hazael, king of Syria, and into the hand of Ben-hadad, the son of Hazael, all their days. And Jehoahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened unto him, for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them. And the Lord gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hand of the Syrians. And the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as beforetime.”—c. xiii. The country had then been reduced to a state of extreme weakness. “The king of Syria,” it is said, “had left of the people to Jehoahaz but fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen; for he had destroyed them, and had made them like the dust by threshing." From that time began a revival in the outward prosperity, though not in the internal condițion, of the people. “ Jehoash did evil in the sight of the Lord;" but he took out of the hand of Benhadad the cities which Hazael had taken out of the hand of his father. « Three times did Jehoash beat him, and recovered the cities of Israel.” His son Jeroboam was still more successful. He is said to have restored the coasts of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain. His reign of forty-one years must have been one of rare, and to the Israelites most unlooked for felicity, which would be felt in proportion to their previous depression and ignominy. Yet of him also it is said, that "he departed not from the sins of the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."
The victories of Jeroboam are said in the II. Kings, c. 14,
157 v. 25, to have “fulfilled the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He spoke by the word of His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of GathHepher.” Why, or when, or to whom, this prophecy was delivered, we have no means of knowing. Nothing further is said of Jonah in the history. The book in the canon of the Old Testament which bears his name does not touch upon the condition of the kings or people of Israel. Though it records a passage in the life of Jonah, it does not purport to be written by him. I reserve it for a later part of this course when the people to whom it refers will have become closely identified with our subject.
Very different is the case with the prophet Amos. Though he is not mentioned in the book of Kings, his own express language connects him with the period of which we are speaking as well as with the previous and subsequent history of the ten tribes. He did not however belong to them. He was a herdsman of Tekoa, a plain country situated in the south of Judea. The words of Amaziah, Jeroboam's priest, intimate that he was an intruder, one who might prophesy and eat bread in Judea if he pleased, but who had no business in Bethel near the king's house and the king's chapel. The answer of Amos gives us a glimpse into his own life, and throws much light on the character of his book. “I was not a prophet, he says, or the son of a prophet;" that is to say, 'I was no recognized member of the order, was attached to no school. I was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit.” One of that class to which Abraham and Moses and David had belonged; but not rich in fields and herds, in men-servants or maid-servants like the first; nor learned in the wisdom of the
Egyptians like the second; nor with any, the most distant intimation that he might one day be the shepherd of a people, like the third. He was a labouring man, familiar, as all his words indicate, with the forms and appearances of nature, with the common operations of husbandry, with the special tasks of the keeper of flocks, with the wrongs and sufferings of the poor. Being such a one, he says, “ the Lord took me as I followed the flock. And the Lord said unto me, 'go prophesy unto my people Israel."" An overpowering influence drove him from the quiet plains of Judea into the other kingdom, not upon any errand that had to do with his own herds, not into the country districts where he might have found men of congenial occupation, but straight to the place where the first king had set up the calf for the people to worship, and where the present king had chosen his summer dwelling.
Amos therefore exhibits a different aspect of the prophetical office from that which we considered last Sunday. I said then that there was nothing at all inconsistent with the inspiration of the prophet in his becoming the member of a guild or college, or in his being the subject of an education. The present instance shews us with equal clearness, that a man might be conscious of a most distinct calling to a distinct work, who had not this formal preparation for it. Not that he, any more than Elisha or those who called Elisha master, was without a training or discipline; not that he, any more than they, corresponded to that notion of an impromptu speaker, which we sometimes attach to the name of prophet. A poet of our own has taught us what wisdom an ordinary English shepherd may acquire from the daily sights which he sees and the daily tasks which he performs.