Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

THE SELF-RIGH

x.] THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS. (vv. 1727.) 169 smell in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them. Neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take then away from me the noise of thy songs, for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” Thus the prophet spoke to those who instead of claiming God's covenant with Israel, and warning their countrymen how they forgot it, stood on their own faith or their own good deeds, and tried to make out a case for themselves. If they would not take up their place as Israelites, they must at least share the punishment of Israelites. For in truth, were they better men than those they despised ? Were they more worshippers of God, because they merely clung to the forms of their forefathers ? Alas! No. Their forefathers in the wilderness had not really believed in the God who delivered them, had not trusted in the God of righteousness. While kneeling at His altar, while using His holy name, they were really bearing the tabernacle of Moloch and Chiun, the star of their god whom they made to themselves. And their descendants and professed imitators were doing the same. “ Therefore must they go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord whose name is the Lord of Hosts." · Amos had hinted very often at this captivity. He has now openly pronounced the word; still without alluding distinctly to the nation that should carry them away. But so sure is he of the fact, that he turns at once to those " that are at ease in Zion, who put far away the evil day, who lie upon beds of ivory, who stretch themselves upon their couches, who eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall, who chant to the

[ocr errors]

170

THE COMING WOE. (c. XVI.) [Serm. sound of the viol and invent to themselves instruments of music like David, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the chief ointments.” He turns to these and exhorts them to think of the changes that had happened within their own recollection, almost under their own eyes, in lands as prosperous as theirs, whose border a little while before had been larger than theirs. And then having shewn them that there was nothing strange or unreasonable in his warnings, he goes into particulars, as all great poets and true prophets do; not merely denouncing captivity in vague phrases, but bringing the circumstances and incidents of it vividly before them. The city is delivered up and all that is therein, to an invading host; pestilence follows in the train of war. If there happen to remain ten men in one house who have escaped the one calamity, they will die by the other. One shall come to seek for the bones of a kinsman to burn them; " he shall ask him that is at the side of the house, is there any yet with thee? And he shall answer no.” And the man bids him hold his peace, lest in some wild exclamation he should utter the name of the Lord, and so bring some fresh terror upon them. As powerful a picture certainly of the results of devil-worship as was ever presented in language; yet not more fearful than true. Men may come to think of the Name of the Lord God as a mere name of horror, which they dare not pronounce lest he should destroy them. And yet unless all the laws of nature could be altered, unless horses could run upon the rocks, or you could plough on them with oxen, such judgments could not be averted from an evil and impenitent nation. Those who have turned judgment into gall, and the fruits of righteousness into hemlock, which rejoice in a thing of nought, and say, 'Have we not taken

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

unto us horns by our own strength,' will find a nation stronger than themselves to punish them. “ The Lord, the God of Hosts, saith, I will raise up such a one against you O House of Israel.”

Three images are then presented to the prophet's mindtwo of them at least, to his eyes. The grasshoppers in the autumn seem about to destroy the whole grass of the land; a loss the more terrible, because the king has claimed the first crop for himself. Next he sees the summer heat burning up the meadows. He prays that each of these judgments may be averted; and the prayer is granted. But though these preparatory punishments, arising through the selfishness of the rulers, or the neglect of husbandry among the people, do not come, or are mitigated, Amos sees another vision which signifies to him, that the high places of Isaac shall be desolate and the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste, and that God would rise against the house of Jeroboam with a sword.

These were some of the words which the priest of Bethel said that the land was not able to bear. One of the ablest of modern commentators supposes that Amos yielded immediately to the order that he should return into Judah, leaving behind him the fearful sentence upon Amaziah which is contained in the last verse of the seventh chapter, and that upon Israel contained in the first three verses of the eighth chapter; this being suggested by the vision of the basket of summer fruits. Then being once more in his own country he meditates on the last fearful calamity which can overtake a people given up to gain; 'a people who swallow up the needy and make the poor of the people to fail; who long for the feast to be over that they may sell corn, and the Sabbath that they may set forth wheat; making the ephah

172

THE FAMINE OF THE WORD. (C. VIII.) [Serm. small and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit, that they may buy the poor for silver, yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat.' For such a people he predicts a more fearful famine than one of bread; a famine of the word of the Lord. To hear of a God of mercy and righteousness was an intolerable thing in the days of their plenty. The thought of such a Being troubled them in their selfindulgence and indifference to others. They would fain silence the prophets who said to them, “He lives, and reigns. He is your Judge. If you will trust Him you will find Him your Deliverer.” In death and dreariness, in exile from the land of their fathers, crushed by oppressors, hearing only of gods more cruel than those who make them, how will they hunger and thirst for any tidings of one who cares for the weary and heavy laden, one who would have man-servant and maid, the cattle and the stranger within the gates to rest as well as the prince; of one who had fixed the year of Jubilee, that the debtor might be released and the captive go free. Oh! what longing in a land of bondage to hear of such a Being; to believe that all that had been told of him in former days was not a dream; to have a right to tell their children that it was true for them. And oh! to think of the sentence going forth, It cannot be; they have chosen their idols; they have sworn by the sin of Samaria and said, thy god, oh Dan, liveth ; they shall fall and not rise up again.'

The spirit of the prophet seems to have reached the lowest point of depression. For we find that there may be depths in captivity below the captivity itself; a moral abyss more fearful to look into than all its physical evil. He does not pass by one or the other; he faces them all. There seems no escape for the doomed people in earth or sea, in

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

heaven or hell; the eternal law has gone forth against them; it cannot be repealed. For is not the law His 'who buildeth His stories in the Heavens and has founded His troop in the earth ; He that calleth the waters of the sea and poureth them out upon the face of the earth. The Lord is His Name.'

Yes! The Lord is His Name—and therefore Truth and Good must be maintained, Falsehood and Evil must fall. Because it is so there is still a lower depth beneath that which seemed to be unfathomable. “Lo,” thus the shepherd of Tekoa winds up his prophecy, “Lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations like as corn is sifted in a sieve. Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword which say “the evil shall not overtake or prevent us.' In that day will I raise up the Tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom and of all the heathen which are called by My name saith the Lord that doeth this. Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him that seweth seed, and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon the land and they shall no more be pulled up out of the land which I have given them saith the Lord.”

Does it seem to you that a hope so confident is this—a hope of life arising out of death, light out of darkness, is in

« AnteriorContinuar »