Page images
PDF
EPUB

divisions answered pretty nearly to those which were is called in after-times Judea, Samaria, and Galilee.

Of these, the lot of the flourishing tribe of Judah was the largest, and contained within it the city of Jerusalem, then possessed by the Jebusites, but afterwards made the capital of the country. Hebron also, a most ancient and famous city, the abode of the giant children of Anak, who had so terrified the spies sent thither by Moses, was in the allotment of this tribe, and was specially bestowed by Joshua upon his zealous and faithful companion Caleb, who having before shown no fear of the sons of Anak, now begged permission to drive them out, and make their country his inheritance. The provision made for the tribe of Levi, according to the directions formerly given by Moses, consisted in forty-eight cities, with a certain portion of land round each of them, distributed among the allotments of the other tribes: six of these were called cities of refuge, in which any one who unintentionally had killed his neighbour, might shelter himself from the vengeance of those connected with him; and among them was Hebron, which Caleb having taken, made over to the priests, retaining only its fields and villages for his own possession. The land of Canaan being now conquered and divided, the two tribes and a half, whose portion was on the other side of the river Jordan, and who had crossed it in arms to help their brethren, obtained from Joshua permission to return. Before, however, they crossed the river, they did a thing which, at first, being misunderstood, created much indignation against them : they built an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to. The Israelites seem to have thought that this was an idolatrous altar, and showed a disposition to depart from the worship of God; and war was nearly being the consequence, had they not wisely first required and obtained the necessary explanation. The tribes

beyond Jordan had set it up as a memorial, to call to mind, in later times, that they were of the same original stock and religion as their brethren settled in Canaan ; and when they heard that, they were content. How many quarrels and disputes, bringing with them the most deadly evils, might be prevented, if men would only act with the prudence of these Israelites, and learn first of all whether there is any real ground for them, or not. Half the wars which have desolated the world, and of the disagreements which have disturbed the peace of families and individuals, have arisen from some misunderstanding of each other's motives, which a little mutual explanation might have cleared up and put an end to; and both parties would have had cause to bless God, that they had not listened to the dictates of a causeless anger, and gone up to injure and annoy their brother. The work for which God had appointed Joshua to be the leader of his people was now completed : he lived the remainder of his days in peace, and died at a good old age. Before he died, he called the whole nation to witness that the promises of God towards them had been amply made good: he exhorted them to a becoming gratitude and obedience for the future; but did not disguise from them his fears, that they were not likely to maintain them with that undivided heart which he requireth of his servants. Whatever they might do, he told them, his resolution was fixed : As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”* Happy are the families where the resolution of Joshua is formed and acted upon, and seconded by every member of the same in his appointed station: happy are they who offer him not a lip worship only, and a constrained obedience, but who incline their heart unto him out of the fulness of sincere and grateful love, knowing that thus alone they can acceptably serve him.

* Josh. xxiv, 15.

CHAP. XIX.

THE TIMES OF ANARCHY.

As long as Joshua lived, and those venerable elders

who, under his command, had conducted the people of Israel into the land of promise, their authority and example were sufficient to preserve God's worship undefiled, and to enforce generally obedience to his statutes. So important to the religious and moral well-being of a nation is the good character of those who govern it; so wisely are Christians taught to pray for kings and all that are in authority," not for the sake of those illustrious individuals only, but also for their own, that they “may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”* This truth has seldom been so dis.. tinctly shown as in the portion of Israelitish history on which we are now about to enter, immediately succeeding the death of Joshua, and most of his contemporary chiefs; when the people, feeling no longer the control exercised over them by these great and good men, and perceiving no one appointed directly by God to succeed them in their high office, lived in a state of wild and careless license, which soon degenerated into a forgetfulness of God, and an indulgence in the most insolent acts of injustice and wickedness. Living as we do in the habitual acknowledgment of a superintending Providence, and aware that our outward offences are at any moment liable to correction by those who administer our equal laws, it hardly ever enters into our contemplation what we should do, or what manner of men we should be, if these restraints were removed from us, and we were

. 1 Tim. ii. 2.

left to follow no directions but those of our own unbridled wills. Some notion of the evils and miseries, which would surely arise out of such a state of things, we may gain from observing the effects of a similar condition in the case of the people of Israel, when, having no regular authority to guide them, they began to do "

every man that which was right in his own eyes.'

We may take as our first instance, the conduct of a man named Micah, of the tribe of Ephraim, who though he did not appear to have cast off all recollection of the true God, or all desire to worship him, yet thought that he might do so after a fancy of his own, and in a manner consistent with the breach of some of his most direct commandments. The mixture of good and evil in his character appears in the first mention made of him, where we find him confessing to his mother, that he had robbed her of eleven hundred shekels of silver: there we see he had broken a commandment of the highest importance to mankind in their social state, “ Thou shalt not steal." It is true he confessed his fault, being afraid of his mother's curse, and restored to her the money : so far he did well: but when she foolishly allowed him to keep it, the use he made of it was to break another of the ten commandments no less important to man's spiritual welfare-he made with the price of them a graven and a molten image, and set them up in his house. Besides the grave offence of worshipping images, he here committed another, in establishing a place of worship of his own; whereas God had commanded all the people to go up to worship at one particular place, namely, in those days, at Shiloh, where the tabernacle of the congregation had been erected, and the ark of the Lord was.

One illegal and wicked action leads speedily to another. Having now an unauthorized object and place of worship, he stood in need of a priest ; and to this end he first consecrated his own son, an Ephraimite like himself, who had no pretensions whatever to an office, limited expressly by God to the tribe of Levi. That this was so he very well knew, and showed his knowledge by the eagerness with which he availed himself of the accidental arrival of a young man of that tribe, travelling about the country in search of occupation, and who readily accepted Micah's offer to hire him as his priest. The family of Aaron alone, of the tribe of Levi, had any right to act as priests : here, then, was another breach of God's ordinances, of which, however, Micah seemed to take no account whatever, but to consider himself in a high state of favour with God : “Now know I,said he," that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.”* We may look with surprise at this man's blindness, in fancying that this little compliance of his with the will of God, would serve to make up to him for all the wickedness of his other actions in which he had followed no will but his own; and while we do so, may not some of us need the rebuke of Christ

* Judges xvii. 6 ; xxi. 25.

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye,

but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye ?”May we not look into our own lives for a counterpart; not, indeed, to the precise actions, but to the principles upon which he acted ? Are we not too apt to pride ourselves upon something that we have done well, and which we think will surely procure for us the favour of our Lord, while all we have done ill, all our depraved thoughts, unholy wishes, and often worse than idle words, are passed over as things indifferent ? Is there not danger lest, while we thus are engaged in deceiving

66

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »