Page images
PDF
EPUB

plation of the lilies of the field, which he described as more beautifully arrayed than even Solomon in all his glory.* How great was the magnificence and splendour of that illustrious king, it was my object to declare in the foregoing chapter; and I would now, in continuation, request you to observe, that the resemblance between his glory and that of the lilies of the field, consisted as well in its perishableness as in its beauty—that as the grass which withereth, as the flower which fadeth, so was all the goodliness thereof:p that like other rich and wise men, he also went hence and left his riches to another. I Those he might and did leave to his successor, but he was unable to leave his wisdom: “Who knoweth,” he said himself, “ whether the man that shall be after me shall be a wise man or a fool ? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun.

."$ Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, soon showed himself remarkably wanting in that judgment and discretion, essential to the ruling of such a kingdom as that of Israel : a spirit of dissatisfaction existed in it, which could only be calmed by lenity and moderation, produced by the great strictness of his father's yoke : and when requested by the people to lighten their burthens, he unhappily took advice, not of the aged and experienced men who had been the counsellors of Solomon, but of his own young and rash companions ; assuring the petitioners, that it was his purpose to rule them with increased severity, so that, as he expressed it, his little finger should be thicker than his father's loins. The people of Israel, indignant at this rough and threatening answer, and finding a ready leader in Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, a man who had been already pointed out by the prophet * Matt. vi. 28, 29. + Isa. xl. 6, 7. I Px. xlix. 10.

Eccles. ii. 18, 19. ll i Kings xii. 10.

Ahijah as their future governor, and had therefore been an object of suspicion to Solomon, broke out into open rebellion against the king, compelling him to take refuge in Jerusalem, and killing the officer whom he had sent to gather tribute among them. Ten tribes went over in this manner to Jeroboam ; the other two, Judah and Benjamin, remaining faithful to the family of David, as had before been intimated by the prophet, when having torn the garment of Jeroboam into twelve pieces, he had given him ten. Rehoboam, however, unmindful of this, was purposed to make use of those who still acknowledged his authority, to re-establish it over the rest; he collected an army of an hundred and eighty thousand men, and was preparing to make war upon Israel, when Shemaiah the prophet was dispatched to prevent it, with the decisive message from God, “Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel : return every man to his house; for this thing is from me."*

Rehoboam, however wanting in understanding his foregoing conduct had showed him to be, was not guilty of the still greater folly of fighting against God; he returned quietly home with his army, and betook himself, with some temporary exercise at least of a sound policy, to the strengthening of his kingdom. May we all in our several conditions submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God, when he tries us with worldly losses and tribulations, feeling sure that his chastisements are for our spiritual good, and that, if he sees it fitting again to exalt us, he will do so in due time. Worldly prosperity, let us remember, is no undoubted testimonial of the favour of God : Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, enjoyed much prosperity in this world, and as an instrument to work out his purposes, was raised by him to be king

[ocr errors][merged small]

over ten tribes of his countrymen ; but he was still left to the dominion of a carnal mind, and his name descended to posterity, as of one whose crimes formed a standard by which the iniquities of his successors were to be measured, as of the man who caused Israel to sin. The manner in which he wrought this great evil now claims our attention : he felt, it appears, insecure in his newly acquired authority, so long as his subjects considered themselves under the religious obligation of going up, at the times commanded in the law of Moses, to worship at Jerusalem, the capital city of his rival. In order to escape from this disadvantage, he planned and executed the daring project of setting up for them objects of worship at home: he caused two calves to be made of gold, and placing one at Bethel in the south, and the other at Dan, the northern extremity of his land, he proclaimed to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem : behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. In thus acting, Jeroboam became guilty himself, and caused his people to become guilty, of the two grievous sins of schism and of idolatry : of schism, by a causeless separation from the assembly of the Jewish Church, and of idolatry, by renewing the worship of the golden calf, in the

very words of its first institution at Horeb, † with a strange forgetfulness of all the circumstances attending that transaction, which showed how deeply it had offended God. And this he did, not from any conscientious though mistaken preference for that form of worship more than any other, but from motives of mere worldly policy ; because he feared the reaction which might take place upon men's minds, if they were suffered to go up to Jerusalem, and be exposed to the arguments and solicitations of Rehoboam and

[ocr errors]

* 1 Kings xii. 28.

+ Exod. xxxii. 8.

his friends. Let us pray God that the Church of Christ may be protected from those who stir up strifes, and cause divisions within it, from motives no purer than these-whose practices are irregular, and whose aims selfish, and who make their gain of the deluded people whom they lead into sin.

Jeroboam, not contented with thus changing the object and the place of his country's worship, went on to introduce alterations also in its times, and the ministers who conducted it-establishing a solemn feast in the eighth month by his own authority, consecrating any one of the very lowest of the people to be priests, and himself exercising that office, by offering incense upon the altar at Bethel which he had made. It was while he was thus engaged, that a man of God from Judah pronounced in his presence the remarkable prophecy, which foretold that a king should hereafter arise out of the house of David, Josiah by name, who should slay the priests of these idolatrous high places, and defile the altar itself, by burning men's bones upon it. His authority to foretel these things was attested by the immediate performance of two miracles ; the king's hand, which had been stretched forth to seize him, was suddenly dried up, and the altar was rent asunder, and the ashes upon it poured forth. Jeroboam, astonished and alarmed at these strange occurrences, besought and obtained of the prophet the restoration of his hand; but was unsuccessful in an attempt to retain him to take refreshment in his palace, the commission of the man of God having been, to eat no bread nor drink water in Bethel, and to return to his own country by a different road. Yet, although this prophet of the Most High had resisted firmly both the anger and the favour of Jeroboam, he suffered himself to be beguiled from the steadfastness of his obedience, by the falsehood of a brother. An old prophet, dwelling in Bethel, per

suaded him that he had been authorized to bring him back to his house, and to give him that repast which the Lord had forbidden: an instance of culpable weakness which was speedily visited by a heavy punishment, denounced against him by his crafty entertainer, compelled to speak by the spirit of prophecy, and executed by a lion which met him on his homeward way and slew him. The old prophet, who could not but have been struck forcibly, and, we may humbly hope, beneficially to himself, by this manifest proof of the severity of God towards those who disregard his plain commandments, committed his body to his own grave, and enjoined his sons, that, when he died, they should lay his bones beside it, in confidence that the word which he had spoken against the altar in Bethel, and against all the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, would surely come to pass. From this history we may learn the danger of neglecting that which we know to be our duty, and of suffering any assertions or advice of man to weigh against the direct injunctions of our heavenly Lord. There are many self-appointed and ignorant men to be found, always ready to act as the guides of others; there are many of a worse description, who designedly lie in wait to deceive the unwary, who like the old prophet of Bethel, if it suits their purpose, will not scruple to lie unto us. If any such parties counsel things which are inconsistent with the doctrines of Scripture, as interpreted by the consent of Christ's universal Church, we are bound to reject them, and to pray

for

grace and light to maintain with understanding the purity of our faith, and the integrity of our practice. "Believe not every spirit,” says St. John; “ but try the spirits, whether they are of God."*

The course of the history now leads us back to the

* 1 John iv. 1.

« PreviousContinue »