« AnteriorContinuar »
religious feelings, and produced a tendency to the indulgence of gross and even savage passions. He therefore forbade it utterly, in every shape and under every pretence. This positive command the people transgressed under Aaron; the transgression was repeated by Jeroboam, so that the wrath of the Almighty was heavily kindled against him.
Nevertheless, the worshippers of Baal, and of the numerous and most inappropriate objects, selected by heathens for religious reverence, no doubt were guilty of a still more heinous sin. For they openly cast off even the shadow of allegiance to the Almighty. They devoted themselves to the service of the impure beings, before whom the nations of the world fell down ; and not only outraged the sovereignty of Jehovah by acknowledging for divinities the bad
human beings, the beasts of the field and even inanimate objects, however useful and glorious in themselves; but they violated the laws, which He solemnly prescribed to their moral observance, by conforming to those unhallowed and cruel rites, which heathen superstition sanctioned and enjoined. “ They shed innocent blood; yea, they offered their sons and daughters unto devils.”
In these respects then the crime committed by the worshippers of Baal was more unpardonable than of those, who set up and worshipped the golden calves; and accordingly a distinction appears to be made in the punishment, which was apportioned to the one and the other. Yet, inasmuch as both proceeded from a disregard of God's solemn commands; as the one only carried to a still greater extent the spirit of disobedience and irreligion, by which the other had been prompted; Jeroboam could scarcely hope to escape the penalty, to which in an evil hour he had subjected himself. Accordingly, the Divine will respecting him is thus declared in the chapter succeeding that, in which we are now engaged. The same Ahijah, who had foretold his elevation, was instructed likewise to announce the calamities impending over his whole house. “ Behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam. ... Arise thou therefore”—said the holy man to the wife of Jeroboam, who had visited him in anxious inquiry after the fate of her sick child—“arise thou, get to thine own house : and when thy feet enter the city, the child shall die."
Moreover, another prophet, as we learn from the text, was specially commissioned to announce the defilement and overthrow of that altar, which was erected at Beth-el before the molten image, so presumptuously set up by the infatuated monarch. “He cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born to 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.” b
Now the prophecy, thus uttered against the altar, which announced that it should be subjected to that species of defilement, which was regarded with the
a 1 Kings, xiv, 10, &c.
b Ib. xiii. 2.
greatest horror; namely, that the bones of dead men should be burned upon it; was literally accomplished. The circumstances, under which it was accomplished, are detailed in the twenty-third chapter of the second book of Kings; and they certainly offer to our consideration one of the most extraordinary predictions of Holy Writ, recorded with so much accuracy, yet with such entire absence of all appearance of design or interpolation, as to challenge the minutest inquiry, yet warrant implicit belief. The fulfilment of the prophecy, contained in the chapter before us, took place no less than 340 years after the prophecy was delivered, and is described in these words. “ Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the
grove. And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar and polluted it; according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el. And he said, Let him alone ; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.” a
a 2 Kings, xxiii. 15-18.
Thus far the narrative, connected with our text, is clear, consistent, and intelligible. It is such as completely to satisfy our understandings, while it is calculated to increase our faith. But in the subsequent parts of the same narrative are some particulars, for which we do not feel ourselves so well able to account; and which may have occasioned no little perplexity to well-disposed minds. The question is, Whether these or similar difficulties, which may be found in some parts of the sacred books, can furnish any reasonable ground for hesitation as to those parts, which are confessedly clear of any such difficulty ? Whether, in fact, some difficulties might not be expected to arise from the very nature of the transactions; and from the time and manner, in which they must needs have been recorded ? These tions are well worthy our attentive consideration.
And here we must recollect that the language, in which these books were written, is certainly the most ancient of any, in which any books are extant, or perhaps, ever were composed. Its inartificial structure, and the small number of words to which it is. confined, are often the occasion of grammatical difficulties. The very different state of opinions and manners, to which they refer ; the very glowing and figurative style, in which they are penned ; add not a little to other sources of embarrassment. Besides this, the prodigious antiquity of these writings, and the many hands through which they must have passed before the invention of printing; although they were undoubtedly preserved with singular care and fidelity; yet prevent the absolute certainty that we have, in
every instance, the exact words of the inspired writer. So that we may not be able to understand some passages, because we cannot ascertain the precise meaning of the original words; and in others, we cannot be sure that the original words themselves have been duly recorded. Then, one great cause of difficulty runs through the whole of the Sacred Volume. It does, what no other set of books ever did, or can do ; it sets before us the proceedings of the Almighty, and the communications He has been pleased to make of His will ; so that it intermingles with the ordinary transactions of man the extraordinary interposition and preternatural agency of God. From these various and singular causes, we ought not to feel surprise at the statement of some circumstances, for which we cannot account; the introduction of some expressions, which we cannot explain ; and the agency of some characters, whose conduct we may not approve.
This last is the cause of that perplexity which, as I just observed, has been caused by some of the occurrences detailed in the concluding part of this chapter. It seems therefore to call for further inquiry.
In events, which are recorded in history, and which
pass before our own eyes, we remark that the designs of Providence are brought about through the agency even of bad passions; and this does not surprise us, because we see only the event, and the immediate means, by which it is accomplished. But in perusing Scripture, the effect upon our minds is different; because we are there permitted to know