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must sit down in a humble submission ; our struggling may aggravate, cannot redress our miseries.
JEROBOAM. As there was no public and universal conflict betwixt the ten tribes and the two, so no peace. Either king found reason to fortify the borders of his own territories. Shechem was worthy to be dear to Jeroboam; a city, as of old, seasoned with many treasons, so now auspicious to his new usurpation. The civil defection was soon followed by the spiritual. As there are near respects betwixt God and his anointed, so there is great affinity betwixt treason and idolatry; there is a connexion betwixt “fear God” and “honour the king ;" and no less betwixt the neglects of both. In vain shall a man look for faith in an irreligious heart.
Next to Ahithophel, I do not find that Israel yielded a craftier head than Jeroboam’s: so hath he plotted this conspiracy, that, whatever fall, there is no place for challenge; not his own intrusion, but Israel's election hath raised him to their throne: neither is his cunning less in holding a stolen sceptre. Thus he thinks in himself; If Israel have made me their king, it is but a pang of discontentment; these violent thoughts will not last always; sudden fits have commonly sudden recoveries; their return to their loyalty shall forfeit my head, together with my crown; they cannot return to God, and hold off from their lawful sovereign; they cannot return to Jerusalem, and keep off from God, from their loyalty ; thrice a year will their devotion call them up thither, besides the exigence of their frequent vows; how can they be mine, while that glorious temple is in their eye, while the magnificence of the royal palace of David and Solomon shall admonish them of their native allegiance ; while, besides the solicitation of their brethren, the priests and Levites shall preach to
them the necessity of their due obedience, and the abomination of their sacrifices in their wilful disobedience; while they shall, by their presence, put themselves upon the mercy, or justice, of their lawful and forsaken prince? Either, therefore, I must divert them from Jerusalem, or else I cannot live and reign ; it is no diverting them by a direct restraint; such prohibition would both endanger their utter distaste, and whet their desire to more eagerness: I may change religion, I may not inhibit it. So the people have a God, it sufficeth them; they shall have so much formality as may content them : their zeal is not so sharp but they can be well pleased with
I will proffer them both a more compendious, and more plausible worship ; Jerusalem shall be supplied within mine own borders. Naturally men love to see the objects of their devotion; I will therefore feed their eyes with two golden representations of their God, nearer home: and what can be more proper, than those which Aaron devised of old to humour Israel ?
Upon this pestilent ground, Jeroboam sets up two calves in Dan and Bethel, and persuades the people, “ It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem ; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” Oh the mischief that comes of wicked infidelity! It was God's prophet that had rent Jeroboam’s garment into twelve pieces, and had given ten of them to him, in token of his sharing the ten tribes; who, with the same breath also, told
him, that the cause of this distraction was their idolatry. Yet now will he institute an idolatrous service for the holding together of them, whom their idolatry had rent from their true sovereign to him. He says not, God hath promised me this kingdom; God hath conferred it; God shall find means to maintain his own act; I will obey him, let him dispose of me. The God of Israel is wise and powerful enough to fetch about his own designs : but, as if the devices of men were stronger than God's providence and ordination, he will be working out his own ends by profane policies. Jeroboam being born an Israelite, and bred in the court of a Solomon, could not but know the express charge of God against the making of images, against the erecting of any rival altars to that of Jerusalem; yet now, that he sees both these may avail much to the advancing of his ambitious project, he sets up those images, those altars. Wicked men care not to make bold with God, in cases of their own commodity. If the laws of their Maker lie in the way of their profit or promotion, they either spurn them out, or tread upon them at pleasure. Aspiring minds will know no God but honour. İsrael sojourned in Egypt, and brought home a golden calf; Jeroboam sojourns there, and brought home two: it is hard to dwell in Egypt untainted. Not to savour of the sins of the place we live in, is no less strange than for wholesome liquor, tunned up in a musty vessel, not to smell of the cask. The best body may be infected in a contagious air. Let him beware of Egypt that would be free from idolatry.
No sooner are Jeroboam's calves up, than Israel is down on their knees : their worship follows immediately upon the erection. How easily is the unstable vulgar carried into whatsoever religion of authority! The weather-cock will look which way soever the wind blows: it is no marvel if his subjects be brutish, who hath made a calf his god.
Every accessary to sin is filthy, but the first authors of sin are abominable. How is Jeroboam branded in every of these sacred leaves! How do all ages ring of his fact, with the accent of dishonour and indignation! “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, that made Israel to sin.” It was a shame for Israel that it could be made to sin by a Jeroboam: but, О cursed name of Jeroboam, that would draw Israel to sin. The followers and abettors of evil are worthy of torment, but no hell is too deep for the leaders of public wickedness.
Religion is clothed with many requisite circumstances. As a new king would have a new god, so that new god must have new temples, altars, services, priests, solemnities : all these hath Jeroboam instituted ; all these hath he cast in the same mould with his golden calves. False devotion doth not more cross than imitate the true. Satan is no less a counterfeit than an enemy of God; he knows it more easy to adulterate religion than to abolish it.
That which God ordained, for the avoidance of idolatry, is made the occasion of it; a limitation of his holy services to Jerusalem. How mischievously do wicked men pervert the wholesome institutions of God to their sin, to their bane !
Jeroboam could not be ignorant, how fearfully this very act was revenged upon Israel in the wilderness ; yet he dares renew it in Dan and Bethel. No example of judgment can affright wilful offenders.
It is not the metal that makes their gods, but the worship, the sacrifices. What sacrifices could there be without priests? No religion could ever want sacred masters of divine ceremonies: God's clergy was select and honourable, branches of the holy stem of Aaron ; Jeroboam rakes up his priests out of the channel of the multitude; all tribes, all persons were good enough for his spurious devotion. Leaden priests are well fitted to golden deities. Religion receives either much honour or blemish by the quality of those that serve at her altars. We are not worthy to profess ourselves servants of the true God, if we do not hold his service worthy of the best.
Jeroboam's calves must have sacrifices, must have solemn festivities, though in a day and month of his own devising. In vain shall we pretend to worship a god, if we grudge him the just days and rites of his worship
It is strange that he who thought the dregs of the vulgar good enough for that priesthood, would grace those gods by acting their priest himself; and yet,
behold, where the new king of Israel stands before his new altar, with a sceptre in one hand and a censer in the other, ready to sacrifice to his new gods, when the man of God comes from Judah with a message of judgment! Oh desperate condition of Israel, that was so far gone with impiety that it yielded not one faithful monitor to Jeroboam! The time was, that the erecting of but a new altar, for memory, for monument, on the other side of Jordan, bred a challenge to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh ; and had cost much Israelitish blood, if the quarrelled tribes had not given a seasonable and pious satisfaction : and now, lo, how the stronger stomach of degenerated Israel can digest new altars, new temples, new gods! What a difference there is betwixt a church and kingdom newly breathing from affliction, and settled upon the lees of a misused peace!
But, oh the patience and mercy of our long-suffering God, that will not strike a very Jeroboam unwarned! Judgment hovers over the heads of sinners ere it light. If Israel afford not a bold reprover of Jeroboam, Judah shall. When the king of Israel is in all the height both of his state and superstition, honouring his solemn day with his richest devotion, steps forth a prophet of God, and interrupts that glorious service with a loud inclamation of judgment. Doubtless the man wanted not wit to know what displeasure, what danger must needs follow so unwelcome a message ; yet dares he, upon the commission of God, do this affront to an idolatrous
king, in the midst of all his awful magnificence. The prophets of God go upon many a thankless errand. He is no messenger for God that either knows or fears the faces of men.
It was the altar, not the person of Jeroboam, which the prophet thus threatens; yet not the stones are stricken, but the founder, in both their apprehensions. So dear are the devices of our own brains to us, as if