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“ And when the prophet that brought him back from the
way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord : therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto him.”
It has sometimes been demanded by persons of an infidel turn of mind, what can be to us the benefit of many of the stories, which are recorded in the Old Testament, and are read in the service of our church ?* To such questions it may be replied, that these narratives are generally intended to set before us, by instances connected with real life, the excellence of piety, and the folly of disobedience : God Himself condescending for this purpose to open to us in some measure the
* This chapter is appointed for the first lesson in the morning service of the eighth Sunday after Trinity
of His Providence, and to explain His dealings with mankind. In this view the history of the Old Testament is of peculiar importance; and the devout mind will learn to turn it to its proper account, and receive its instruction with becoming reverence.
There is no part of the Scriptures which was not dictated under the influence of the Holy Spirit; and there is none, therefore, which, if it be read and considered with a humble desire to receive benefit from the perusal, can fail to be profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness : the whole tends to the same great object, the promotion of practical piety; and each part in its relation to the whole, is calculated to be subservient to the same design, viz. that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. In discoursing upon these words, it
be useful to attend
I. TO THE NARRATIVE CONNECTED WITH
II. TO ITS PRACTICAL USES.
desire to profit by them, will serve a higher purpose than to gratify our curiosity; it will tend by the divine blessing to show us the obligation, which is laid upon ourselves, of entire and unreserved obedience to the commandments of God.
I. The narrative informs us of the mission of a person from Judah to Bethel, to testify against the conduct of Jeroboam ; of the manner in which he executed his commission; and of the judgment which befell him.
(1.) In adverting to the description and character of this man, we find that he is represented, through the whole of this chapter, as a MAN of God. The exact meaning of these words, it perhaps may not be easy to define: on this occasion he came charged by the Almighty with a particular commission, and was thus far at least under the guidance of the Holy Spirit : it is probable also that he was distinguished from his countrymen by his general character, and was more immediately engaged in the service of the Lord. We are not, perhaps, necessarily to conclude from either of these circumstances, that he was a man of eminent piety; the gift of prophecy on special occasions, was sometimes bestowed upon persons, who in this respect were very different from Daniel or Isaiah ; but there are circumstances in the conduct of this prophet, which would lead us to the more charitable opinion concerning his character; and we shall probably be correct in considering him, notwithstanding his deviation in one instance from the divine command, as possessing the fear of God. For
(2.) It is evident from the narrative, that he entered upon his dangerous mission with much courage.
He did not, like Jonah, when commanded to preach to the Ninevites, abandon his duty; he went, although at the hazard not of his reputation merely, but even of his life, to bear a public witness against the idolatry of the people of Israel, and to announce the divine indignation. Had he suffered himself to be influenced by considerations of worldly prudence, he would scarcely have ventured to proceed upon such an errand, into the presence of such a ruler as Jeroboam; but so far was he from being deterred by personal motives, that he delivers his charge in decisive terms. He might have thought it more safe to speak in private to the king, and especially to select a
moment when he was not occupied in his idolatrous worship: on the contrary, he testifies aloud before the people, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. It might have been less offensive to the pride of this ruler, if the prophet had addressed his words personally to himself: but the man of God turns from him to the altar; as if the very stones which formed it, were likely to listen with more reverence to his declarations, than either the king or his subjects. Jeroboam was exasperated at his conduct, and it was only by a miracle that the prophet escaped the effects of his indignation.
(3.) Neither was he less remarkable for his faith.
This appears from several circumstances connected with the story. Had he not believed the word of the Lord, he would have hesitated to proceed upon his journey: his conviction of its truth is strongly manifested by the striking terms in which he cried out to the altar, and by the sign which he announced as immediately to happen, in confirmation of his statement; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. * The