Page images
PDF
EPUB

lived are simply glanced at, it is presumed the reader cannot fail to admire the sagacity and the tender parental feeling of this Father: a sagacity and deep concern, by which, in connection with the knowledge and worship of the true God, he infused a degree of moral power into the constitution of his family such as in the history of man has probably never been surpassed, if equalled. Change of circumstances unquestionably call for change of counsel; but still, in his case, with a family at command, let us not fail to remark what parental counsel can do.

This eminent man lived at a period when various important prophecies had been left by Elijah, like so many thunder-clouds, to burst upon Israel after he was gone; and, from the vicinity of Jonadab's residence, as well as his general character, it may be fairly presumed, that if he was not present when the grand question was decided between Baal and the true God, about twenty years before this, and if he had not often conversed with Elijah, he surely had with Elisha, who was then living. Another contemporary of Jonadab's was Jehu, a character of a very different description, but still, of all the monarchs who reigned in Israel, he was the only one who was ever anointed by the commandment of God. A divine sanction was thus given to this monarch; for, when a man was so anointed, it always implied that he was raised up for a special purpose. For one hundred years, and particularly since the days of Jeroboam, idolatry had been awfully on the advance : Jehu was therefore anointed to destroy it, which perfectly accounts for Jonadab saying that his heart was with Jehu's in such a design. The first meeting of these two men is drawn with that point and beauty by which the Scriptures are distinguished above all human composition.* No sooner was Jehu anointed king than he became the instrument of accomplishing the predic

* 2 Kings X.,

1-28.

says he,

tions of Elijah, now gone, and particularly two judgments of the Almighty, the death of Ahab's posterity, and the destruction of Baal, with all his prophets. The steps of Jehu had been marked with blood wherever he went : all whom he met, or who had met with him, fell before his sword, or were ordered to go behind him—but when Jonadab comes out to meet him, his whole deportment is changed. So superior is moral worth to mere rank, that, in some sense, Jehu appears to be the inferior of the two He first inquires after Jonadab's sentiments, then takes his hand in solemn covenant, and at last, like the primeminister of Candace, who invited Philip into his chariot, having seated Jonadab by his side, he seems evidently elated by the sanction of such a character.

« Come,” see my zeal for Jehovah.” Jonadab being thus driven to the king's palace at Samaria, he was present, and concurred in the destruction of Baal and his temple, with all his prophets. Such a scene was surely not to be concealed from his family at home; and so it seems it was not ; for, in perfect harmony with this spirit, one is now delighted to find, at the distance of nearly three hundred years, additional light thrown on his character, and to find especially that he paid such attention to the welfare and continuance of his family. Hence the general consistency of his character as a good man; for the man who is consistent in his family is consistent everywhere, and almost in everything.

It is, however, obvious that the counsels of Jonadab seemed to encroach on the natural liberty of his Children; for what law of either God or man has forbidden the use of wine, the planting of vineyards, or the building of houses ? Surrounded as they were, too, by the wine of Lebanon, and the wine of Helbon, and the grapes of Eschol; dwelling in a land celebrated for its “ wine,” his counsels must have seemed the more severe.

corn and

nay,

But if the snares and temptations of his day were peculiar, and if he saw that such restrictions were called for, on the principle of giving up a part to secure the whole;

if he saw that city-life, or a permanent abode under the vine or fig-tree, and the use of wine, were associated with such snares in Israel, as in those times would ineva itably lead his Children not only into idolatry, but idolatrous vices, then his character was as eminent for sagacity and forethought, as it was for parental care and kindness.

Now, in his day, and after it, what was the actual course of events in Israel. There is a progress in sin, and though, when Jonadab lived, he saw it necessary to be thus strict, his advice and commands were given under an impression, that the people among whom they dwelt might wax worse and worse. Accordingly, about ninety or a hundred years afterwards, by the time of Hosea, we hear the Almighty threatening to “take away the corn, and the wine, and oil,” because they did not know or acknowledge Him in these his gifts; and no wonder, for then they “ looked to other gods and loved flagons of wine.” A contemporary prophet, Amos, says, “ Ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them :" and why? Because they were at ease in Zion, and trusted or dwelt securely on the mountain of Samaria. “ They lay,” he says, “upon beds of ivory, and stretched themselves on couches; they drank wine in bowls, and anointed themselves with the finest perfumes." If such were their family habits, their professed religious services were of a kindred nature ; since “they drank the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.Such a course was not likely here to stop. By the time of Isaiah, therefore, the scene

was awful. “ They have erred,” said he, “through wine and through

strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine ; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.” The very next year after this, Judah being now equally corrupt with Israel, we hear king Ahaz saying, "Because the gods of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me,”—so “he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem, and in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods.” And now, that we come down to Jeremiah, the course of degeneracy is complete. “Where are thy gods that thou hast made ?he inquired; “ let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of trouble : for according to the number of thy cities are shy gods, O Judah. Seest thou now," said Jehovah, “ what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem ? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”

The counsels of Jonadab must now appear in their proper light. No such Parent would have imposed such restrictions on his posterity without some powerful reason ; but if the whole are thus proved to bear on idolatrous customs, or upon indulgences, which in such time generally and inevitably led to idolatry, and if, by following these counsels, Jonadab's posterity had been so far preserved, there is a peculiar propriety in their being now brought forward, not only as examples of filial obedience, but to condemn Judah before being banished to Babylon for these very sins-idolatry, and licentiousness its invariable associate.

The commands of Jonadab have, it is true, been accounted for on other principles. I am perfectly aware of

among the

the abhorrence of wine professed by the Arabian tribes, a feeling of which Mohammed availed himself sixteen hundred years after the time of Jonadab : and I do not forget the words of an ancient historian, so similar to those of Jonadab, when describing the Arabians. But the Kenites, of which the Rechabites formed a family, were not, properly speaking, Arabians, and for ages had lived in cities in the south of Judah, and “ people.” No, the counsels of Jonadab originated with himself, and his posterity referred to him and no higher, not even to Rechab his Father. By Jonadab they were first delivered as imperative, regarding them, without doubt, as so many preservatives against that idolatry to which he was himself, from principle, so much exposed.

And however unnecessary the letter of this good man's family-precepts may at first reading seem to us, their spirit and design may convey solid instruction to the Parents of any age. The only safeguard in licentious times is self-denial, and if lawful enjoyments are not then restricted, the bent of our nature will hurry us into sinful compliances. The precise point between lawful pleasures and reigning vice is like a boundary bewteen two kingdoms always at war with each other. Weak, then, and sinful as we all are, is it not most prudent to leave some space between, and not venture too far? This was the policy of Jonadab, and see the effects! His family continues through successive generations, and free from many things which bloated and defiled the professed and priv

* " Their laws prohibit the sowing of corn, or anything else that bears fruit, the planting of trees or vines, the drinking of wine, and the building of houses; and the transgression of them is punished capitally. The reason is, their thinking that those who are possessed of such property can be easily forced to submit to the authority of their more powerful brethren.”—Diodorus Siculus, book xix. 94.

« PreviousContinue »