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1. Such a phraseology most effectually embraces the body of a nation. Indeed, whatever may be the civil, the moral, or the religious condition, it at once fixes the mind on the broad surface of human society all over the world. The proportion of individuals who sustain neither of these relations is comparatively insignificant, while nearly the whole of human existence in this world is also embraced by the terms employed. How short, in almost all instances, is the period in which man sustains neither of these endearing relations ! Supposing a man to be miserable first as a child, in consequence of the misconduct of his parents, and then miserable as a parent, in consequence of the misconduct of his children, and with him what a small proportion of the wick of life's
shallow lamp' has burned brightly! Such a man may be said, never to have eaten with pleasure;' for so small is the space which you have left him to enjoy, that you may almost close the account by adding—"all his days are sorrow, and his travail grief.”
2. The terms employed by Malachi have the advantage of presenting the individuals of any, or of every nation, and especially the Jewish people at that period, in one of the most affecting and solemn points of view.
Fathers' and children,' are terms which remind us, not of consanguinity only, but of different periods in human existence : the former, now descending into the vale of years, are followed by the latter, all joyous and sportive, in the morning of their days; the sun which is rising on the one party, is now declining or setting on the other. This, too, is the generation going away, and the generation coming, between whom there exist connections of the most serious and important nature. eration who ought to be distinguished for hearts of tenderness and for grey experience ; who, after having trod
It is the gen
den the greater part of this weary pilgrimage, are going away'-away to meet their Judge : and it is the generation following after them, in the same solemn path.
66 As one
3. This division of a whole population may be said to enter most effectually into the heart of human society.
Not that society is uninterested in the other ties by which it is held together, and by which it may be described. Any measure which would generally or universally affect masters and servants not living under the same roof, or the governor and the governed in the same kingdom, must both engage and engross the public mind; but never can you so effectually penetrate into the whole economy of man, as by touching the hearts of both parents and children in a land. There is something at once so tender and so powerful in this relation, that, with only one exception, all others are weak in comparison. An appeal to this is irresistible. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you, saith Jehovah, and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” “He only is left of his mother,” said Judah, “and his fathér loveth him.” Joseph might make himself strange to his brethren, and answer roughly too; but what could he say
to this? That the terms employed by the prophet are intended to reach the core of moral disease, may be seen in a very striking and melancholy point of view, if a nation is supposed to be in a state of degeneracy; for Malachi intends to mark a period of great and general degeneracy, and stronger terms he could not employ. It has been said,
When nations are to perish in their sins,
'Tis in the church the leprosy begins. Let this be granted; still there is a previous question. How did this leprosy commence in the church? The
church comes in contact with families ; and from the bosom of those families has come the leprosy which primarily infects the church, and thus ultimately destroys the nation. As repentance and reformation in a community is found to originate with some one individual ; so, did we know all, degeneracy in the church, and the torrent of immorality in a nation, might be traced to the bosom of a single family. Nor is this necessary : let only one parent relax and neglect his duty, and his example be followed, then all the powers of legislation, and all the precepts of Christianity, are in vain. The alienation, or even carelessness of the parent heart, much more the dissolution of the domestic tie, constitutes the most hopeless of all conditions : a nation cannot sink lower; for it marks the lowest step of human depravity, and just precedes the eventful moment, when God himself 66 smites the land with a
Modern times have furnished us with some dreadful illustrations. France was precisely in this state before the Revolution ; and as this fretting leprosy still infests that fine country, one cannot help anticipating an evil day, which if the “hearts of the fathers are not turned to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers," must and will arrive. In ancient times also the fate of Sodom and the cities of the plain is awfully illustrative. Their signal overthrow may be distinctly traced to the want of family government: so, before that awful catastrophe, we find the Almighty on his way to the sad scene, calls for Abraham, saying, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him ? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that
which he hath spoken of him.” What was this, if it was not saying in effect, “For I know Abraham, that he will act very differently from the men of Sodom, or even Lot himself, though he is not above the necessity of being confirmed in his principles ?”
In the days of the Messiah, however, the state of Judea was much more melancholy than that of even these wicked cities. Under the energy of the means he employed, Tyre and Sidon would have repented, and Sodom itself remained. It was not merely that the tabernacle of David was fallen down, and in ruins ; not merely that the sceptre was departed from Judah, and a Lawgiver from between his feet : it was not that Augustus had gained the sovereignty of the world, or that Herod under him, a mere tributary king, and he not a Jew, should reign in Jerusalem ; nor that this ancient people should have even to pay for the privilege of such a servitude. Time there was, indeed, when the only capitation they knew, was the atonement-money of half a shekel, a ransom for their souls unto Jehovah their King; but now their very
heads are not their own, and the tribute must be paid to a foreign human power: yet none of these things sufficiently depict the sunk and degraded condition of Judea ; no, it was their procuring cause which constituted the most melancholy feature of the nation's character.
Had they maintained allegiance firm and sure,
Against the corruption of divine truth, therefore, we see the energies of John and the ministry of Jesus first directed. A direct repeal of the law of God, by the
authority of the professed teachers of religion, was sufficient to account for all the misery which they then endured; and it is worthy of notice, that when the Saviour meant to substantiate this charge, he did so by a reference nearly akin to the subject before us : do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition ? For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother : and He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honor not his father and his mother, he shall be free;" or, as Tyndal translates, “ But ye say every man shall say to his father or mother, that which thou desirest of me to help thee with is given to God; and so shall he not honor his father or mother." Such traditions may seem to us scarcely credible, but by this period, among the Jews, they had become numerous. As a specimen, take the following: “A man may be so bound by vows, that he cannot, without great sin, do what God had by his law required to be done; so that, if he made a vow, which laid him under a necessity to violate God's law that he might observe it, his vow must stand, and the law be abrogated."*
Before, however, visiting this nation, at any period, and when judgment began to mend her pace, it had been the custom of the Lord to raise up a monitor; and so he
Elias must first come, and restore all things, as far as faithful teaching and solemn warning could do so. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord : and he shall turn the heart of the fathers unto the children, and the heart of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
Jewish canon, from Pocock.