Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

which has been alleged as contrary to all ideas of the Divine rectitude by objectors, who seem to have forgotten that in earthquakes also, and in famines, and in pestilences, the Deity sees fit to let unoffending infancy be involved in the common desolation * ; and that a future life affords ample scope for the complete discrimination between innocence and guilt. The employment of the Israelites as ministers to execute the Divine vengeance was calculated to impress them with a deep conviction of the enormity of the sins of their predecessors in the land; and with an aweful recollection that the same punishment was already denounced against themselves, if they should fall into similar transgressions.

Joshua, now far advanced in years, and deeply solicitous for the perseverance of his countrymen in true religion, assembled the twelve tribes of Israel to hear his last instructions. He recounted the wonders which God had wrought for them in Egypt, in the Wilderness, and in the land of Canaan, notwithstanding their many provocations; pointed out the punctual accomplishment of every one of the Divine promises : and having declared beforehand the stedfast determination of himself and his family to remain faithful servants of the Lord, received from the whole congregation a similar assurance repeated in the most solemn terms. He then dismissed the people, every man to his inheritance; and shortly afterwards died.

During the lifetime of the elders, who had been contemporaries with Joshua, the Israelites continued true to their engagement. The following generation gave themselves up to idolatry. For the space of

* See Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible, 3d edition,

p. 14, &c.

about three hundred years from the death of Joshua, the history of the Jews exhibits a constant succession of idolatrous revolts from God, punished by captivity under the hand of the neighbouring nations; and of deliverances mercifully vouchsafed to them, when distress and anguish drove them to repentance. During this period they were governed, when free from a foreign yoke, by magistrates denominated Judges; who were, in general, the persons by whose hand the Supreme Being had rescued them from the power of their oppressors. The judge was not regarded as the head of the nation, occupying a station similar to that filled by kings or other chief magistrates in modern times. That station was considered as filled by God himself. Thus, when “ the men of Israel said unto Gideon,” their judge, 66 Rule thou over us; both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also ; for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian : Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you." * At length, in the latter days of Samuel, who had long been their judge, and somewhat less than eleven hundred years before the Christian era, the people clamorously insisted on having, like other nations, a king to govern them. The Supreme Being testified his displeasure at this act of rebellious ingratitude: “ They have rejected me, that I should not reign over them t;" but he commanded Samuel to anoint a king over them, conformably to their desire. Samuel accordingly assembled the tribes; and having set before them their baseness in renouncing the immediate sovereignty of God; and having forewarned them, according to the directions which he had previously received from the Almighty, of the * Judges, viii. 22, 23.

f 1 Sam. viii. 7.

chastisements which they must expect from Divine Justice through the instrumentality of kings resembling their subjects in wickedness * ; he yielded to the determination in which they still resolutely persisted. Saul, the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, was selected by the designation of Heaven to be king of Israel: and the continuance of the Divine protection and favor was promised to the sovereign and the people on the condition of their fidelity to the worship and the laws of God.

The obedience of Saul was exercised by two specific trials. In both of them he failed: breaking the positive commandment of God, in the first, through impatience and distrust t; in the second, through fear of giving offence to the people. I Samuel was, in consequence, commanded to inform Saul that the sceptre should not continue in his family ; and to anoint David, the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, to be the successor to the throne. David, signalised soon afterwards by his miraculous victory over Goliath, and held in the highest estimation by the people, on account of the wisdom of his conduct, preserved his life with difficulty, during many years, from the persecuting jealousy of Saul. On the death of that monarch, after a reign of forty years, in battle against the Philistines, he went up to Hebron, as God directed him, and was there crowned king of the tribe of Judah. And after seven years of war with the house of Saul, he ascended the throne of all Israel.

One of the earliest actions of his reign over the twelve tribes was to acquire complete possession of the city of Jerusalem, by forcibly dislodging the Jebu

非 *

1 Sam. viii. 10–19. t i Sam. xii, 8–13.

x. 19. xii. 12.

# 1 Sam. xv. 1-24.

66

a

man

sites, the old inhabitants of the land, from the fortress of Zion, which they had hitherto retained. This city he enlarged and beautified, and made it his capital; and finally brought thither the Ark of God. For its reception he proposed to build a sumptuous temple. The Supreme Being graciously accepted the piety of the intention ; but forbade the king to execute the undertaking, in consequence of his having necessarily shed much blood in the wars in which he had been engaged. * This prohibition, however, was accompanied with many glorious promises to David and his family ; and with an assurance that one of the sons of David, who should inherit the throne, and be

of rest,” should erect the temple. For the magnificence of this future structure, David made the most ample preparations; and previously to his death solemnly charged his son and successor, Solomon, to devote himself to the work, and to complete it, under the Divine protection, in a manner worthy of the sacred purpose for which it was designed.

The character and conduct of David, with the exception of certain well-known instances of most flagrant criminality, which were followed by public and exemplary punishment from God, and by the deepest anguish and repentance on the part of the offender, were distinguished by holiness and virtue. He was free, and preserved his people free, from the slightest taint of idolatry. His confidence in his Maker was unshaken. To his enemies he was placable, to his friends singularly affectionate. His Psalms, whether they describe the glory and majesty of God; pour forth supplications for his favour; return the effusions of gratitude for mercies received; breathe sorrow and humiliation for sins, general and particular ; or prophetically describe the office and future sufferings of the Messiah, ordained to descend from the family of David; are models of ardent devotion, and will continue to the end of the world to exalt the piety and gladden the bosoms of those, who labour to imitate the righteousness of David, “the man after God's own heart.”* This phrase, the meaning of which has sometimes been profanely misrepresented, as though the Supreme Being regarded with indifference the heinous transgressions into which David was occasionally betrayed, refers to the earnest and prevailing desire of David faithfully to serve God, and his unfeigned contrition when he was ensnared into guilt. It seems also to allude particularly to his utter abhorrence of idolatry.+

* i Chron. xxii. 8.

Solomon, surrounded with peace and prosperity, and endued from above with that wisdom which he had justly preferred to every worldly possession, immediately on his accession began to erect the Temple ; and he finished it in less than eight years. After

事。

* Acts, xiii. 22.

† So God, by the mouth of the prophet Ahijah, said to Jeroboam ;

“ Thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes. But thou hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods and molten images to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back.” i Kings, xiv. 8, 9. And of Solomon it is said, that when he was old “his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” i Kings, xi. 4. The phrase, a heart “perfect” or “ not perfect,” and other equivalent expressions, are frequently used in the Scriptures to characterise the conduct of subsequent kings of Israel respecting idolatry. See 1 Kings, xv. 3. 11. 14. 2 Kings, x. 31. 2 Chron. xxii. 9. 2. 14, &c. xxxi. 1. 3.

XXV.

« AnteriorContinua »