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have displeased his people, and alienated their af fections from him. But by instituting idolatry, which was a corruption of true religion, he exactly hit the ruling passion of the children of Israel, who were perpetually fond of the idols of the heathens, and took the most artful and effectual method to wean them from the house and worship of the true God in Jerusalem.
2. He appointed new times as well as new places of public worship. These two measures were intimately connected, and calculated to render each other the more effectual. To change the days as well as the places of religious worship, had a direct tendency to distinguish Israel from Judah, and to draw a lasting line of separation between the two kingdoms. His policy clearly appears in what the sacred historian says concerning his appointment of new holy days. “And he made an house of high places, and ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah.” The general similarity between this religious festival and that of divine institution, was designed to favour the customs and habits of the people, which could not be easily and safely disturbed; while the dissimilarity of the month and of the day of the month, would answer all his
purposes, without raising the least opposition to the measure. These two steps suggested another, and naturally led him,
3. To make new appointments to office. As his
darling object was to corrupt and destroy the true religion, so he discarded the regular and faithful priests of the Lord, and appointed others to supply their place, who were attached to his person and cause, though of the vilest character and of the meanest condition. It is repeatedly said, “He made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” And it is added, “ This thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” It was a profane and presumptuous act in Jeroboam to despise and reject those whom God himself had appointed to minister in holy things; and it deserved the severest marks of the divine displeasure. This he knew; but he was resolved to shake every sacred as well as .civil officer from his seat, rather than to lose his own. We are not, indeed, informed whom he appointed to stand around his person, and assist him in the administration of government; but who can doubt whether he did not display the same corruption of heart in appointing the officers of state which he had displayed in appointing the officers of religion? He sought nothing but his own interest; and this required him to raise such men to places of power and influence, both in church and state, as would heartily approve and promote his design of spreading religious error and delusion through all the tribes of Israel. These were the public measures which
he employed “ to drive Israel from following the Lord." But it must be further observed,
4. That he enforced these measures by all the weight and influence of his own example. It appears, from his character and conduct in early life, that he possessed, in a high degree, the art of captivating and corrupting all sorts of people with whom he conversed. “And when he was clothed with the ensigns of royalty, his power and oppor: tunity of corrupting his subjects greatly increased. He became the standard of taste, and the model of imitation. His sentiments and manners became a living law to his subjects. In his familiar intercourse with all around him, he undoubtedly seized those soft moments, which were the most favourable to his malignant design of seduction. This he could do without departing from the dignity of his station; but it appears that he did more than this, and even stooped to mingle with the priests, and “to burn incense upon the altars of the golden gods of his own making.” He was such an apostate from the true religion, and such a bigot to idolatry, that he esteemed nothing too low, nor too mean to be done, that would serve to eradicate every moral and religious principle from the minds of the people. Hence it is natural to conclude, that he did more " to drive Israel from following the Lord,” by his personal example, than by all the other methods he employed for that impious purpose. And, indeed, his exam
ple is oftener mentioned than any thing else, as the fatal cause of corrupting and destroying the people whom he governed. High and low, rich and poor, princes and people, are said “ to walk in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.” It is certain, however, that his loose and irreligious example gave peculiar weight and authority to his idolatrous institutions and his partial appointments in church and state, and largely con: tributed “ to drive all the tribes of Israel from fol: lowing the Lord,” and eventually to plunge them in perpetual ruin.
1. The character and conduct of Jeroboam may lead us to form a just estimate of good rulers. Every thing appears in the truest light, by the way of contrast. Folly is a foil to wisdom; vice is a foil to virtue; false religion is a foil to that which is true; and wicked rulers are a foil to those who are wise and faithful. These, however, are often despised and reproached, when they deserve to be esteemed and admired. Though Solomon was the greatest man, and the wisest king, that ever adorned an earthly throne; and though the measures which he devised and pursued raised his kingdom to the summit of national prosperity, yet his subjects did not
duly appreciate the blessings of his reign until he was succeeded by a vile and impious usurper. Then the striking contrast between Solomon and Jeroboam could not fail to open the eyes of a stupid and ungrateful nation. Those who had unreasonably murmured under the wise and gentle administration of the best of rulers, must have found the little finger of Jeroboam thicker than the loins of a wise and lenient prince. Solomon did a great deal to promote the temporal and eternal interests of his subjects; but Jeroboam did as much to ruin his subjects, both in time and eternity. Never before was there a greater contrast between two rulers in succession than between Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who drave Israel from following the Lord, and his great and illustrious PREDECESSOR. It seems God intended, by this contrast, to make the house of Israel deeply sensible of the pre-eminent virtues and services of Solomon: and, by recording this contrast, he undoubtedly meant to teach future nations properly to appreciate those who govern them in wisdom and integrity. Let us all learn this lesson, and especially those who have complained of the late wise and gentle administration of government. It is more than possible that our nation may find themselves in the hand of a Jeroboam, who will drive them from following the Lord; and whenever they do, they will rue the day, and detest the folly, delusion, and intrigue, which raised him to the head of the United States.