Imatges de pÓgina
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respect and confidence of the people in general, than those of any other character or profession. Of course they have more influence in forming the religious opinions, the common habits, and even the political sentiments of the subjects of governments, than many of those who are immediately concerned in public affairs. Besides, religion of any kind, whether true or false, takes a stronger hold of the human mind, and has a greater tendency to govern the actions of men, than any theoretical knowledge in any of the arts or sciences, or in any of the pursuits and concerns of the present life.

The public teachers of religion, therefore, must necessarily be able, in many ways, to weaken the hands, and obstruct the designs of corrupt rulers. And it natu rally follows, that they will endeavour, by all means, to corrupt those who minister in holy things. This we find clearly illustrated by the conduct of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who drave Israel from following the Lord. He felt himself under a necessity of corrupting, or of deposing the clergy. A number of the sons of Levi were so sincerely attached to the true religion, and so 'heartily opposed to idolatry, that they could not be corrupted; but chose rather to be deposed from their office, and Aee into the kingdom of Judah, than to lend their influence to promote his impious measures. But he soon found means to corrupt the whole body of the priests, and bring them entirely over to his own views; which, above every thing else, firmly fixed him on

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the throne of Israel. The corrupt and unprincipled Jeaders in the late revolutions in France, have exactly imitated Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and pointed their peculiar vengeance against all the clergy in the kingdom, who would not unite with them in spreading civil and religious delusions through the world.

But here it is proper and striking to remark, that they have taken much larger strides than Jeroboam ever did; for he substituted a false religion in the room of the true; but they have attempted, and used all the means in their power, to extirpate all religion, whether true or false, and to introduce universal infidelity or scepticism. And it is always to be expected, that when the rulers of a nation apostatize from the religion in which they were educated, that they will endeavour to destroy it, and, if possible, corrupt the public teachers of religion, and allure or drive them into their irreligious and demoralizing schemes. Should atheists or infidels fill the seats of our own government, the preachers of the gospel would be greatly exposed to their frowning or smiling inflyence. And even now there are some in begin to frown upon those ministers who dare to speak against their bold and impious exertions, to break the bands of religion and morality, and open the door to universal licentiousness.

5. We learn from the character, conduct, and history of Jeroboam, that it is the duty of the public teachers of religion to bear public testimony against

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all attempts of those in authority to destroy the religion and morals of the people. Who will deny, that it was the duty of prophets and priests to preach against the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, by which he made Israel to sin? He was ruining himself and his subjects, by an open and avowed opposition to the God of Israel, and to all his sacred institutions. Such conduct called aloud upon the public teachers of religion, to warn both Jeroboam and his people of their great criminality and danger. They could not answer it to God, who put them into office, nor to the souls committed to their care, if they neglected or refused to bear solemn testimony against corrupters and those who were corrupted. Accordingly we find, that the faithful prophets and priests did boldly reprove and admonish Jeroboam and those who walked in his steps. They cried aloud, and spared not, to show the prince and the people their transgressions, and to forewarn them of the just judgments of God, which eventually fell upon them. While Jeroboam was in the presumptuous act of sacrificing to the idols he had made, the Lord sent a prophet to reprove his wickedness, and to predict his future punishment. “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar! thus saith the Lord, Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon

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thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which cried against the altar in Beth-el, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.” Such was the fortitude and fidelity of one prophet in reproving the apostate Jeroboam; and it appears that other prophets were no less bold and faithful in reproving him and his followers in idolatry, until the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. For we are told, “The children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them, until the Lord removed them out of his sight, as he had suid by all his servants the prophets." These faithful ministers of God ceased not, though at the hazard of their lives, to reprove the kings as well as people of Israel, who walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and forewarned them of the fatal consequences of their shameful apostacy. Is not this a noble example, and well worthy of perpetual imitation? Should any now rise into power who possess the spirit and

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imitate the example of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, would it not become the ministers of Christ to imbibe the spirit and imitate the example of those who boldly reproved that profane and impious corrupter of Israel? It is as true now as it was in the days of Solomon, that “ righteousness exalteth a nation; and that sin is a reproach to any people.” The religion of Christ has been the glory and the happiness of our nation; and it would argue extreme unfaithfulness in the ministers of the gospel in these days, should they, for the sake of pleasing some, and for the fear of displeasing others, hold their peace, and suffer vice and infidelity to destroy our religion and government, without uniting their efforts, to prevent such deplorable evils? They are set for the defence of the gospel; and let them only be wise and faithful in the discharge of their duty, and they may safely confide in God, to wither the hand that shall be stretched out against them.

6. The nature and effects of Jeroboam's conduct show us what we have to fear, should our civil rulers embrace and propagate the principles of infidelity. We have not so far lost our virtuous and religious habits, but that wise and virtuous rulers might, under Providence, restrain us from total declension and apostacy. But if those who fill the chief offices of state should openly renounce God and religion, it is difficult to see, why they should not as easily and as universally corrupt our nation as Jeroboam did the ten tribes of Israel. And who

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