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the wiles of Jeroboam had not seduced, nor his menaces intimidated. He came by the word of the Lord, that is, of the very being, whose subjects Jeroboam had treacherously divided, whose laws he had openly insulted, and whose worship he had peremptorily interdicted. He came to the very altar, that had been raised up in undisguised and direct opposition to the majesty of Jehovah; he stood in the presence of that king who had exchanged the adoration of the living God for that of a golden calf, and who, with the same uplifted and unhallowed hands that had created the altar, was now burning incense before it. Animated with confidence in the God by whom he was sent, and roused with indignation at the impious mockeries that were transacting before him, the holy man exclaimed: "O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the highplaces, that burn incense upon thee."
It is impossible to conceive any words more mortifying to the haughtiness, or more alarming to the fears of Jeroboam, and the misguided multitude that surrounded him; they were delivered, as it should seem, without faultering, and without equivocation; they were spoken in the very hearing of the man whose interests they chiefly affected; they denounced destruction to that very altar which was the instrument of his perfidy, and the bulwark of his usurpation. But the man of God did not trust merely to the peremptoriness of his assertion, and the sanctity of his character- for in the same day, he gave a sign,
saying, behold the altar shall be rent; and in the same day was that sign accomplished upon the person of the offending monarch, and in the sight of his astonished subjects, convinced it may be, but not converted at the warning voice of the man of God, terrified but not humbled at the just denunciation of vengeance that was impending over himself. Jeroboam puts forth his hand from the altar, and cries out to the servile minions of his rage-lay hold on him. At this moment his hand was dried up, and the altar was rent to pieces. Compunction and shame and terror seized the impious king; he now supplicates the man whom he before had threatened, and flies for shelter to the God whose sanctuary he had profaned.
And here mark well, that in all his dispensations, God, in the midst of wrath, remembereth mercy, and that the ministers of his will should, like their great master, be disposed to spare as well as to punish. The man of God sees the contrition of the king, and instantly forgets his own just resentments in the hopes of completing that reformation by kindness, which had already begun to work from rigour. The king himself was not shameless enough to pray that the altar might be restored; the man of God was not so weak or so wicked as to re-establish this monument of idolatry; but for the sufferings of the idolator himself, he was prevailed upon to offer up his prayers; and those prayers were immediately heard and accepted in heaven. When the king's hand was restored to him, and became as it was before, the heart that had been swollen up with pride,
and agitated with fury, was now overwhelmed by all the generous emotions of gratitude-come home with me, says he, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward; but the prophet, without spurning his favour, declined the acceptance of it. Unshaken in his purpose, and faithful to his commission, he firmly, but not disdainfully replies, "if thou wilt give me half thy house I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place; for so was it charged me by the word of the Lord." The king had too recent experience of the power of heaven to trifle with it by an attempt to corrupt his holy messenger; he was too deeply impressed with reverence for the ardent zeal, and the awful commission of the prophet, to expect or solicit any criminal compliances. His well meant offers had been, upon the most solid grounds of piety, refused by the prophet; and they were not repeated, you see, by the king from any mistaken motive of gratitude and respect. Thus far we look up with admiration to the fortitude of the prophet's temper, and to the consistency of his conduct; every word commands attention, and every action challenges applause. Let us however go on towards the melancholy sequel.
There dwelt, we find, an old prophet in Bethel, who when he had heard from his sons the words that were spoken before the king, anxiously inquired which way the man of God was gone, eagerly saddled his ass and went after him, and found him sitting under an oak. Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? To this courteous
and respectful address he answers, I am. Then says the old prophet-come home with me and eat bread. But the man of God still remembered the peremptory injunction of the deity,-still persisted in his honest purpose of obeying it. In the same spirit with which he before had forborne to avail himself of the gratitude of Jeroboam, he now declines the proffered hospitality of the prophet-I may not return with thee, says he, nor eat bread. To avert, however, from this refusal every offensive appearance of rude unthankfulness or affected singularity, he adds-for it was said to me by the word of the Lord-thou shalt eat no bread. Then the prophet of Bethel repeats and enforced his invitation; he undermines by artifice the resolution he could not overcome by opportunity, and he endeavours to crush every delicate and solicitous scruple of conscience in his guest, by opposing one divine command to another-a later command to a prior-a command communicated by an angel to one that was immediately delivered by inspiration. "I am a prophet also, as thou art, and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying-bring him back with thee into thy house, that he may eat bread and drink water."
Here let us pause for a while, and consider some seeming difficulties, which, from the conciseness of the narrative, will naturally spring up in the mind of every attentive reader. For why, it may be asked was one of the prophets forbidden to refresh himself; and why was the other induced to offer refreshment, which, from the report of his sons and the subsequent
confession of the man of God, he knew to be unlawful? To neither of these questions the smallest answer is given by the writer of the book of Kings. All we have there is this-the one of them was conscious that he had received a command from heaven not to eat bread, nor to drink water; the other was well assured that this command had not been revoked by the being who had first given it; the one, therefore, had no right to accept or the other to offer. By accepting the one was guilty of gross disobedience, and the other for offering may be charged with the foulest treachery. The mandate of heaven, delivered originally to the man of God who came from Judah, and afterwards acknowledged by the prophet who dwelt at Bethel, was a sufficient foundation for the conviction, and a sufficient rule for the behaviour of both. To this plain position your own common sense will induce you to accede; and yet, without meaning to abandon it, I will endeavour to remove the embarassment, which you may perhaps feel, warning you at the same time, lest your curiosity should ensnare your faith; and informing you, that however you may refuse your assent to me, because my solution is unsatisfactory, you must still repose your trust in the word of God, to the vindication of which I am persuaded no solution at all is absolutely requisite.
The prophet then was not suffered to eat bread and to return by the way in which he came, for reasons, the one of which involved the trial of his virtue, and the other probably affected the security of his person. Let us examine these two articles. Had