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jecture, will enable us completely to solve; we are compelled to acknowledge that God's ways are not our ways; we have no refuge but in those conclusions which are suggested, and no doubt warranted by that which we do understand clearly. I mean, that in every dispensation of his providence, whether ordinary or extraordinary-that in the trial of our virtue, as well as in the reward of it-that in the occasional sufferings of the righteous, and in the temporary prosperity of the wicked, the supreme Governor of the Universe cannot but do right. Where, indeed, the impediments to knowledge are really and evidently insurmountable to the slow approaches of industry, and the enterprising efforts of genius, the consciousness of ignorance, though it cannot remove doubt, ought surely to repress presumption; but while we resist the delusions of intellectual pride we should exercise our caution against superstitious timidity, which startles at phantoms-against undistinguishing zeal, which grasps at shadows-against laziness, which sinks under every difficulty, however inconsiderableand against indifference, which trifles with every truth, however momentous.
Now the topics which are presented to us by the holy Scriptures are always important enough to deserve our most collected and vigorous attention; and as to the perplexity into which we are thrown from our seeing them through a dim or crooked medium, it is often removed when they are placed before us in a different and perhaps unperverted point of view. The doubts which arose from some
particular or collateral circumstance gradually give way, when we have reached a distinct and comprehensive view of the general case; what is clear in itself communicates at least some portion of light to that which is obscure; in one moment, perhaps, we are obliged to suspend our decisions, in the next we meet with some happy clue which faithfully conducts us through the labyrinth in which we long have wandered, relieves us from the anguish of suspence, and lends new confidence to our faith by the most evident and solid conclusions of our reason. Such are the triumphs which the pious and sincere believer experiences when he meditates upon the word and works of God-when he searches into the designs of the Almighty, not only under the habitual conviction that they are righteous and holy, but under the immediate impression of an honest and humble hope, that they may be found such by diligent and unprejudiced inquiry, when he is more anxious to struggle with difficulties than to start them-and when he finds a greater pleasure in confirming his faith than in gratifying his vanity. In this spirit, which is equally remote from the frowardness of unbelief and the slavishness of credulity, I shall endeavour to explain to you the awful and interesting story to which the words of my text relate.
A man of God comes down from Judah to Bethel upon a most important errand, and he is commanded during the execution of it to eat no bread and drink no water. Another man of God, who dwelt at Bethel, hears of his arrival, overtakes
him on his return, and persuades him by a pretended commission from heaven, to take that refreshment which had before been forbidden. He unsuspectingly does take it; he is instantaneously arraigned by the very man who had overcome his resolution; he is met by a lion in the way, and is slain. Is, then, the fate of this man reconcileable to the justice of the Deity, so far as we are able to explore his operations, and so far as we are accustomed to approve of them? My answer is, that it is most fully and most visibly reconcileable to them. On the first blush of the story, we may, it is true, verify the observation of an ancient writer, who pronounces it difficult for a man to be at once com. passionate and wise. As the subject is curious in itself, as it strikes at the root of those excuses which we readily admit from others, from the secret hope of employing them successfully for ourselves, I must trespass a little on your patience; for on this, as on many other occasions, we shall conceive the several parts more distinctly by spreading our attention through the whole. Attending only to the interview which passed between the two prophets, we are disposed to forgive the credulity of the one, and lothe the treachery of the other. That credulity, however, was not only a weakness but a crime; it was complicated with impiety and disobedience; it deserved the punishment which it incurred; it throws no reflection on the judicial dispensations of the Deity, and it contains a most salutary warning for his creatures to be for ever on the watch, not only against the infirmity of their under
standings, but the deceitfulness of their hearts. This position I shall endeavour to establish by examining at large, in this discourse, and in one that will be delivered this day sevennight, the various parts of the sacred narrative.
The reign of Jeroboam is branded with the strongest and most indelible marks of infamy by the sacred historians. His life was distinguished by the most daring profaneness, and the most incorrigible profligacy. His politics, too, were base and crooked; for they tended to divide the people, whom he ought to have united, and to subvert the religion which he was bound to support. That noble fabric of government which was founded by the hands of God himself, which rested upon the joint pillars of religious and civil authority, and which had been adorned by the virtues of David, and the wisdom of Solomon, was now loosened to its basis.
The twelve tribes were torn asunder by the most violent shock of intestine division; two only adhered to the cause of their lawful prince; but the rest had eagerly flocked to the standard of a criminal and a fugitive, who, to escape the merited indignation of Solomon, had dwelt in Egypt. With a craftiness of spirit, which well became the unsoundness of his pretensions, Jeroboam sheltered himself from the consequences of one great crime, by venturing upon other and greater crimes. He cast off all means of reconciliation between the tribes, who were now severed from each other; he inflamed political discord by the addition of religious zeal; he seduced into idolatry the persons, whom he had
before incited to rebellion, and he set up two calves of gold, the one in Bethel, the other in Dan. Before them he invited his subjects to fall down and worship, and to the authority of his command, he added the sanction of his example.
Such was the man whose crimes and whose sufferings render him a distinguished actor in the story of my text, and of whom it is again and again recorded, that he made Israel to sin. In governing the state of Israel he thus supported the pretensions of an usurper by the measures of a tyrant; and after overthrowing the law of Moses, he at once shewed the hardiness of an innovator, the subtlety of an hypocrite, and the intolerance of a bigot. But a cloud of calamities was now gathering over the deluded nation, and the hand of avenging heaven was stretched forth over the unprincipled and unfeeling wretch who swayed the sceptre.
Jeroboam was standing before the altar, arrayed probably in all the pageantries of royalty, and eagerly employed in performing those fantastic and ostentatious ceremonies, which are intended to throw a veil over the absurdities of polytheism and the deformities of superstition. At this instant there came a man of God to humble the arrogance, and to chastise the impiety of a prince, who was not only corrupt, but had promoted corruption, and who by the stratagems of his policy, and the perversion of his power, had prevailed upon ten tribes at once to revolt from their king, and to apostatize from their God. The holy man came from Judah, that is, from one of the tribes, whom