Obrazy na stronie


of having his body consigned to the same grave with those who were nearest and dearest to him-a privilege upon which the nations of antiquity appear to have set the highest value, and the forfeiture of which was more afflictive to men of tender sensibility and exalted spirits than the loss even of life itself. But here, perhaps, your pity will take the alarm, and warp the operations of your sober rea

You will suspect an excess of rigour in the sentence which was pronounced in the name of God himself; you will attempt to extenuate, at least, what cannot be totally justified ; and in these words, or such as these, you gill offer a plausible and a tender plea in behalf of the unhappy offender. Had he not, up to this moment, resisted the joint solicitations of the king and of the prophet? Did he yield before he was informed that the permission to eat proceeded from the same quarter with the interdict? Must he not naturally have conceived very favourable sentiments towards the old prophet, who, without any professed friendship, or previous acquaintance, had, from motives, as they seemed, of the most disinterested kind, pursued him on his return, and addressed him with all the captivating simplicity and all the melting ardour of hospitality and benevolence? Was there any one symptom of deceit in the behaviour of the man of God who dwelt at Beth-el? Or could any probable motive be assigned upon the spot for an attempt to deceive ? Under such circumstances, surely the soundest judgment might have been misguided, and the stoutest resolution have been overborne. Nay,


from the appearance of things, compliance was not only harmless, but meritorious ; it might be vindicated, not by a bare permission on the part of the Deity, but by the most explicit injunction. If, however, the conduct of the man of Judah is to be condemned, yet surely it is to be considered rather as a frailty which moves our pity, than as a crime which authorizes our indignation. If punishment was to be inflicted, it ought, you will say, to have fallen far more heavily upon the deceiver than upon the deceived.

To this plea I will now make my reply; and, while I make it, let me entreat you to suspend for a moment the hasty dictates of your humanity, and to listen to the surer and more salutary suggestions of your reason. Is it not probable that, oppressed with fatigue, and tormented with hunger, the man of God secretly wished for refreshment? And are we not conscious, from our own repeated and deplorable experience, that the slightest reason upon the side of inclination will predominate over the strongest when opposed to it. True, say ye; and and could there be a stronger than the command of Heaven? No, surely: but such a command was in reality not issued ; and if the prophet had exercised that caution and firmness which his character and situation required, he might have discovered the imposture, and have avoided the guilt into which he was betrayed by it. He knew, by the most infallible proofs-he felt the strongest assurances, that the prohibition to eat did actually proceed from the Deity; by the known guidance and under the

immediate inspiration of that Deity, he had pronounced a prophecy, which in part he had seen fulfilled, and he was under the clearest conviction that what remained would also be accomplished ; he had performed two miracles, when the hand of Jeroboam was withered, and when it was restored ; he had seen the effects of this wonderful Divine agency, in humbling the pride and taming the ferocity of a most unprincipled usurper; he was conscious that every word which himself had uttered, and every action which himself had performed, were both warranted by the authority and sanctified by the approbation of the Omniscient and the Almighty; he was conscious that at this very moment he was discharging a commission, part of which was unfinished, and that part was, he knew, appointed by the same power which had most exactly and most illustriously performed the rest. He could not but feel the triumphs of an applauding conscience for what he had already done, and he had received the most explicit and the most authoritative directions respecting that which he was hereafter to do.

In opposition to all these considerations, which must have rushed fast upon men of the weakest judgment, and which upon a person who had given such repeated and striking instances as he did of vigilance and firmness, inight have been expected to operate most strongly and even irresistibly-what had he to urge? Why the bare words of a man, whom before probably he had never seen, words supported by no evidences of prophecy or miracles, both of which were at hand in the

[blocks in formation]

freshest and most glowing colours to authorize the prohibition-words, which the prophet who uttered them did not pretend to have received from direct personal inspiration, but from an angel into whose commission he does not profess to have inquired words which, from the very circumstance of the contradiction to a previous and positive command, should have filled him with doubt and amazement -words to which, in common prudence and common sense, he ought to have turned a deaf ear till the man who spoke them had produced the most unequivocal and the most luminous testimony of of his credentials from Heaven, when in the name of God he called upon a man of God, who was speaking and acting by a direct commission from God, to perform the very deed which God himself had peremptorily interdicted. Nothing less than this could have authorized his conduct, and nothing less even for one moment should have suspended his conviction or even have engaged his attention. Had the prophet of Judah demanded such evidence, he would have acted safely and virtuously; by neglecting to demand it, he plunged into sin and into perdition; he violated a command, of the existence and the importance of which he could not doubt; he cancelled by one transgression the merits of his former obedience; the warning was given him; he did not escape from the stumbling block that lay before him, but, in the emphatical language of Ezekiel, died in his sins, and all the righteousness which he had done was no more remembered.

From me you have heard the strong proofs which


a man in his circumstances ought to have required; and from the sacred historian you may learn the very weak, and very suspicious proofs to which he sacrificed his innocence and his peace. He at once believed the man of God who came from Beth-el, though the interdict of the Almighty was not repealed by any direct communication of the Divine will to his own mind though prophecies recently accomplished, and miracles recently performed, were vivid in his memory—though the language he heard from the prophet was diametrically opposite to the voice he had heard from God, yet he did not stay to call for any one proof—to investigate any one reason, that might reconcile these glaring inconsistencies ; he went back readily, and, as it should seem, eagerly; he eat bread, and drank water, without solicitude lest he should be deceived, and without an effort to detect the deceiver.

Do you ask me now, whether the prophet was informed of the reason for which the injunction was given ? The silence of the Scriptures does not enable me to answer this question positively; but it does authorize me, even upon your own principles, to put another question in my turn. Was he acquainted, or did he endeavour to become acquainted, with the reason for which it was revoked? If one reason was given for the injunction, another, equally indubitable, and equally cogent, ought to have been demanded for the revocation. Nay, if no reason had been assigned for the injunction, some reason might have been asked for the revocation; for could the prophet naturally expect that, without any appa


« PoprzedniaDalej »