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seems most to neglect himself, brings about most glory to his own name.
The ark of God was not used to such porters: the Philistines carry it into Ashdod, that the victory of Dagon may be more glorious. To what pains superstition puts meu, for the triumph of a false cause! and if profane Philistines can think it no toil to carry the ark where they should not, what a shame is it for us if we do not gladly attend it where we should! How justly may God's truth scorn the inferiority of our zeal!
If the Israelites put confidence in the ark, can we marvel that the Philistines put confidence in that power, which, as they thought, had conquered the ark? The less is ever subject unto the greater; what could they now think, but that heaven and earth were theirs? Who shall stand out against them, when the God of Israel has yielded? Security and presumption attend ever at the threshold of ruin.
God will let them sleep in this confidence; in the morning they shall find how vainly they have dreamed: now they begin to find they have but gloried in their own plague, and have overthrown nothing but their own peace. Dagon has a house, when God hath but a tabernacle: there is no measuring of religion by outward glory. Into this house the proud Philistines come, the next morning, to congratulate their god, for so great a captive, such divine spoils; and, in their early devotions, to fall down before him, under whom the God of Israel was fallen; and lo! there they find their god, fallen down on the ground on his face, before him whom they thought both his prisoner and theirs; their god is forced to do that, which they should have done voluntarily; although God casts down that dumb rival of his for scorn, not for adoration.
But this perhaps was only a mischance, or a neglect of attendance. Lay to your hands, ye Philistines, and raise up Dagon into his place. It is a miserable god that needs helping up: had ye not been more senseless than that stone, how could you fail to think, "How shall he raise us above our enemies, that cannot rise alone? How shall he establish us in the station of our peace, that cannot uphold his own foot?" If Dagon gave the foil unto the God
of Israel, what power is it that hath cast him on his face in his own temple? It is just with God that those who want grace shall want wisdom too: it is the power of superstition to turn men into those stocks and stones which they worship: they that make them are like unto them.
Dagon is set in his place; and now those hands are lifted up to him which helped to lift him up; and those faces are prostrated unto him before whom he lay prostrate. Idolatry and superstition are not easily put out of countenance: but will the jealousy of the true God put it up thus? Shall Dagon escape with a harmless fall? Surely, if they had let him lie still on the pavement, perhaps that insensible statue had found no other revenge; but now they will advance it again, and affront God's ark with it, the event will shame them, and let them know, how much God scorns a partner, either of his own making or theirs.
The morning is fittest for devotion; then do the Philistines flock to the temple of their god. What a shame is it for us to come late to ours! although not so much piety as curiosity now hastened their speed, to see what rest their Dagon was allowed to get in his own roof. And now behold their god is come to meet them in the way: some pieces of him salute their eyes on the threshold. Dagon's head and hands overrun their fellows, to tell the Philistines how much they were mistaken in their god.
This second fall breaks the idol in pieces, and threatens the same confusion to the worshippers of it: easy warnings neglected end ever in destruction. The head is for devising, the hand for execution: in these two powers of their god the Philistines chiefly trusted; these are therefore laid under their feet on the threshold, that they might afar off see their vanity, and that if they would they might set their feet on that best piece of their god, whereon their hearts were set.
How can the Philistines now miss the sight of their own folly? How can they fail to be convicted of their mad idolatry, to see their god lie broken under their feet; every piece whereof proclaims the power of Him that brake it, and the stupidity of those that adored it? Who would not expect to hear the Philistines say, "We now see how superstition has blinded us: Dagon is no god for us: our hearts shall never more rest on a broken statue: that only
true God, who has broken ours, shall challenge us by the right of conquest?" But there was none of this; rather a farther degree of their dotage followed on this palpable conviction they dare not set their feet on that place which was hallowed by the broken head and hands of their idol. Oh, the obstinacy of idolatry, which, where it hath got hold of the heart, knows neither how to blush nor yield, but rather gathers strength from that which might justly confound it! The hand of the Almighty, which moved them not in falling on their god, falls now nearer to them on their persons; and strikes those in their bodies who would not feel themselves stricken in their idol. Pain shall humble those whom shame cannot. I do not hear them acknowledge it was God's hand which had stricken Dagon their god, till now they find themselves stricken. The just Avenger of sin will not lose the glory of his executions, but will have men know from whom they smart.
They judge rightly of the cause; what do they resolve for the cure? Let not the ark of the God of Israel abide with us;" where they should have said, "Let us cast out Dagon, that we may pacify and retain the God of Israel." They determine to thrust out the ark of God, that they might peaceably enjoy themselves and Dagon. Wicked men are on all occasions glad to be rid of God, but they can with no patience endure to part with their sins; and, while they are weary of the hand that punishes them, they hold fast the cause of their punishment.
Their first and only care is to put away Him, who, as he hath corrected, so can ease them. Folly is never separated from wickedness. Their heart told them that they had no right to the ark. A council is called of their princes and priests. If they had resolved to send it home, they had done wisely now they do not carry it away, but they carry it about, from Ashdod to Gath, from Gath to Ekron. By this means God's power is known, and his judgment spread over all the country of the Philistines. What do these men now, but send the plague of God to their fellows? The justice of God can make the sins of men their mutual executioners. It is the fashion of wicked men to draw their neighbours into the partnership of their condemnation.
Wheresoever the ark goes there is destruction: the best of God's ordinances, if they be not improved by us, are deadly.
The Israelites did not more shout for joy when they saw the ark come to them, than the Ekronites cry out for grief to see it brought amongst them: spiritual things are either sovereign or hurtful, according to the disposition of the receivers. The ark either saves or kills, as it is entertained.
At last, when the Philistines are weary of pain and death, they are glad to be quit of their sin. The voice of the princes and people is changed for the better: "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to his own place." God knows how to bring the most stubborn enemy on his knees, and makes him do that out of fear which his best child would do out of love and duty. How miserable was the estate of these Philistines! Every man was either dead or sick. Those that were left living, through their extremity of pain, envied the dead, and the cry of their whole cities went up to heaven. It is happy that God has such store of plagues and thunderbolts for the wicked if he had not a fire of judgment, wherewith the iron hearts of men might be made flexible, he would want obedience, and the world peace. From Bp. Hall.
A FRESH STAGE IN THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.
WE are informed by the apostle, Heb. xi. 8, that "by faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went.” And are not we also, on the first day of another year, in a somewhat similar situation? We are setting out, as it were, on fresh stage of the journey of life." The command of God is," Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest, because it is polluted." It is true, we know not if this year shall end our mortal career; we are ignorant of what lies before us. We know not what trials we may have to endure, what conflicts with the enemy of souls we may have to sustain. If we should be called this year to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death," we know not what lies on the other side of the grave, only so far as that it is " an inheritance incorruptible and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for those who are kept by the mighty power of God, through faith, unto everlasting salvation." Now, are we the partakers of like precious faith
with Abraham, of that faith which purifies the heart, which works by love, which overcomes the world, which leads to a steady growing obedience, and which alone fits us to be inhabitants of that "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God?"
"So Abra'm, by divine command,
Left his own house to walk with God;
C. J. M.
PERHAPS there is no subject more profitable to the soul, for the thoughts to dwell upon, than death-bed scenes, as to the various ways in which our fellow mortals give up their souls to Him who formed them; not that we can always form a safe judgment of a person's state from what passes at the last hour. It was once said by a very wise man, "Tell me how a person lives, and not how he died;" and no doubt it is a safer way of forming a judgment, for, in many cases, those who, as we have every reason to hope, have been "renewed in the spirit of their minds," are, sometimes from disease, or some other cause, suffered to sink into insensibility, and to die without giving any evident marks of their firm faith in the power of Christ's atoning blood, to save them from their sins, and to carry them safely through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Yet, in how many instances of illness and long-suffering do we see the power of faith in enabling the christian sufferers to bear their affliction without murmuring, living in the constant practice of earnest prayer for the influence of the Holy Spirit, to enable them to bear, with patient submission, whatever their heavenly Father may think fit to lay upon them.
Let us mark two persons suffering under long and painful illnesses, one of them a professed christian, who, perhaps, has attended to the outward duties of religion, but who has not thought it wrong to be conformed to this world in its pursuits and amusements-who, in short, is one of that numerous class who think they can serve God and Mammon, or the god of this world. To the humbling doctrines of the gospel, which teach us the corruption of our state by nature, the necessity of an entire change of heart