תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

antiscripturat establishment, if they had been sufficiently disposed to compliance: but, when this did not prove to be the case, they were cast off, and other more compliant instruments were substituted in their room. They, therefore, leaving their possessions, along with their employment, migrated with many others, into the kingdom of Judah ; highly to their honour, and to that of the other priests and Levites, who seem cordially to have shared their revenues with them. Now, had the kings of Judah, from this time, declined all interposition in matters of religion, because the same right which they might claim in doing this, Jeroboam would claim also for his established idolatry: had they reasoned in this respect from the data of some modern opposers of all kinds of establishments, what would have been the consequence? Would Jeroboam, “ who made Israel “ to sin,” have renounced his assumed authority in matters of religion, because they renounced their right, or rather neglected their duty ? By no means : a further advantage would have been given to false religion; and true religion would have had to lament that the Asas, Jehoshaphats, Hezekiahs, and Josiahs, had buried their important talent in the earth, for fear of misemploying it, and for fear of sanctioning the measures of those who perverted authority, given by the Lord, in opposing his holy instituted worship.

Rehoboam, however, made no improvement of the advantages which the secession of the priests, and Levites, and other pious Israelites from the kingdom of Jeroboam, afforded him: yet, even the outward regard which his son Abijah paid to the ministry of the priests, according to the law, was rewarded with a most signal and decisive victory over the mighty army of Jeroboam, and all his impious policy.'

The kings, who might in subsequent ages rule over Judah, were neither commanded, nor directed by the law, to take the lead in the concerns of religion : yet, in one degree or other, they all did it; nor are they any where blamed simply for thus exercising their authority; the manner in which they used it being exclusively the object of blame or commendation with the inspired historians. The kings in Judah who did this most decidedly, and used all their authority, with their whole heart and soul, in subverting and removing all idolatrous or forbidden worship, and in establishing and supporting the worship at the temple, according to the law, and in other ways promoting the cause of godliness, righteousness, and holiness, are proportionably recorded as approved characters, with honour and commendation. To this there is not one single exception: yet they acted not as prophets, nor according to any express commission, or injunction, given to them as kings, by the law of Moses.

Among the rest, Jehoshaphat adopted a measure, admirably indeed suited to the spirit of the divine law, but no where required by the letter of it; when he sent princes, and with them Levites and priests, " and they taught in Judah, and had “ the book of the law of the Lord with them, and “ went about throughout all the cities of Judah,

' 2 Chr. xiii, 5--17.

2

" and taught the people.” 1 This exercise of authority was no more prescribed to the kings over Israel, in the law of Moses, than a similar conduct is to kings professing Christianity, in the New Testament; and who can help praying, that God would put it into the heart of all kings, called Christian, decidedly and exactly to copy this example of Jehoshaphat?—It is not necessary to go over the reigns of all the approved, or, if I may so speak, half-approved, reigns of the kings of Judah. It will not be denied that all they, who in any degree “.obtained a good report” in the word of God, used their authority in matters of religion, and were proportionably commended for so doing; and that the most pious and zealous did this most actively and heartily; and excited, directed, instructed, and even commanded, the priests and Levites to perform their several duties; encouraging such as attended to them, and expressing disapprobation of those who were more negligent and reluctant, till they too were ashamed, and “ sanctified themselves.” 2 In this even the chief priests, and the high priest himself, were included. But it has not been sufficiently noticed, that no commission or command, requiring this from them, is contained in the law of Moses; nor any hint or counsel of the kind given. It indeed accorded to the spirit of that law, but was not enjoined by the letter of it; and in this light the friends of establishments view the subject under the Christian dispensation.

12 Chr. xvii. 7-9. * 2 Chr. xxix. 4-11, 34. xxx. 3, 15, 22.

Whenever the kings gave commands in the concerns of religion, or adopted measures, which accorded to the letter or spirit of the law of Moses, the priests and Levites, who most readily and zealously executed their commands, and carried their measures into effect, are spoken of with the greatest approbation. But, when the commandment or conduct of the king was contrary to the law, then the priests were commended or blamed, according as they withstood or complied with the criminal conduct of their misguided prince. Thus the decided conduct of the priests who withstood Uzziah, when he entered into the sanctuary to burn incense contrary to the law, is recorded with honour;? while that of Urijah, who, without making any objection, executed the impious orders of wicked Ahaz, is mentioned in a manner which stamps his character with deep and indelible infamy.

Not one of the kings of Judah exercised his authority more fully in the peculiar concerns of religion, than Hezekiah. He was the first mover, director, counsellor, and encourager, in every thing that related to the suppression of idolatry, and irregular worship in the high places, and in establishing the instituted sacred worship of God at the temple ; and in all that was connected with the regular attendance of the priests and Levites, and the provision appointed them by the law :3 and in all this his princes and counsellors concurred with

'2 Chron, xxvi. 16–20. 2 2 Kings xvi. 10–16.

3 2 Kings xviii. 3, 4—22. 2 Chron. xxix. 2-11, 15, 16, 18– 36. xxx. 1,5—12, 22—27. xxxi. 2--5, 11, &c. xxxii. 12.

him, and exercised authority even over the chief priests. But it is expressly and emphatically noticed, that“ the commandment thus given by “ the king and his princes” was “ by the word « of God;" and, therefore, “ in Judah the hand of “ God was to give them one heart to do the com“ mandment.” 1 But, had the commandment been contrary to the word of God, would “the “ hand of the Lord have thus given one heart to the people to obey it? In this respect at least, even he and his princes, as well as the ministers of religion, “ can do nothing against the truth, “but for the truth.” 2 And, if kings, and counsellors, and senates, employed their authority as Hezekiah and his princes did, the same marked and extensive success might be expected from the same measures ; the hand of God would be to give “ the people one heart to do the command“ment of the king and his princes, by the word “ of the Lord.” This would be the proper improvement of their important talent, and would be accepted and prospered; even as a similar conduct of a rich man, in the use of his riches in supporting and promoting the cause of religion by scriptural means, and no other, is accepted and prospered. “ Thus did Hezekiah through“out Judah, and wrought that which is good, “ and right, and truth, before the Lord his God; “ and in every work that he began, in the ser“. vice of the house of God, and in the law, and “ in the commandments, to seek his God, he did “ it with all his heart, and prospered.”

1 2 Chron. xxx. 12.

22 Cor. xüi. 8.

« הקודםהמשך »