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refreshment been offered him before he pronounced his sentence against the altar, it might have come in a suspicious form, and in consequence of that weakness, to which from his subsequent behaviour he appears to have been liable, it might have totally diverted him from his purpose, or relaxed his steadiness and cooled his ardour in the execution of it. When tendered to him after the prophecy which he had denounced, and the miracles which he had performed, it no longer contained any insidious purpose ; and yet surely it might have been accompanied with pernicious effects. The king indeed was, at the moment, strongly affected with sentiments of gratitude and piety; but the cause of idolatry, though disgraced, was not overcome. The altar of the golden calf was thrown down, but the edict for worshipping before it, was not revoked. The people were yet plunged deep in their sins ; and in this situation of things it was indecorous for the worshipper of the true God to sit down with those who were accustomed to prostrate themselves at the feet of an idol, or to receive any mark of distinction, the offer of which proceeded from him who owed the power of conferring it to usurpation ; and the acceptance of which might have been imputed to unworthy motives of sordid avarice and servile prevarication.
Now had the prophet gone back, upon any subsequent invitation, would not Jeroboam have been displeased at finding those offers accepted from a subject, which had been refused when proceeding from himself? Had the prophetic cha
racter of the man of Bethel been assigned as a plea by the man of Judah, would not the king have been thrown into perplexity at the sudden revocation of the divine command? And might he not have been betrayed into worthy and impious sentiments towards the being, from whom it proceeded? Would he not have suspected either that the original direction itself was futile, or that the subsequent retractation of it was capricious on the part of the deity, and insidious on that of the prophet?
Be this as it may, the injunction itself was explicit, and there is some probability at least that it was founded upon
other reasons. From a variety of passages in Greek and Roman writers we find that soothsayers and augurs were infamous for covetousness and rapacity; and in the Scriptures also we perceive that God frequently forbids his servants to receive any earthly gifts, in order, as it should seem, to protect them from the odium which the false prophets of the heathens had justly and notoriously incurred. Thus Balaam, wavering between the cravings of his avarice and the menaces of his conscience, was not permitted to take any recompence from Balak. Thus Elisha declined the acceptance of any present from Naaman, who had been cured of his leprosy; and thus, too, the man of God from Judah would not eat bread or drink water at the request of Jeroboam, whose hand he had restored. The act of restoring it was performed by the immediate appointment of Heaven, and the proper reward of him by whom it was per
formed was to be found in the testimony of an applauding conscience.
In regard to the injunction, which directed the prophet to return by another way, it had an obvious tendency to preserve his person from the vindictive servants of Jeroboam. Pleased, doubtless, they were at the recovery of their master, but we should remember they had been provoked recently and vehemently at his humiliation. Now from the malignity of the human heart, which is much quicker in forgetting real favours than even imaginary wrongs; and from the readiness of abject dependants to execute without a pang what the tyrant without a blush could not have himself ordained, they might have conspired to destroy the prophet on his return ; they might have applauded themselves for doing what they suspected Jeroboam of secretly wishing to be done; and splendid is the claim they might have set up, for suffering their zeal to exceed the expectation, and to anticipate the commands of a monarch for whose sake they had already deserted the religion of their forefathers, and dethroned the heir of their lawful prince. The minds of such men were prepared for the accumulation of enormity upon enormity. Unimportant in their eyes would have been the sanctity of the prophet, when contrasted with the dignity of a prince, in whose fate they felt a strong and immediate interest, not merely for the success of Jeroboam s enterprize, or from the eminence of his station, but from a cause yet more powerful than either—from his known and deep participation in the guilt of his subjects. To these
personal considerations in favour of their sovereign, we may add that the altar of their idol had been thrown down, and had not been raised up again; no atonement had been made for the insult thus offered to the worship which had lately been introduced among the revolted tribes, and to which they clung with the greater pertinacity, because it was recommended by novelty, because it was endeared to them by a sense of danger voluntarily incurred to establish it, and because it continued to derive its security from the same desperate measures and the same presumptuous spirit to which it owed its origin. In pursuing, therefore, a different route, the man of God might escape the blind and tumultuous rage of the people, and though his purpose was discovered by the two sons of the prophet, who perhaps watched his motion, we have no intimation given us that the inhabitants of Bethel at large were aware of it. The preceding reasons, I think, may be assigned without a glaring impropriety for the various and minute directions that were given to the prophet of Judah. Be it understood, however, that I propose them rather as conjectural than decisive ; that I intend them to explain, not to justify the ways of God, and that, admitting other reasons, or even no circumstantial reasons at all to have existed in the mind of the prophet, I consider him as bound implicitly and unalterably to obey a command which he knew to be stamped by the seal of Heaven.
We will now examine the motives by which the old prophet might have been actuated. A suspicion has been started that Jeroboam had from political
motives employed the old man of Beth-el, in order to degrade the servant of the true God in the sight of his idolatrous subjects ; but for this supposition I can find no presumptive evidence in the narrative, and surely the writer of the book of Kings, who cast some censure upon the deceit of the old prophet of Beth-el, would not have omitted the circumstance of his acting as an accomplice to so profligate a King in so execrable a purpose. He would not have passed over entirely in silence so sudden and daring a transition even in the mind of Jeroboam, from the warmest, and as it appears the sincerest gratitude, to the blackest and most inhuman treachery.
We have, therefore, no foundation for imputing ihe behaviour of the prophet to any collusion with the Prince. But as the motives that influenced him are not distinctly stated by the historian, we must have recourse to the general principles of human conduct—to those inward corruptions which lurk within the bosoms, and occasionally break out in the behaviour even of the best of men-to those deviations from rectitude into which, as we learn from sacred history, even the special and inspired ministers of Heaven were sometimes drawn aside. He dwelt at Beth-el, but does not seem to have caught the contagion of idolatry, which had polluted the other subjects of Jeroboam. He was also a man of God and a prophet, and hence we may in that very religious character itself discover some grounds for his most irreligious conduct. Is there in the breast of man a passion which rankles more foully, which