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this errand? These circumstances shew what, indeed, his whole conduct in this narrative manifests, that though a prophet, he was a corrupt and a lying prophet; entrusted like Balaam, with intimations of the Divine will, but utterly destitute of the spirit of holiness.
Surely the man of God might have concluded this. A strange suspicion must have crossed his mind as he went back in this fellowship to Bethel. But when in the very moment of his transgression the prophetic light illuminated his companion, and his very deceiver was constrained to pronounce upon him his sentence of death, how must the whole terrible truth have flashed upon him! He saw that he was betrayed and undone, and yet he must have felt also that he had destroyed himself. In one moment he saw how terrible a thing it is to violate the least commandment of God. We can scarcely imagine what must have been his thoughts as he pursued his sad and solitary journey towards Judah. At every step he must have been filled with the apprehension of some hidden danger. “ His heart” must have been “disquieted within him, and the fear of death” must indeed have “fallen upon him.” At last the fatal moment arrived, and “a lion met him by the way, and slew him."
One thought let us bestow, in passing, upon the instrument of the Prophet's death. We all recollect the glowing descriptions given in Scripture of the land of Canaan. “The pleasant land,” “the glory of all lands,” “the land flowing with milk and honey,". these and similar expressions are repeatedly applied by the sacred writers to the promised land. And yet, notwithstanding, how dangerously was this goodly land infested with noxious beasts of prey. God might have exterminated them had He so pleased; but for His own wise purposes He suffered them to remain. For thus He was ever instructing His people that there is no absolute rest or security to be found upon earth. Even Canaan was not without its inconveniences and molestations. There prowled the lion, the bear, the wolf, the leopard. There, if we except the lion, these wild animals exist to this very day.
• See Lightfoot, vol. ii. p. 1224.
In each beautiful vineyard and smiling garden there might be a lurking foe. And this was a never-ceasing parable to Israel, which taught them that it was no earthly Canaan in which they were to find certain and continual rest;. but they must seek the heavenly if they would find true peace and everlasting habitations. So, too, must it be with us.
Let us beware how we make this earth our home. Evil spirits are prowling around us; and it is in vain that we seek absolute freedom from danger here. It is to the heaven of our eternal home, the true land of promise, that we must look for continual security and everlasting rest.
But, with the thoughts already suggested, let us now contemplate the Prophet's end. If we were to judge after man's judgment we might be inclined to ask, Why does he perish, and why are Jeroboam and the deceiving prophet permitted to escape ? Jeroboam had long been living in a course of sinful resistance to the will of God, and it would seem as though the measure of his iniquity was already filled up: yet he is suffered to go on for the present with
impunity. And the old prophet of Bethel, why should he escape ? It was by him that the man of God was betrayed; his heart conceived, his mouth uttered the deceit. Was it then altogether just, it what might be expected from the Judge of all the earth, that the least guilty should suffer, and that too by so violent a death, while the old lying prophet lives at ease, and the idolatrous king in pomp and power ? If this does seem surprising to any one who reads it, and his heart is disposed to rise against the Divine dealing in this instance, this one thought should be sufficient to silence us,—we still live, who are greater transgressors than he was. He disobeyed a plain and positive command; and “the soul that sins must die." It matters not that Jeroboam, and the old prophet, and multitudes of greater sinners, are suffered to live. I fix my thoughts upon one man, and that man a prophet of Jehovah. I measure not his conduct by that of others. I strive to regard it, even as God regards all our actions, in its reference to Himself. I find that the Prophet has received a plain
and definite command, the nature of which he thoroughly understood; and I find, moreover, that this command is disobeyed. Tell me not that he was strongly tempted to transgress; for I know that “God is faithful,” who will not suffer us to be tempted above that which “we are able to bear;"> and therefore I know that he might have resisted the cunning of the second temptation, even as he overcame the strength of the first. Tell me not that he was deceived. Whose fault was it that he was deceived ? Could God contradict Himself? or was the bare word of a stranger to weigh more with him than the direct revelations of the Most High ? No! Survey the circumstances as we will, we can arrive at no other just conclusion than this, that his conduct was an act of direct rebellion against his Maker. The real truth is, that his judgment was overborne by his inclinations. He wished to go back, and therefore there was little difficulty in persuading him.
But let us consider the narrative a little further. It is a very remarkable fact recorded in the history that “the lion had not