« PreviousContinue »
times: They were instrumental in preserving Judah from too free an intercourse with the apostate tribes of Israel: They encouraged all their pious kings to oppose idolatry, and assisted them in the work of reformation : They were a powerful counterpoise to the destructive influence, which the false prophets were perpetually exerting, over both Sovereign and people. The number of these false prophets must, at some periods, have been immensely great; for when idolatrous worship prevailed, altars were erected, and groves consecrated, in every part of the land; and as each of these required their officiating priests, diviners, soothsayers, &c. the noxious tribes of impostors thus generated, would have become so extensive and powerful,, that true religion would have been completely extinguished, had not the prophets of the Lord intervened upon urgent occasions, to detect their falsehoods, and alarm those who were tempted to confide in them. It was through their prophetic warnings, respecting the dispersion of the ten tribes, the captivity of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem ; their assurances that the house of Judah should not remain in perpetual bondage, but be restored to the divine favour, upon repentance and reformation; it was through their influence over the minds of the conquerors, and the assistance they afforded to the retuming penitents, that the great work of reformation was finally accomplished. This brings us to the last period of the Jewish history which demands our attention.
ON THE CAPTIVITY OF THE TRIBES OF JUDAH
AND BENJAMIN, AND ITS SALUTARY EFFECT
IN THE FINAL ESTABLISHMENT OF MONOTHEISM
IN THE LAND OF JUDEA,
WHEN the dreadful hour was come ;--When kings, the princes of the people, and the elders, were led away into captivity ;-when they were torn from their native soil, leaving relatives and valuable possessions behind, and hurried into a foreign country, uncertain of the treats ment they should receive, and their fears portending the worst;-the hour of reflection might also be expected to arrive; and it did arrive. The subsequent history of this extraordinary people evinces, that the influence of deep , affliction was powerful to effect a cure, although every other expedient had failed. The alarms, disgrace, and numberless sufferings incident to a state of bondage, accomplished a purpose, to which distinguished blessings, temporary punish: ments, and the most awful and reiterated threat, proved inadequate. Their minds were no longer agitated by the tumults of war, for the conflict was over, and they were subdued. They were no longer abandoned to their seductive pleasures, which had hardened their hearts, blinded their eyes, and rendered their ears deaf, for they were in the abyss of distress. The utmost they could expect, when settled in their new abodes, would be, to become as it were ope passive body of afflicted members. They now would have leisure to recollect their former state of affluence and independence, and to lament the contrast. The most considerate among them, and the best informed, would now be convinced that the prophets who had promised security and worldly honours, while they remained slaves to idolatry, were lying prophets; and that those who had incurred their resentments, who had been disgraced and calumniated, for prophesying unpleasant things, were of a truth the messengers of the living God. Now neglected predictions assumed all their consequence : warnings despised, betame affecting realities: unwelcome admonitions and threats now were changed into historical events; and in that afflictive form, forced conviction upon their unbelieving minds. They would doubtless recollect the anticipations of Isaiah when he exclaimed, “ woe unto them that rise up early in the morning that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them; and the harp, and the viol, and the tabret, and the pipe, and the wine are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands. Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude are dried up with thirst."* Nor would the predictions of Amos any longer be considered as vain and empty threats;
“Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion, that put
the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near ; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chaunt to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointment, but they are not grieved for the afiliction of Joseph. Therefore shall they go to captivity, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed."7 Those words of Jeremiah also, whom it is
probable some of these captives had personally
* Isaiah ch. v. v. 11, 13,
+ Amos ch. vi. v. 1, 7.
insulted, as a lying prophet, would now be remembered with compunction of heart; “To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? behold their ear is uncircumcised and they cannot hearken; behold the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it! Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in; I will pour it out upon the children abroad ; and upon the assembly of young men together; for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days; and their houses shall be turned unto others, with their fields and wives together, for I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord."*
As most of the prophets predicted this great event, we may presume that in their de. graded state, the captives would recall to their remembrance numberless passages of a similar import.
Their immediaté sufferings, and such recollections as these united, bad a natural tendency to wean them from a confidence in graven images, and the worship of those that were no gods; and they would be disposed to exclaimin the language of their ancestors, when they
* Jerem. ch. vi. v, 10m 13.