Page images

given away in alms can at all make up for the want of kindness. He is in fact doing a double mischief to the poor, who, while he alienates their hearts by his pride, makes himself useful to their necessities by his money; he is doing what he can to degrade them, to make them wear an outward show of respect and gratitude and dependence towards one whom in their hearts they can neither esteem nor love. But on the other hand, kindness without money may do very much indeed; and the comfort is, that there is no one amongst us who cannot be kind, however small may be his ability to give alms. There is no one among us who may not make his daily intercourse with every one in a poorer station, a means of increasing mutual charity, instead of exciting mutual aversion. You know full well the vexations which you are sometimes guilty of towards some of our neighbours ; not of any serious amount, and still less purposely inflicted; but still galling and annoying, and tending to perpetuate what is unkind between one class and another, rather than what is friendly. I am sure that you are not aware of the full extent of the mischief created by these apparent trifles ; but when you think of the number of schools in England, and that in the neighbourhood of each of them something of the same thing is going on, it is easy to imagine, that the effect on the whole may be felt even nationally. But at any rate, whether

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

the effect be more or less, the mischief to our own hearts is the same; opportunities for kindness are kept out; and a careless and insulting habit finds its way into them.

In other places there are other matters on which I might have dwelt with propriety in addition to this; but I know of none where this could have been rightly omitted. And now in conclusion, the sum and substance of this day's solemnity is to nourish in us feelings of love towards God and man. Whether we fear disease, love towards God in Christ, and an unwearied kindness towards one another, will take away its sting, and turn it into a blessing; or if we fear civil commotions and revolution, love to God and man is again the only oil that can appease the raging waters; the one love enkindling the other, till, if for no other reason yet for this alone, because of our strong sense of our common brotherhood in Christ Jesus, because God so loved us, we also should all love one another,

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]



1 Kings, xiii. 26.

And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard

thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord.

In considering the chapter from which these words are taken, and which was the first lesson for this morning's service, it seems best first to explain such parts of it as may need explanation, considered merely as a story; and then to show what parts of it, and in what respects, afford instruction to us; two things very different in themselves, and requiring always to be kept distinct.

Taking then the account of the disobedient prophet merely as the account of a past event, and wishing to understand it merely as such, we may wish perhaps to know why the prophet who came from Judah was commanded neither to cat nor

[ocr errors]

drink at Bethel; and still more, why the old prophet should have been so anxious to persuade him to do what was forbidden him. Now the reason why the prophet who came from Judah was neither to eat nor to drink at Bethel, nor to return by the same way that he had set out, was in order to show that Jeroboam and his people were fallen away from the true commonwealth of Israel, that the bond of brotherhood between them and Judah was broken off utterly; that they were become to the servants of God like heathen men and publicans, with whom they were to hold no intercourse. As St. John then desires the Christians not to receive into their house certain men who by their evil deeds had broken the bond of Christian communion, nor even to bid them God speed, “ for he that biddeth them God speed,” he adds, “is partaker of their evil deeds," so the prophet of God who was bearing the message of God's judgment against Bethel, was to have no friendly intercourse with its people; he was to keep himself aloof from them, and even to return by a different road, lest by renewing his acquaintance with any of the inhabitants whom he had seen on his first journey, he might be the more tempted to hold intercourse with them, and to linger on his way home.

This being the reason of the command given to the prophet of Judah, we are now to consider what

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

motives the old prophet could have had to tempt him to disobedience. The old prophet must be supposed to have been one who had taken part heartily with Jeroboam in separating himself from the common worship at Jerusalem; one who had strongly supported the setting up the altars at Bethel and at Dan. He would, therefore, be ill pleased to see his own conduct and that of his countrymen declared to be so sinful, as that God's prophets might hold no communion with them. He would feel the command issued to the prophet to be a reproach upon him and on his cause, and knowing the effect of old habits and impressions upon the people at large, he would be afraid lest they themselves should be shocked at finding themselves so utterly condemned as unholy by a prophet of Jerusalem, and lest they might desire to escape from his censures by conforming again to the worship of the tribe of Judah. As Saul had besought Samuel to turn with him, and honour him before the elders of his people and before Israel ; so this old prophet wished to persuade the prophet of Judah to abate something of his severity, to enter into his house and eat of his bread and drink of bis cup, that so the people might think that their conduct was not so utterly condemned at Jerusalem ; that the prophet, while bearing a message of severity, was himself inclined to think it too severe; that, whilst denouncing a judgment, he

« PreviousContinue »