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that they can worship God as well at home as at church, and can gain as much instruction from reading, as from hearing the word preached: but of the former, it may be asked, "Who hath required this at your hands?" and of the other, What promise can you claim equivalent to these, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I bless thee. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Psalm 1xxxvii. 2. Exod. xx. 24. Isa. Ivi. 7. Matt. xviii. 20. Perhaps this general observation may not be too strong, that while conscientious and steady obedience to the divine commands uniformly tends to advancement in holiness, and meetness for glory; additions to what is prescribed, or wilful neglect of what is enjoined us, as uniformly tend to idolatry on the one hand, or utter profaneness and contempt of religion on the other.
It appears that no opposition was made to Micah's idolatrous establishment, either there was no judge at the time, or he did not possess sufficient authority to correct the abuse; probably the law for appointing judges in every city was not duly attended to, and the evil, in a province, might have grown to an enormous height, before news of it reached a general magistrate, stationed perhaps at a considerable distance. In course of time, Micah was visited by a Levite, who being by marriage allied to the tribe of Judah,
had been a sojourner at Bethlehem, and being apparently of an unsettled, perhaps insubordinate, disposition, was now roving about in quest of a maintenance.* Micah, delighted with the idea of adding something more of the semblance of regularity to his worship, engaged this Levite to reside in his house, and become his domestic chaplain. He tempted the Levite to invade the priest's office, and to commit idolatry, and he himself presumed to consecrate him to the priest's office; and then both were mightily satisfied with what they had done, and really expected the blessing of God to rest upon it. Alas! how blinding and besotting are sin and idolatry! and how important the injunction,"Little children, keep yourselves from idols!"
Some time after this, the Danites found themselves greatly straitened for land, and they sent out five young men of their tribe, to spy the land, and search it for some point not yet subdued, which they might advantageously attack. It should be observed, that this deficiency arose from themselves. This tribe had at first a lot assigned it within that of Judah, and near to the Philistines; and it was probably through their own neglect or cowardice, that they had been in part kept out of the possession of it ;
*Not literally so, for the law of tithes secured the Levites against want; but the times being unsettled, perhaps the tithes were not paid very regularly; and this Levite, it so appears, preferred a wandering life, to being under the control and notice of the priests in their own cities.
and, as the tribe multiplied, their present straitness was felt. It does not appear that they had consulted the Lord by his high-priest, about their intended enterprize; but the spies happening in the course of their journey to lodge at the house of Micah, and meet with the Levite, whom they recognized, on his informing them that he was a priest, they bethought themselves of inquiring by him. He readily undertook their cause, and having gone through his form, answered them according to their inclinations, and in language assuming the semblance of piety. His words being verified by the event, raised the reputation of the oracle, and sanctioned the idolatry. "Thus (observes Mr. Scott) all the mistakes and lies of fortune-tellers, monthly prognosticators, and other pretended prophets, are overlooked or soon forgotten, because they sometimes happen to conjecture right;" and these random guesses, (or preconcerted schemes,) when they prove to be right, (or successful,) raise their credit with the ignorant and credulous. Laish, or Leshem, the part on which the Danites had fixed to make their attack, lay at the northern extremity of Canaan, though within the boundaries of the promised land. The country was very plentiful; yet, so had the Israelites neglected to prosecute their victories, that the Canaanites despised them, and abode there without magistrates, or without defence, either in walls, troops, or alliances. With some difficulty the spies roused their brethren to engage in the attempt; and at
length no more than six hundred men commenced the attack. Passing on their way by Mount Ephraim, they formed the design to rob Micah of his gods, and seduce away his priest which they accomplished; and, though pursued after and remonstrated with by Micah, they were not at all inclined to make restitution; but might is generally the conqueror's right; and perhaps they even flattered themselves that their anxiety to secure for themselves a priest, an oracle, and all that they deemed necessary for religious observances, would secure to their expedition and their settlement the protection and favour of God, and that the end would sanctify the means. Thus idolatry was established in the tribe of Dan; which, in spite of all the exertions of the judges, continued all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh, even until the captivity of the ark, in the days of Eli the high-priest. Let us ever beware of turning from the express commands of of scripture, either to the right hand or to the left;-for we see how great a matter a little fire
The other fact alluded to is, a horrible murder, which involved all Israel in a dreadful civil war, and nearly exterminated one whole tribe. The subordinate wife of a Levite near mount Ephraim, having been guilty of infidelity, went from him, and remained four months in the house of her father at Bethlehemjudah. The Levite, retaining a strong affection for her, and probably having received some intimation
of her penitence, followed her, and spoke kindly to her; a reconciliation was effected, and they were on their way returning homewards, when evening came on;--at this time they were near the city of Jebus, (which was yet in the hands of the idolatrous Canaanites.) The servant of the Levite proposed their taking a lodging there for the night; but the Levite conscientiously refused to take up his abode, even for a night, among those idolaters, and resolved to proceed either to Gibeah or Ramah. At Gibeah they waited some time, seeking for a lodging; but none of the men of the city had hospitality enough to admit them, even though they were well supplied with provisions.-Alas! that inhumanity and unfeeling disregard to the circumstances of a brother in need, should be found in one of the cities o Israel; which would have disgraced, which probably would not have been experienced, in the heathen city they had just passed.
At length an old man, a native of Mount Ephraim, but who sojourned in Gibeah, returning home from work, invited the travellers to his house. The men of the city, instigated by the vilest dispositions, and probably enraged with the old man for exercising that hospitality which they had withheld, riotously beset his house, and demanded that the traveller should be given up to their fury. He was preserved from their designs, but the unhappy wife became their victim:-being cruelly abused by them, she expired before morning-light. As an appeal to