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We might farther pursue these illustrations un, der the guidance of scripture; but perhaps they have already become tedious.
There is one reflection, which here naturally arises ; that the beasts may be of moral, as well as secular benefit to us. We employ them in our service, use them for our food, and from them collect materials for our clothing. But this is not all the use which we are to make of them ; we are to learn wisdom from them. And perhaps one reason, why God has placed us in a condition, which requires us to be converfant with them, is that we may thus gather moral instructions from the actions which we see in them.
It is, however, a humbling thought, that we should need instruction, and thould lo often meet reproof from the animals, which we despise. Sure. ly we are much fallen from the dignity of rational beings ;. we are much depraved in the disposition of our hearts; we are much corrupted in our sentiments and actions ; else God would not send us to learn wisdom and virtue from these inferior creatures. God has given us understanding, and made us wiser than the beasts of the field, or the fowls of heaven. · But our understanding is darkened through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts. Our reason is enflaved to passion and luft. Our judgment is per. verted by earthly affections. Hence the brutal creatures are so often proposed to us as emblems of the wisdom and virtue, which we have lost and which we ought by all means to regain. Their example, however, is but a subordinate auxiliary to means more excellent and wonderful.
Let us rejoice in the rich and glorious provision, which God has made for our recovery from this dishonorable and dangerous apoftacy. He has
given us a revelation from heaven. This teaches us, that all have finned, and fallen under condemnation to death and misery—that a faviour has come to redeem us by his blood--that the divine spirit is fhed down to renew us by his influence, and that God gives his holy spirit to them, who ask him. Convinced of our guilt and depravity, let us repair to the God of grace, supplicate his pardon in the name of his son, and implore the kind influence of that good fpirit, which is able to renew our hearts, subdue our lufts, brighten our understanding and purify our souls. And under this heavenly influence let us aspire to improvement in knowledge and virtue, and to the purity and perfection of our nature, that we may be qualified to associate with angels, and with them to dwell in the immediate presence of the crea
Joab laying hold on the Horns of the Altar.
1. KINGS ii. 30.
And he said, Nay, but I will dis here.
HIS is the resolution of Joab, who had fled to the altar, as his last refuge, when he knew, that king Solomon had determined to take away his life.
This Joab was a man of great distinction in the reign of David. The king made him the chief commander of his army, and principal counsellor in war; and the duties of his high station he executed with wisdom, fidelity and courage. By his long continuance and eminent services in his office, he had acquired such unbounded influ. ence among the soldiery, that he affumed, in some cases, an imperious controul over the king himself.
On certain occasions he expreffed some sense of religion. David's order for numbering the people“ was abominable to Joab," and he remonftrat. ed against it as what would be " a cause of trefpass to Ifrael.” Before his famous battle with the combined forces of Syria and Ammon, he addressed the officers of his army in a speech, which favoured highly of patriotism and piety; “ Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people and the cities of our God. And the Lord do that, which seemeth him good.”
But though he occasionally expreffed some pie ous sentiments, yet in his habitual temper he was haughty, deceitful and ferocious. In an insidious and treacherous manner, and from mere jealousy and envy he aflaffinated two men, Amasa and Ab. ner, who were more righteous than himself. Af. ter the suppression of Abfalom's rebellion, Joab threatened the king
with another and more dangerous insurrection, if he continued to indulge his immoderate grief for the death of an unnatural son. When, in the decline of David's life, Adonijah usurped the throne, Joab joined the party of the usurper, though he must have known, that the king intended to make Solomon his fucceffor. This complication of crimes induced David to leave it in charge to Solomon, that he should not suffer Joab to go down to the grave in peace.
Solomon, after his father's demise, being firmly feated on his throne, caused Adonijah to be put to death ; and he deposed and banihed Abiathar the priest, who had been deeply concerned in the late usurpation. Joab, hearing what mea. sures the king was taking, and being conscious of his own crimes, and perhaps knowing David's charge to Solomon, expected, that his own fate must foon follow. He therefore fled to the tabernacle and caught hold on the horns of the altar. Solomon, being informed of Joab's flight to the altar, fent an officer to fall upon him. The officer came to him and said, “ Thus faith the king, Come forth," that the altar be not stained with thy blood. Joab replied, “Nay, but I will die here.” On a second order from the king, he was executed in that place.
In the land of Israel cities of refuge were appointed for the security of the man, who had llain his neighbour unawares ; and the tabernacle, at the door of which stood the altar of burnt-offering, was in some cases allowed to be à place of refuge for the manslayer. But neither the cities nor the tabernacle were to yield protection to a wilful murderer. When it appeared, on examination, that the man came presumptuously on his neighbour to flay him
with guile, the divine order was express, “ Thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.”
Joab must have been too well acquainted with the law of God, to suppose, that a wilful murderer and a rebel against the government, such as he was, could be faved from death by fleeing to the altar.
The preservation of life was not his object in this action; for he expected still to die. He said, “I will die here." It is probable he viewed this Aight to the altar as an act of religion, which became a dyingsinner, and would procure him pardon and acceptance with an offended God. His crimes were such as no facrifice of beasts could expiate, for the law had provided no atonement for presumptuous fins. If he must die, he would die on the altar, and make himself the facrifice, and his blood the atonement. If this last act was accom. panied with repentance of his fins and faith in the mercy of God, he certainly was forgiven. Whether this was the state of mind in which he died, the story is filent, and we cannot judge.
There is, however, one very serious and important truth here suggested; “ that men, who have lived all their days without a regard to religion, may wish for the benefit and protection of it, when they die.” Vol. V.