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taking her to wife. There is nothing therefore to shew that God enjoined his prophet to do that which was sinful. Be it observed further, that the notions and principles of the Israelites were by far less strict and refined than ours in matters of this kind. For the hardness of their hearts they were allowed under the Law to put away their wives, for other causes besides that only one which our Lord accounts to be sufficient. See Matt. 19.3—9. For a like reason they were allowed to bave more wives than one at the same time. They had the example of the patriarchs for this practice; their twelve tribes sprung from one father, but by four mothers, being a striking instance to the point. The Law was indeed very severe against adultery; for it was designed to promote holiness of life, and purity of practice, in all things, as far as the people were capable of bearing it. And yet whilst the people were familiar with polygamy, and where divorces were of common occurrence, such actions as are here enjoined by the prophet would be regarded by him far otherwise, than we, with our more just notions, and with habits founded on the principles of the Gospel
, are apt to imagine. So that when a great impression was to be made upon the Jews by the prophet's symbolical actions, it might be in fact no violation of his principles for him to do the things here enjoined. And the force put upon his feelings of conjugal affection would be no greater sacrifice, than it was meet for him to make, if by doing so he could more effectually promote the glory of God.
We suppose then that Hosea, after the death of his wife Gomer, see ch. 1. 3, or whilst she was yet living, whether divorced or not, attached himself to another woman, “ beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress," one who had been unfaithful to a kind husband, and had been accordingly put away from him. We suppose that he actually took her for his own by purchase, a method forcibly illustrating the very different notions of the Jews from ours on the subject of marriage. And we suppose that having thus espoused her, he set her apart, by his authority as her husband, to abide for him many days, to wait during a long period of repentance before she was actually to be treated as his wife. And this we suppose actually took place as a method of representing, first, the faithlessness of the children of Israel towards God who had so kindly loved them, and secondly, the treatment He here forewarns them that they should for a long time meet with at his hands. And behold they are now undergoing this sentence accordingly. They are cut off from playing the harlot as idolaters; and they are without the means of exercising their religious services, according to the Law, as Jews. Oh may God hasten the time, when they shall turn with true repentance unto Him, who is at once their Spouse, their King, and their God! Oh may God, who has in the meanwhile given us so many excellent ordinances, for our present and eternal good, also give us grace so to use them as becomes subjects obedient to a heavenly King, and a spouse devoted to a heavenly Husband ! PART VII. 0. T.
The controversy of the Lord with his people. i Hear the word of the LORD, increase: because they have left ye children of Israel: for the off to take heed to the LORD. Lord hath a controversy with 11 Whoredom and wine and the inhabitants of the land, be- new wine take away the heart. cause there is no truth, nor 12 My people ask counsel at mercy, nor knowledge of God their stocks, and their staff dein the land.
clareth unto them: for the spirit 2 By swearing, and lying, and of whoredoms hath caused them killing, and stealing, and com- to err, and they have gone a mitting adultery, they break whoring from under their God. out, and blood toucheth blood.
13 They sacrifice upon the 3 Therefore shall the land tops of the mountains, and burn mourn, and every one that incense upon the hills, under dwelleth therein shall languish, oaks and poplars and elms, bewith the beasts of the field, and cause the shadow thereof is with the fowls of heaven; yea, good: therefore your daughters the fishes of the sea also shall shall commit whoredom, and be taken away.
your spouses shall commit adul. 4 Yet let no man strive, nor tery. reprove another: for thy people 14 I will not punish your are as they that strive with the daughters when they commit priest.
whoredom, nor your spouses 5 Therefore shalt thou fall in when they commit adultery: for the day, and the prophet also themselves are separated with shall fall with thee in the night, whores, and they sacrifice with and I will destroy thy mother. harlots: therefore the people
6 My people are destroyed for that doth not understand shall lack of knowledge: because thou fall. hast rejected knowledge, I will 15 Though thou, Israel, play the also reject thee, that thou shalt harlot, yet let not Judah offend; be no priest to me: seeing thou and come not ye unto Gilgal, hast forgotten the law of thy God, neither go ye up to Beth-aven, I will also forget thy children. nor swear, The Lord liveth. 7 As they were increased, so 16 For Israel slideth back as they sinned against me: there- a backsliding heifer: now the fore will I change their glory Lord will feed them as a lamb into shame.
in a large place. 8 They eat up the sin of my 17 Ephraim is joined to idols : people, and they set their heart let him alone. on their iniquity.
18 Their drink is sour: they 9 And there shall be, like peo- have committed whoredom conple, like priest: and I will pu- tinually : her rulers with shame nish them for their ways, and do love, Give ye. reward them their doings. 19 The wind hath bound her
10 For they shall eat, and not up in her wings, and they shall have enough: they shall com- be ashamed because of their mit whoredom, and shall not sacrifices.
LECTURE 1392. The dreadful case of being let alone in sin. How dreadful is the condition of such a land as is here described, in which “there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God;" in which swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and adultery, prosper and abound ! “Therefore shall the land mourn,” was God's sentence to them of old. He punished them, in the dispensations of his providence, by the decrease of their cattle, and of the fowls of the air, and of the fishes of the sea. And so we may justly believe that God now also chastises nations for their sins, by national calamities. And well it is for them if thereby He brings them to repent and to amend. Well it would be for us of this nation, to lay to heart the things here written against Israel, “ As they were increased, so they sinned against me.” Never was any people raised to a greater height of glory and prosperity than we have been. Let us beware, lest with our growth in wealth and power we fall into the snares of pride and of presumption. And above all let us take heed that we be not chargeable with forgetfulness of God.
Certainly we have much to be thankful for, in respect of the true piety which in no small measure does flourish in the land. This is indeed the chief of our glory, as it is also no doubt the real secret of our strength. Our people are not destroyed for lack of knowledge; because though there is herein much room for improvement, still are there but few so situated that they might not, if they would, become acquainted with saving truth. The ministers of our church are not rejected from the office of ambassadors for Christ, but are the honoured instruments of reconciling many sinners unto God through Him, and of building up in their most holy faith many whose hearts are set upon righteousness. For, God be praised, it is not true generally of them, that they eat up the sin of his people, or set their heart on their iniquity; that is to say, that they make a profit of encouraging God's people in their sins. Such things have been in the land, but they are no longer. They once prevailed amongst us to a great extent, in connexion with practices of idolatry, much like these which are here charged upon the Israelites, and for which God tells them, and it is a dreadful sentence, that He will let them alone, and not chastise them. This is no less than to give them up to reprobate mind. This feeding the stray “ lamb in a large place,” is giving it the liberty it seeks, but withholding the protection, as well as the restraint, which are indispensable to its well being. May God never so let us alone in our sins; never so indulge us in our wilfulness! And though there may be some amongst us disposed like Israel to slide back from the truth, may there be ever a Judah that does not offend, a faithful tribe, a holy seed, that will neither worship idols, nor fail to worship God, that will neither give in to the vanities of superstition, nor adopt the proud and presumptuous notions of infidelity!
The priests, the princes, and the people, are charged with sin. i Hear ye this, o priests ; beah, and the trumpet in Raand hearken, ye house of Israel; mah: cry aloud at Beth-aven, and give ye ear, O house of the after thee, O Benjamin. king; for judgment is toward 9 Ephraim shall be desolate in you, because ye have been a the day of rebuke: among the
on Mizpah, and a net tribes of Israel havelmade known spread upon Tabor.
that which shall surely be. 2 And the revolters are pro- 10 The princes of Judah were found to make slaughter, though like them that remove the bound: I have been a rebuker of them all. therefore I will pour out my
3 I know Ephraim, and Israel wrath upon them like water. is not hid from me: for now, 11 Ephraim is oppressed and O Ephraim, thou committest broken in judgment, because be whoredom, and Israel is defiled. willingly walked after the com
4 They will not frame their mandment. doings to turn unto their God : 12 Therefore will I be unto for the spirit of whoredoms is Ephraim as a moth, and to the in the midst of them, and they house of Judah as rottenness. have not known the LORD. 13 When Ephraim saw his sick
5 And the pride of Israel doth ness, and Judah saw his wound, testify to his face : therefore then went Ephraim to the Asshall Israel and Ephraim fall syrian, and sent to king Jareb: in their iniquity; Judah also yet could he not heal you, nor shall fall with them.
cure you of your wound. 6 They shall go with their 14 For I will be unto Ephraim flocks and with their herds to as a lion, and as a young lion seek the LORD; but they shall to the house of Judah: 1, eren not find him ; he hath' with- I, will tear and go away; I will drawn himself from them. take away, and none shall res
7 They have dealt treacher- cue him. ously against the LORD: for they 15 I will go and return to my have begotten strange children: place, till they acknowledge now shall a month devour them their offence, and seek my face: with their portions.
in their affliction they will seek 8 Blow ye the cornet in Gi- me early.
LECTURE 1393. That we must seek to God for all our deliverance. There can be no doubt that Hosea dwelt chiefly in the kingdom of the ten tribes, and that his prophecies refer especially to the 6 house of Israel,” so called as distinguished from the kingdom of Judah, which consisted of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And yet his prophetic warnings often reach on to Judah also. For in fact the one kingdom had fast followed the evil example of the other, and was in some respects more guilty in its idolatries; the pure worship of the true God in the temple services leaving this people more thoroughly inexcusable when they turned to follow after idols. So should we, if we were now to turn to lying vanities, instead of worshipping God in spirit and in truth, have all the more to answer for, in proportion as our church provides for us due occasions for public worship, due order and solemnity in the ministration of Christ's ordinances, and due means of edification by the preaching of his Gospel, and by the teaching of his authorized ministers.
When the ten tribes revolted, and formed a separate kingdom under Jeroboam, he set up the idol worship at Dan and Bethel, in order to prevent his people from resorting to worship at Jerusalem. And it was part of his evil policy to do away with the Levitical priesthood, and to make priests of the lowest of the people. See 1 Kings 12. 31. It was to priests of this irregular appointment that the prophet addressed the reproof here set down. They had been as a snare and net to catch the people; inasmuch as their own livelihood depended on seducing them from the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem, to that of the idols at Dan and Bethel. This is a result almost sure to follow from any kind of division in religion; it must be for the gain and glory of those who separate, and more especially of their ministers, to attach as many others as they can to their party. And these are considerations no less forcible on the side of error, no less likely to influence men in propagating false doctrine, than in the cause of divine truth. At the same time we must remember, that the priests of Judah, who were beset by no such temptation, became notwithstanding abettors of the like idolatry. Whence we may take occasion to reflect, how great is the sin of those ministers in the church, if any such there be, who when made independent in their worldly means, yet give not their whole minds and lives to the building up of the people committed to their charge in the truth as it is in Jesus.
We read in the Scripture history, of a king of Judah sending, as is here stated of Ephraim, to a king of Assyria to help him. See 2 Chron. 28. 16. 'A melancholy instance of infatuation, the result of which is here plainly foretold, in Ephraim's case, “yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” No, this was not in man, however mighty, to perform ; for the wound had been inflicted by the Lord. Neither Israel nor Judah derived benefit, but rather harm and loss, from their alliances with their heathen neighbours. When God smites us, it is to Him that we must look to heal us. When He wounds, it is He must cure. In our sorrows He can give us the best of comfort; in our necessities He can best supply our wants. And especially in the troubles of the soul, when we are deeply convinced of sin, and agitated by the fear of judgment, it is by seeking unto God with penitent confession, and earnest prayer for pardon, that we are most sure to obtain peace unto our souls.