Sivut kuvina

clearly intimate that this most abandoned woman was the wife of the bishop of the place, and it would of course make his criminality the greater. To say the least of this opinion, it appears to me to be perfectly gratuitous, unnecessary and absurd, for a variety of reasons. In the first place, it is against the direct letter of the sacred text; and it is always unsafe, unless for the most substantial reasons, to vary in the smallest degree from the received translation. I believe that the hypercriticism of friends has done, on the whole, as much injury as the open opposition of foes. And, secondly, this supposition appears to me destitute of all foundation; because no man who had the least claims to the character of decency, not to mention the high standing and religious character of the bishop of the Church of Thyatira, would have lived with a woman of such intolerable vices as those represented as belonging to the one spoken of in the text. And besides this, supposing that the bishop of this Church had been so unfortunate as to have been unequally yoked with one who proved so conspicuous for wickedness, there was nothing to hinder the exercise of a salutary control; for let it be remembered, that the state of society, in reference to the female sex, differed very widely in those days from that which exists at present. But I do not design to pursue this subject, sufficient has been said ; and I will only remark, as settling this question conclusively in my mind, that there is not the least necessity of resorting to an explanation of this kind to get at the meaning of the text. A consideration of some remarkable portions of the Jewish history will explain the whole subject with the utmost satisfaction, and the circumstances mentioned in some of the preceding epistles, will teach us that the Spirit of God meant the subject to be explained by a reference to the Jewish history. In the very last epistle we considered, that to the Church in Pergamos, we were obliged to carry our investigations back into the book of Numbers, and gather the interesting instruction furnished us by the history of Balaam; and by this means we were enabled fully to comprehend the meaning of the censure passed on that Church. In the present instance, we shall be constrained to pursue the same course, and from the interesting history contained in the book of Kings, I trust we shall be able to gather sufficient light to enable us fully to comprehend the passage now before us. As there are a variety of circumstances, however, which must all be taken into one view, and as the subject is considerably involved, like Paul, I have to say—“I beseech you, brethren, hear me patiently;" and not only patiently, but with a suitable attention.

It will perhaps pave the way for a better understanding of the whole subject, if I state the proposition which it will be my object to prove. From the best attention I have been able to bestow, I have thought that there must have been in some way connected with the Church at Thyatira some woman of great authority, talents and distinction, who, though professedly among the company of the faithful, was nevertheless, through the medium of the same sinful compliances as those which so much injured the Church at Pergamos, striving to corrupt the true religion; that she made every effort to draw away believers from their godly conversation in Christ Jesus; and that she was enabled, from her situation, to harass and disturb the peace of those who would live godly; that she was a cunning, artful, overbearing woman; and that from all these circumstances combined, together with the punishment with which she was threatened, God, in order to express his abhorrence of her and her practices, calls her Jezebel; not that this was her real name, but simply because she so remarkably resembled the wife of Ahab, king of Israel.

This is the interpretation which I hope to be able to sustain, and in order to this, it will be necessary to pay a very close attention to some particulars of early history.

Nine hundred and seventy-five years before the Christian era, and in consequence of the just judgment of God on the wickedness of Solomon and his son Rehoboam, the kingdom which had hitherto been united was divided into two parts, having, henceforward, a bitter hostility against each other. Two of the tribes, Judah and Benjamin, continued attached to the royal family of David, and ever afterward passed under the name of the kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was of course Jerusalem. Ten of the tribes revolted, chose Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, king, and always afterwards passed under the name of the kingdom of Israel. Shechem, in Samaria, was the capital of this kingdom; sometimes, however, Tirzah. Jeroboam was an idolatrous prince, and in all the subsequent history of Israel, he is mentioned with a terrible distinction, because it was he who, to prevent the people from going to Jerusalem to worship, set up calves at Bethel and Dan, one at the south and the other at the

northern extremity of his kingdom. He made altars, groves and high places, and impiously exercised the priest's office himself. Nadab, the son of Jereboam, succeeded his father, and walked in all his ways of wickedness. After a short reign of two years, Nadab was cut off by a traitor, Baasha, who usurped the throne, and destroyed the whole family of Jeroboam. To Baasha succeeded his son, Elah; but Elah, when he was drunk in the house of his steward, was slain by Zimri, who also destroyed the whole family of Baasha and Elah. Zimri then usurped the kingdom and reigned only seven days, for when besieged in the city of Tirzah, by Omri, a captain in the army of Israel, he retired to the king's palace, set fire to it, and perished. Omri reigned about twelve years; he built Samaria, and made it the capitol of the kingdom. It is said of Omri, that he did worse than all who had preceded him, for we learn from one of the prophets, that he made statutes or laws in favour of idolatry. Ahab, the son of Omri, succeeded to the throne, and reigned twenty-two years. Now it is said of Ahab, that he did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. I have given you this detail of the history to show you to what an awful height of iniquity the kings of Israel had risen; and the worst of whom was Ahab. It becomes us, however, here to inquire into the circumstances which rendered Ahab so conspicuous for wickedness, and this inquiry will lead us directly to our subject. It is related in the sixteenth chapter of the first book of Kings, that the prophet Elijah, in representing the wickedness of Ahab, thus speaks—“And it came to pass, as if it was a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jero


boam, the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him, and he reared up altars for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria, and Ahab made a grove, and Ahab did more to provoke the God of Israel to anger, than all the kings of Israel that were before

All this, and more, the sacred history tells us he did, because he was instigated by his wife Jezebel. Now this, you will mark, was the more especial crime of Ahab. He was not content with merely following the steps of his wicked and idolatrous predecessors, but he married, contrary to all the laws of God, the idolatrous daughter of the idolatrous king of Zidon, and at the instigation of this woman, introduced another form of idolatry into the kingdom of Israel. Now from the sacred history, the following summary may be drawn of Jezebel's character. She was a great woman, inasmuch as she was the daughter of a king and the wife of a king. She was a woman of extraordinary talents and force of character, as will appear from her whole history. She was a most confirmed idolater, and not only so, but the idolatry in which she had been brought up, was one of the most impure character; for she introduced the worship of Asherah, or Astarte, or in other words, the Sidonian Venus, among the rites of whose worship there were practices which it may not be proper to name. Jezebel encouraged this idolatry, and not only so, but she used every means in her power to persecute the true religion. She was of all cruel monsters the most cruel who is mentioned in history, if you except the Roman Hortensia, who could drive her chariot over the bleeding

« EdellinenJatka »