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If they regarded the image of a calf as really a God, nothing could expose the folly of idolatry more than saying that they rejoiced in, or worshipped, the work of their own hands.

42. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered unto me slain beasts and sacrifices, by the space of forty years in the wilderness?

43. But ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, supposed to mean the sun, and the star of your god Remphan, or, "Rephan," as some copies read it, supposed to be the planet Saturn, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.

This is a quotation from the prophet Amos, in which he replies to a boast of the children of Israel, that they had served God faithfully for forty years in the wilderness, by telling them that at that time, as some imagine, or afterwards, as others with more probability suppose, they had carried the image of Moloch in a tent, and a star to represent Rephan, another of their Gods, and that for these offences they were to be carried captive to, or beyond, Babylon. This last circumstance shows that the idolatry here referred to was not any thing practised in the wilderness, but must have taken place in some succeeding period. For the captivity of Israel and Judah was a punishment inflicted for offences committed in the land of Canaan. This quotation does not correspond with the original, Hebrew, where we have the word Chiun in

stead of Rephan; nor yet exactly with the Greek translation, although evidently borrowed thence, in which we have Damascus instead of Babylon; but these variations are of little importance, where the inspiration of the speaker is not maintained, and may be easily accounted for by a slight failure of memory in Stephen.


1. We may observe how truly honourable and noble was the conduct of Moses, in regard to his brethren. He forsakes the honours and pleasures of a court, to visit a despised, oppressed and enslaved people; he concerns himself in their affairs, and endeavours, at the hazard of his own life, to redress their wrongs; and this he does entirely from a principle of faith, before God had appeared to him, and before he had made any of those gracious communications with which the patriarchs had been favoured; relying upon the promise of God to their fathers that he would be their protector and deliverer. Justly has his conduct upon this occasion been celebrated by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "By faith," says he, " Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, chusing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;" that is, the pleasures of sinners or idolaters, which are only temporary. For that Moses partook of sinful pleasures does not appear. Esteeming the reproach of Christ," or, as it would be better rendered," the reproach of the anointed,” that is, of God's chosen people the Israelites, "greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." This conduct was truly generous and disinterested; and justly was he afterwards honoured by God with being made the deliverer and law-giver of the people to whom he had

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shown such regard. How well does his character illustrate the happy effects of a virtuous and religious education; for to the pious instructions of his parents he was no doubt indebted for his firm belief in the divine promises.

How different the part which Moses acted, from that of many of those who have been in the like circumstances; who, when once raised from a mean condition to affluence and power, entirely forget the afflicted condition of their brethren, and are often zealous to countenance the measures of their oppressors, in order to convince their new friends that they have entirely discarded their former acquaintance, and that they are sincere in their present professions.

2. Happy would it be for mankind, did they but attend to the motive which Moses is represented as suggesting for abating the violence of his contending countrymen. Why do ye injure one another? Ye are brethren, descended from the same ancestor, children of one family, members of one community, professors of one religion. Violent contests, bitter animosities and barbarous treatment among persons so nearly related, are peculiarly unnatural and reproachful. Let private families, when torn with internal dissentions; let Christian societies, when differing in religious opinions, remember this important truth; and it cannot fail to soften their animosities against each other, and to moderate the violence of their contests. Nor let it be forgotten by contending nations. However differing from each other in situation, in language and in imagined interests, they have all one common nature, and one Father in heaven. Let this consideration soften the ferocities of war, and teach them humanity towards each other. Let it teach them to pity and pray for their misguided brethren, and not to anathematize them.

3. The strong tendency which the children of Israel discovered to forsake the laws and institutions under which they lived, affords a strong presumption

that they were not at first chosen by themselves, but that they had a superior origin. Had they been devised by the people, they would have contrived something more agreeable to their wishes and inclinations; and if they had been the contrivance of Moses, he would have taken care to give them what was more acceptable, and not have imposed a yoke which they were never able to bear. The truth is that the institutions of Moses proceeded from the Divine Being himself, who, in giving them, consulted the benefit of the Israelites and the future good of mankind, rather than the wishes of the Jews. Hence it was that he required many things which they bore with great impatience, and which nothing could have induced them to submit to at all, but unquestionable evidence of divine interposition.

Acts vii. 44. to the end.

We have here a continuation of Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrim, and an account of his death.

44. Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen;

The tent or tabernacle of testimony was so called, because it contained the two tables of stone on which God had written, with his own hand, the ten commandments delivered in an audible voice from mount Sinai, and which were to be kept as a memorial of that event to all future generations. A model of this ta bernacle was shown to Moses on the mount, and he was directed to make it exactly after that pattern. Stephen seems to have introduced the mention of the tabernacle and temple, in order to show that he considered them as of divine appointment, and that the

charge brought against him, so far as it respected these places, was without foundation.

45. Which also our fathers that came after brought in brought in with Jesus, "Joshua," into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David,

46. Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob:

David was favoured with great success in his war against the Canaanites, and wished to erect a temple for the ark of God from the spoils which he had taken from his enemies. But he was not permitted to accomplish his wishes, because he had been engaged in war, and his hands were stained with blood: the Divine Being chusing to express his dislike of war in this manner. This honour was reserved for the more peaceful reign of his successor.

47. house.

But Solomon built him a

48. Howbeit, "though indeed," the Most High dwelleth not in temples that are made with hands, as saith the prophet*,

49. Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool: What house will ye build me, saith the Lord? Or what is the place of my rest?

Isaiah lxvi. 1.

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