« ZurückWeiter »
existing in our world, surpasses not only our usual supposition, but even all power of human numeration, at least as to any real distinct conception of the amount; for we can only pen down the words millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions, and such other augmentative terms, in which all actual comprehension soon becomes lost in mere verbal sounds.'
“ Thus has been fulfilled, in these creatures, the great command, which became to them the law of their being.-Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.""
The woodcut illustrations to this volume are many of them interesting, and it is prefaced by a beautiful frontispiece and vignette. Altogether the subjects embraced in it, to which we have ourselves given considerable attention, are treated very much in accordance with the views we have long entertained respecting them; but there is one paper—that on the “ Shepherd Kings of Egypt,” with which we do not at all sympathize. After very patient and laborious research into the early annals of Egypt-its monuments, paintings, and hieroglyphics, we are clearly of opinion that the whole statement of Manetho is neither more nor less than a garbled narrative of the sojourn of the Jews in Egypt. Josephus, the very author to whom we owe it, and who knew much more of his own people than we can pretend to, unhesitatingly applies it to them, and so far as it is consistent with itself and with facts, it describes their history well enough. But when it leaves the authenticated facts of the Mosaic narrative, it quits at the same time all claim, not only to truth or probability, but actually to possibility. We have not, however, time to discuss the whole question here, and will content ourselves with regretting that so straightforward and original a thinker as Dr. Kitto, should in this instance have succumbed to a popular but, we think, untenable opinion.
THE GOD-FEARING YOUTH. “I, thy servant,” said Obadiah to Elijah, “ fear the Lord from my youth.”
We are not over-ready to receive any man's testimony in his own favor; but in this instance we have corroborative proofs of its correctness in the declaration of his biographer, and the
facts of his life,—“Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly; for it was so that when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.” (1 Kings xviii. 3, 4.) Another proof-indirect indeed, but satisfactorymay be gathered from his status in society. He was governor of Ahab's house—“Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men”-literally, the “obscure”-persons of no note, of no standing, of no splendour or account in the world.
It is not one of the least striking confirmations of the truth and reality of Bible religion, that the worst of men are always willing to trust its possessors. No two persons could have been less alike in the temper and spirit of their minds, than Ahab and Obadiah. Yet the bad king never seems to have questioned the integrity of his pious servant.
over his house"his resources and his influence being almost unlimited. As Joseph before Pharaoh, or Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, so was Obadiah with regard to Ahab. God's grace is of all graces the best: it is all-qualifying, all-informing. It gives men “ ability to stand in the king's palace," and makes them, “in all matters of wisdom and understanding, ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers"-the worldly-wise men-the class and court legislators, to whom earthly governments are too often entrusted.
Obadiah had been a God-fearing youth. He was no longer young, but his piety had not forsaken him. It had probably altered in its developments, passing through those several stages which usually characterize its progress; and its later manifestations are set before us in two instances. much in love with youthful piety, but we like better to anticipate its future. There is something very delightful when “ the first ripe fruit,” is offered to the Lord of the Vintagewhen the warmth, and freshness, and fervor of the young heart are given to Him who is felt to be the chief among ten thousand. But its fires are often cometary-its zeal eccentric, and “not according to knowledge.” Perhaps it had been so with Obadiah, but now it had settled down into calm, consistent, courageous solicitude for the great cause of God's truth.
We may certainly assume that Obadiah’s conduct was right in both the instances brought forward by the sacred historian. They are, in fact, adduced as the actual proofs of his integrity. “Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, for it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets of the Lord and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water." “Thou sayest, “Go and tell thy lord, · Behold, Elijah is here!' And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not, and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me.” At first blush, there was a shew of selfishness in this. Obadiah himself, when younger, might have thought it a cold, prudential, timeserving piece of policy ; but it was not so now. He dares Elijah to challenge his motives or his measures, and lays bare the real secret of his conduct. “But I, thy servant fear the Lord from my youth.”
Now let us see what this Godly fear had grown to, that those of our readers who have begun life as Obadiah did, may understand that in things spiritual, as in things natural, there is first the blade, then the ear, and afterward the full corn—a morning, a noon, and an evening in the day of God's grace in the heart.
There was great moral courage in the conduct of Obadiah, “ The prophets of the groves" were under the special patronage of Jezebel : they ate at her table, and their odious and impudent idolatries were well worthy of that " cursed woman."
As they rose in her favor, the prophets of the Lord would of course become more and more odious, till at last the decree went forth that they should be cut off. This was a trying time for Obadiah. Duty and interest were at war, and one would have thought, that holding high office as he did, under a king who was himself ruled by this wicked creature, he would have sacrificed the first to the last. But no; the cause of God triumphs, and his servants are preserved. Nor is there any real lack of courage in the subsequent conduct of Obadiah. He is urged to tell Ahab where he may find the prophet, and he declines doing so; but he has a reason for his conduct, adequate to so painful an alternative. Elijah possesses supernatural re
sources, of which he can convey no just idea to Ahab. soon as I am gone from thee,” says the desponding steward, “the Spirit of the Lord shall carry thee whither I know not." How was it possible to satisfy the disappointed king, that Obadiah had not deceived him ? Integrity and uprightness had hitherto preserved him, but a lie would be certain death.
How beautifully does this fact bring out another feature in the spiritual portraiture of Obadiah. Truth was his habit,the lease by which he held at once, bis situation and his life. How many amongst us would be willing to resign both or either, on the first infringement of such a tenure ? 65 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me 0, Lord; let thy loving kindness and thy truth continually preserve me.'
The conduct of Obadiah manifested a kind and anxious concern for the interests of true religion. He believed in the doctrine of nursing fathers and nursing mothers to the church, Though very high in authority as a member of the state, he felt that he was still a man--a man pledged to do all he could for the progress of the true faith. He had probably never heard of ec-officio disqualifications for helping a good cause forward; he made the attempt in the daring and noble spirit of a true confessor, and received this glorious testimonial—that “he feared the Lord greatly." Nothing is said of legality-nothing, of interference or officiousness. Let us study to avoid all extremes, rejecting alike the antinomian heresy, that God will carry on his work without our assistance, and the graver error, that the well-meant efforts of human states or public individuals, though they cannot establish grace in the heart of a poor sinner, are always impertinent and valueless in their bearing on things spiritual.
There were work and cost too, connected with this project of Obadiah’s. Perhaps, he had few helpers ; probably he had none. On him then, must have devolved the sustentation of these hundred men. “ Bread and water,” literally understood, were not very expensive; but a little multiplied by twice fifty, becomes a good deal. To one circumstanced as he was, this might nevertheless have been of small account; but not so the personal service. Many in our own day are willing to compromise labor by money-it is so much easier to give than to work. The spirit of the gospel-love out of a pure heart-has a thousand worthless substitutes with worldly men, and unfledged Christians. They may bestow all their goods to feed the poor, and give their bodies to be burned, without possessing that influential charity which weeps with those who weep, and remembers them that are in bonds, as bound with them.
AN EVENING IN MESOPOTAMIA. In the evening after the labor of the day, I often sat at the door of my tent, and giving myself to the full enjoyment of that calm and repose which are imparted to the senses by such scenes as these, gazed listlessly on the varied groups before me. As the sun went down behind the low hills which separate the river from the desert-even their rocky sides had struggled to emulate the verdant clothing of the plain—its receding rays were gradually withdrawn like a transparent veil of light, from the landscape. Over the pure, cloudless sky, was the glow of the last light. The great mound threw its dark shadow far across the plain. In the distance and beyond the Zab, Keshaf, another venerable ruin, rose indistinctly into the evening mist. Still more distant and still more indistinct was a solitary hill overlooking the ancient city of Arbela. The Kurdish mountains whose snowy summits cherished the dying sunbeams, yet struggled with the twilight. The bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle, at first faint, became louder as the flocks returned from their pastures, and wandered amongst the tents. Girls hurried over the green sward to seek their father's cattle, or crouched down to milk those which had returned alone to their well remembered folds. Some were coming from the river bearing the replenished pitcher on their heads or shoulders; others, no less graceful in their form, and erect in their carriage, were carrying the heavy load of long grass which they had cut in the meadows. Sometimes a party of horsemen might have been seen in the distance slowly crossing the plain, the tufts of ostrich feathers which topped their long spears showing darkly against the evening sky. They would ride up to my tent, and give me the usual salutation "Peace be with you, O Bey” or “Allah Aienak, God help you!" Then