Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

physical change are apparent on its south-eastern borders; and the materials are still present, bitumen, sulphur, and nitre, which, in connexion with subterranean fires and lightning, consumed the cities of pollution at the fiat of the Almighty. The waters of the Jordan appear to have been dammed up by that catastrophe; and the plain converted into a lake, through which they flowed in all probability originally to the Red Sea.

An earthquake occurred during the reign of Uzziah, of which we have the following notices :

“ The words of Amos who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel, in the days of Uzziah, king of Jndah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake." Amos i. 1.

“And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal; yea, ye shall flee like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah.” Zech. xiv. 4. The prophet Isaiah is supposed to refer to this visitation :“ Wherefore the anger of Jehovah is kindled against his people;

And he hath stretched out his hand against them :

And he smote them; and the mountains trembled."-Isa. v. 25. Calmet says of this earthquake, “that the books of Kings and Chronicles speak expressly of it.” This is a strange error, for no notice of it whatever occurs in the historical books. Josephus minutely details it, and attributes it to Uzziah's invasion of the priest's office :

“He put on," says he, “the holy garment, and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar, which he was prohibited to do by Azariah the high-priest, who had fourscore priests with him, and who told him that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice, and that none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted so to do. And when they cried out that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth at them, and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace. In the mean time a great earthquake shook the ground, and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king's face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately. And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads as well as the king's gardens were spoiled by the obstruction. Now as soon as the priest saw that the king's face was infected with the leprosy, they told him of the calamity he was under, and commanded that he should go out of the city as a polluted person. Hereupon he was so confounded at the sad distemper, and sensible that he was not at liberty to contradict, that he did as he was commanded, and underwent this miserable and terrible punishment, for an intention beyond what befitted a man to have, and for that impiety against God which was implied therein. So he abode out of the city for some time,

Home

and lived a private life, while his son Jotham took the government : after which he died with grief and anxiety at what had happened to him."*

That there was an earthquake during the reign of Uzziah is evident from the prophetic references cited ; that the monarch was smitten with the leprosy appears from the history of his life, 2 Chron. xxvi. 19; but that the earthquake was coincident in point of time with the leprosy, and a divine rebuke administered to him in the act of sin, rests entirely upon the authority of Josephus.

“ Earthquakes in divers places,” are mentioned by our Lord, among the signs preceding, accompanying, and following, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the subversion of the Jewish polity, These events are recorded by Philostratus, Tacitus, Seneca, and Suetonius. Smyrna, Crete, Miletus, Samos, Chios, Rome, at various times, and some of them repeatedly, were shook to their foundations. The cities of the Apocalypse were desolated by the shocks. Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were laid in heaps. Pompeii was almost wholly demolished. Judea itself was awfully visited : “ for by night there broke out a most dreadful tempest, and violent strong winds, with the most vehement showers, and continual lightnings, and horrid thunderings, and prodigious bellowings of the shaken earth : and it was manifest that the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men, and any one might easily conjecture that these things portended no common calamity.”+

The frequent occurrence of these impressive natural phenomena in Judea, is indicated in the perpetual introduction of imagery derived from them by the sacred poets. From the great physical convulsions and changes with which their climate rendered them familiar, they drew those lofty and terrible descriptions with which their songs, elegies, and odes abound. The mountains trembling, the hills being removed, are not imaginative pictures, but scenes copied from real objects before their eyes. When Isaiah describes the “ earth reeling to and fro like a drunkard, and removed like a cottage" we know well the source from whence the lofty idea came. Thus also in the pages of the Psalmist, “ Lebanon and Sirion skip like a unicorn," is the wilderness of Kadesh is shaken," “ the earth shook and trembled, the foundations also of the hills moved, and were shaken.” And with what peculiar distinctness and precision are all these circumstances, indeed the whole range of physical phenomena, referred to the directing and controlling power of God! When the depths of the ocean are stirred, and its surface is lashed into foam and fury, “the Lord sitteth upon the flood, yea, the Lord sitteth king for ever.” When the atmosphere is tempestuous, and the rush of the hurricane is heard, “he maketh the clouds his chariot, and walks upon the wings of the wind.” When the electric fluid flashes around us its intense and vivid brightness, “ he directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.” When the stubborn rock vibrates,

[ocr errors][merged small]

as if instinct with animation, and the soil is upheaved, or rent into frightful chasms, these are the “pillars of heaven trembling, and astonished at his reproof.” Are the rivers ice-bound, and the trees and herbs fringed with silvery crystals ? " by the breath of God frost is given, and the breadth of the waters is straitened.” So far beyond the power of finite beings to create and govern, are all these agents and agencies, that well may it be asked, “ Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven who hath gendered it?"

The origin and intent of all visible productions, and the duty of man with reference to them, were finely expressed to their devout admirer : “ He causeth them to come, whether for correction, or for his land, or for mercy. Hearken unto this, O Job, stand still, and consider the wondrous works of

God." What now is the moral truth which the earthquake conveys unto us? The theology of Scripture teaches us to recognize not only this class of tremendous occurrences, but all those natural evils with which we are surrounded, frequently so fatal to human life, as evidences of the existence of sin, which has subjected us to painful discipline. They are “judgments,” which the supreme Governor executes upon a race of criminals, and “in” them we are to know him, his existence, authority, and providence, but specially his justice and holiness. “I form the light,” says he, "and create darkness, I make peace and create evil, I the Lord do all these things." He is in all those visitations which convulse the natural world, and hasten thousands to a sudden and early grave, the pestilence, the earthquake, the tempest, the volcano; and these alarming inroads upon human happiness and safety, however assignable to physical agencies, must primarily be referred to moral causes. They indicate to us, with peculiar emphasis, that our globe is the residence of a fallen race; upon no other hypothesis are they explainable. Upon the assumption that the human family do not stand in the relation of actual offenders to God, these phenomena are not reconcilable with the principles of a wise and holy administration. Under a dispensation of unmixed mercy, no punitive acts would mark the divine government, and under such a dispensation man would assuredly be, had he not "corrupted his way." It is of no avail to object, that good is frequently brought out of evil, that beneficial results often flow from agencies the most apparently unkindly and destructive, that storms and earthquakes, fatal to the few, are serviceable to the many. All this is granted; but under an administration of unmixed benevolence, all this good might and would obviously have been attained, independent of the slightest painful instrumentality.

From the simpler forms of dissolution, when there is a calm, gentle, and gradual descent into the “ valley of the shadow of death,” we may not be able to gather any evidence of culpability on the part of those subject to the event. That Being who is the fountain of life, might originally have intended that it should be a temporary grant, that its surrender should be demanded at the close of a period determined by himself. The resumption of the gift would then be no proof of displeasure on the part of the donor, or of moral guilt on the part of the recipient; it would be merely the accomplishment of the original plan, the fulfilment of the terms upon which existence was primarily bestowed. The mere taking away of life, so far from being a penal act, might be a wise and benevolent arrangement, contemplated from the beginning, to introduce the individual into a nobler scene of existence. But in the present accompanying circumstances of death, we see evidences of its penal character, in the aitendant change, and weakness and agony; and when, as in the recent earthquake at Safet, it comes rapid and storm-like upon a community, or when, as in the days of old, fourteen thousand Israelites fall in the Arabian wilderness, and Egypt loses the flower and first-born of its population, and the vast hosts of Assyria, with “ frames of adamant and hearts of steel,” perish in a single night: it is then that it bears the aspect of a judicial sentence executed upon transgressors, instead of a peaceful process, removing its subjects to some fairer province of Jehovah's universal empire.

Our Lord, indeed, said unto his disciples, when eighteen were destroyed by the falling of the tower of Siloam : “ think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay.” The disciples were evidently wrong in supposing this to be the case, in interpreting the calamity as a proof of greater guilt, on the part of those who suffered, than those who were spared, The very reverse of this might have been the case; the eighteen might have deserved such a fate less than any of the spectators or hearers of the melancholy circumstance; in every respect those whom the tower overwhelmed might have been elevated in the scale of moral worth far above the majority of their countrymen. But the thoughts that were passing in the minds of the disciples flowed from a right principle : the event which did not imply that the aggregate criminality of the slain was greater than that of the preserved, did imply their membership with a race to whom a general charge of criminality might be affixed; for had the individuals thus summarily deprived of earthly existence, when a holiday or a festival had led them to assemble, belonged to an innocent and sinless family, both natural and inspired theology sanction the conclusion that no such occurrence would have happened. We must keep in mind these considerations, when noticing in their moral connexion those destructive natural phenomena which have been so fatal to myriads of our species. Such fearful visitations are testimonies to human guilt in the general, and not exclusively to individual and national crime; they yield impressive evidence to the fact that our world has wandered from the favour of its Maker, but afford no presumption that those immediately within the circle of their operation have wandered farther than their compeers. The eruption of Vesuvius, which ingulphed Herculaneum and Pompeii beneath tides of its ejected matter, and the

earthquake which buried fifty thousand of the inhabitants of Lisbon under the ruins of the city, or swept them into the Tagus, are circumstances which we may safely assert could not have taken place in a guiltless world. We are warranted, then, in regarding Them so far as penal inflictions, and in advancing them as auxiliary evidence to the Scripture doctrine of the fall; but the culpability that was visited upon the ill-fated cities, must be shared by Rome and Naples, which the exploded material did not reach, and by the visitors of Loch Lomond, who witnessed its waters undulated by the expiring energy of the shock.

Convulsions in the physical world, upon a grander scale than any which have ever been witnessed, will occur in the “ latter day." And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” With these awful and majestic circumstances the world's chequered bistory will close, its jarring interests and vain pursuits will cease; the beautiful fabric of nature will be dissolved, preparatory to the establishment of a nobler and a more enduring system. A new creation will rise from the ashes of the present universe, "wherein dwelleth righteousness," which will never know derangement or decay, for 6 there shall be no more CURSe.” Northampton.

T. M.

DR. J. P. SMITII ON THE AUTHORITY OF SOLOMON'S SONG,

(To the Editor.) MY DEAR SIR-Long ago, a judicious writer, unknown to me and not even conjectured, inserted in the Congregational Magazine, some strictures upon what I had advanced in objection to the Divine Authority of Solomon's Song.* I felt myself deeply obliged to that

* Our friend Dr. Smith may well say that it is long ago" that those strictures were inserted in the Congregational Magazine, for the articles to which he refers may be found at pages 232, 294, of our thirteenth volume, i. e. for 1830!

They are entitled “The Divine Authority of Solomon's Song vindicated, with answers to some objections in the new edition of Dr. J. P. Smith's Testimony to the Messiah," and are signed Nemo. The venerable individual who assumed that name was well known to Dr. Smith, and we believe much respected by him. We refer to the late Mr. THOMAS WILLIAMS, the author of the Cottage Bible, and many other useful works in theology. In the early period of his biblical studies he was led to enquire whether the Song of Solomon be a genuine part of the Holy Scriptures. He prosecuted his inquiry by making a new translation, which during several years he repeatedly revised, with every assistance that he could derive from books or literary friends. This improved version he published with a commentary and notes in 1801, and which was favourably received ; Dr. Williams, of Rotherham, considered it a “ great improvement on similar attempts."

He kept this subject before his mind for almost thirty years, had accumulated additional evidence upon it, so that he had actually announced a new edition of his translation, considerably improved, when he was removed by death, August 12th, 1833, in the 78th year of his age, (vide an obituary notice, Congregational MagaVOL. I. N.S.

3 H

« ElőzőTovább »