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The story of the prophet's death would have been far less remarkable, if he had fallen a victim to a beast of prey when it was impelled by hunger. In this instance it is particularly noticed, in order to point out the hand of God in the transaction, that on the arrival of the old prophet of Bethel, he found the carcass cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass.

The lion had not eaten the carcass, nor torn the ass. It appears therefore that the lion was not provoked by the want of food, but is to be regarded simply as the executioner of the wrath of God. We read of other occasions when this animal, ravenous by nature, and starved into greater ferocity, has forgotten its violence. My God, saith Daniel, hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me :f so completely is every living agent, as well as the whole inanimate creation, at the disposal and under the direction of almighty God. If His indignation be excited, the very beasts of the earth, and the tempests of heaven, shall be as effectually the ministers of His judgments as the angels that do His pleasure.

And how inscrutable are His proceedings ! We have seen what was the end of the person * Verse 28.

+ Daniel vi. 22.

deceived; and the deceiver escaped! The man of God, apparently the least guilty, perished by a violent death; and the other, who seemed to live at ease in the very seat of idolatry, survived to bury him! The judgments of God are far above out of our sight : * it is sufficient for us to be assured, that, in another state, the Judge of the earth shall manifest the equity of His proceedings; and the best use which we can make of the mysteries of Providence in the present world, is to fix our attention

upon

that day when the Lord shall be seated upon His throne, and shall render to every man according to his works.

2. We may learn, secondly, that it is dangerous to trifle with any commandment of God.

Men are apt to suppose, that if they are punctual in some respects, this circumstance will compensate for their neglect in others; this notion is founded upon the grossest ignorance of the nature of true religion, and an utter misconception of the character of the Most High. We have seen that the prophet of Judah, at great personal hazard, and with a courage well worthy of his cause, discharged every part of the task assigned him till he

* Ps. x. 5.

turned back from Bethel. But this was no apology for his subsequent disobedience: he violated the plain and specific direction of God on one point; and for this the judgment of God came upon him.

3. We see in the third place, How apt are even good men to be led away from the strait path of obedience, when they cease to be vigilant.

This was precisely the case, so far as we can understand it, of the person whose character we have examined : and what is the lesson which it inculcates? It warns us to exercise a constant jealousy over our own hearts. Had the prophet asked counsel of God, he could scarcely have committed the offence which is here recorded : and when we consider that the best of men are here in a probationary state; that the most faithful disciples of Jesus Christ are still in a world of temptation, and carry within them a principle of evil, although greatly subdued, how seriously should they be admonished to maintain a holy vigilance over themselves, lest at any unguarded moment, they suffer it to have the dominion. With what scrutinizing care should they guard against the false reasoning which would lead them into sin!

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And how important is it in any case of doubt, to pursue that course, which may fairly be deemed the safest. If the man of God had done this: if he had borne in mind that, even although a revelation might have been communicated to the old prophet of Bethel, yet, he was much more secure, because much more in the path of duty, while following the directions which had been made personally to himself rather than those which, as it was affirmed, had been given to another, he would have avoided the sin and have escaped the punishment. I would press this point especially upon my younger hearers, and entreat them, whenever in their progress through life another person may suggest to them to do that which the word of God had already to their own consciences prohibited, to remember the narrative of this chapter, and follow the decision of their consciences.

4. Another lesson to be derived from this story is the following: that the relation which good men bear to God, and the favour with which He regards them, will not exempt them, in case of disobedience, from severe manifestations of His wrath.

A man who truly fears and loves God canno

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deliberately give himself up to the dominion of sin : the salt must first lose its savour before it becomes utterly worthless : but he may yield to temptation : he may fail to exercise the necessary vigilance: he may be deceived and led into evil: and although by God's grace he may again repent and be admitted into His favour, and be raised to the kingdom of heaven; yet, in this life, he will frequently be made to feel keenly the displeasure of the Almighty, both in the way of correction and of punishment; even where the offence does not seem to be of an aggravated nature. It might have been expected that this transgression on the part of the man of God, so apparently trifling in itself, as well as in its effect upon others, would have been overlooked and forgotten. It might have been hoped in the case of Moses, that one unadvised word, especially in the midst of a rebellious people, would pass unobserved: but for this he was excluded from the Land of Canaan: and, notwithstanding all his entreaties, he found the hopes, which he had indulged for forty years in the wilderness, end at last in disappointment. We know that in the instance of Moses, the punishment was limited to temporal death: he was immediately admitted into a state of happi

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