Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

XV.

THE PROPHET HOSEA ON THE CAUSE AND CURE OF SOCIAL EVILS.

THE HE study of a book like the Prophecy of Hosea is mainly an historical study, and as such it is exceedingly interesting; and those who read it with any exercise of the historical imagination must be impressed with the grandeur of this great-souled man, so stern in his denunciations of the sins and follies of the times, and withal so tender in his human sympathies. Though for the most part his prophecy is a trumpet-blast against the iniquities of the time, yet throughout it there is a thrill of mother-love which is ever and again melting his message into tones of deepest pathos, as in that wonderful passage in the eleventh chapter in which he expresses the yearning of the Heavenly Father's heart over His wandering one. Listen to some of the strains of it: " When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and brought my son out of Egypt. . . . I taught Ephraim also to walk, taking them by the arms; and yet they knew not it was I that tended them. I gently led them on with human cords, with bands of love; I was to them as one that from the tired ox takes off the yoke and offers it its food. And yet my people are bent on backsliding from me. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I let thee perish, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is melted

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

within me, my compassions are kindled together." And yet it is this loving, tender-hearted man, who sets the trumpet to his mouth, and regardless of the storm he is raising all around him, delivers his soul on this wise (chap. v.): "Hear ye this, O priests: and hearken, ye house of Israel, and give ye ear, O house of the King; for judgment is against you, because ye have been a snare upon Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor." Verily it does one's soul good to enter into sympathy with a noble hero like this great prophet of Israel.

We have said that the study of the book is in the first place an historical study, and its immediate interest is in giving us a picture of the times. But, like all other Scripture given by inspiration of God, it " is profitable for doctrine and for reproof, and for correction and for instruction in righteousness." And this general use of it seems to be especially indicated in the closing verses: "Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein."

There are some very obvious applications of the prophecy which every one must make, because they are written so large that they cannot be missed. There is, perhaps, no part of the whole Bible where there is such boundless encouragement to each and every sinner that repenteth, to each and every backslider that desires to return to the Lord his God. It is difficult to imagine a worse case than that of Israel. Read their history during the half-century which preceded their final overthrow by the Assyrian armies; or read such an indictment as that in the beginning of the fourth chapter of this prophecy : "Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the

land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out; and blood toucheth blood." And yet, in dealing with this people-this people, remember-while there is no paltering with their sin or weak overlooking of it, but the most scathing exposure and denunciation of it, with darkest threats of vengeance unless they will repent, yet there is an outpouring of heart which exhausts the highest forms of human affection-the husband yearning over his wife, the mother weeping for her child. What do we learn from all this?-that there is no love on earth, not the highest and purest and most self-forgetful and most unconquerable, that is sufficient to give us an idea. how our Father in heaven loves even the greatest sinners, and longs for their return from the storm and darkness of their wandering in the far country to the shelter and comfort and wealth of His home. Are there those who think God does not care to have them now, because they have so long neglected Him and rebelled against Him? Let them listen to these tender pleadings of the prophet, and be assured that He yearns over them. Are there backsliders who have wearied the Lord as much as Israel did?-they cannot have done it more-let them listen to that other word of tender pleading and gracious promise: "O Israel, return to the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words and turn to the Lord; say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously. . . . I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon

They that dwell under His shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."

How delightful it is to rest in these last words! Reading the prophecy of Hosea is like passing through a stormy day-great storms of thunder, lightning, rain, and hail, with glints of sunlight in between, all the more beautiful by contrast; for never does sunshine seem so glorious as when it breaks out between storms-but when the day of storm is over, at evening-time it is light; the clouds are cleared away; and in the night which follows (for night did follow, Israel did not return; the Assyrian came, and Israel was carried away into captivity), in the night which sets in, the stars of promise are left shining in the sky. And the morning broke again, when a Greater than Hosea came, repeating in tones still more tender the old invitation, the old promise: "O Israel, return!" "I will heal thy backsliding, I will love thee freely, for mine anger is turned away."

These are some of the very obvious applications of the book. But it may be well to refer to some others that perhaps need a little more thought. Of this kind are the applications of the prophecy to the social difficulties and evils of the day. It cannot be said, indeed, that our position as a nation is like that of Israel in those days when she was tottering to her fall. The evils among them had reached such a height that they were threatening her very existence, to which indeed they did soon after put an end. We certainly are not of those who think that we have come to a pass like that. And yet the same, or very similar, evils to those which proved the ruin of Israel exist among us to a deplorable degree-not yet, as we believe, threatening our very existence, but certainly weakening us, and a constant source of danger and

continual disgrace. Those who are familiar with the prophecy will know what we mean when we say that evil with us is at the moth stage, not yet at the lion stage. It will be remembered how in the fifth chapter these two stages are spoken of. The moth stage is when evil keeps eating like a canker into the vitals of a people, but where there is nothing or very little to attract attention; no noise, nothing to alarm; the mischief done in secret and on a much more serious scale than is apt to be supposed, as every one knows to be the case with the ravages of the moth. But let the moth stage go on, let corruption increase among a people, and presently the roar of the lion will be heard, there will be tumult and commotion, there will be the outbreak of open rebellion against the powers that be, on earth and in heaven too. Wherever there are the ravages of the moth in society there is danger of the breaking forth of the beast of prey, of which we have, indeed, some indications in our own times; not, indeed, of the very serious nature that some timid people suppose, for these outbreaks in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park are mere surface explosions, blazings of light chips and straws, and not volcanic fires, as some foreign newspapers represent -still, they do give some idea of the danger which threatens. And, by the bye, it is interesting to notice that in Hosea's time there evidently had been Trafalgar Square meetings, only less moderate in tone; for it was not work those people were demanding, but wages without work, as would appear from a passage in the seventh chapter, where it is said, "They assemble themselves for corn and wine; they rebel against Me."

*

Now the prophet Hosea has it for his great object throughout to show the cause and the cure of all these evils, which began by eating like a moth and ended by *In the spring of 1888.

« AnteriorContinuar »