« ПредишнаНапред »
pity, it is that of the person who is suffered to go on from sin to sin, in an uninterrupted career of prosperous wickedness, until death surprise him unprepared, and he is hurried away to his final account, with all his imperfections rising in dreadful array against him. What would we not do, what would we not endure here, rather than be placed in this awful predicament hereafter! “O Lord, correct us, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring us to nothing.” The widow's heart, perhaps, had been too fondly wedded to this world, and its fleeting possessions, unmindful of that great Being, to whom her best and most ardent affections should have been devoted. If so, the repeated chastisements which she received were the chastisements of divine mercy; calculated to " bring back her soul from the pit, and to enlighten her with the light of the living." And they seem to have produced the desired effect. The great trials to which she had been subjected had apparently purified her heart, and taught her the vanity and insignificance of all worldly objects. She had been gradually bereaved of all she loved upon earth, yet we read not of one impious murmur uttered by her, of a single word or action, which did not imply the most profound resignation to the Divine will. She wept indeed over the remains of her last treasure, but hers were the tears of affection, not of impatience; and this it was which probably called forth the immediate compassion of our Lord. She was patient, although heart-broken ; submissive, although chastened ; she was therefore destined to see how good and gracious her God would be to his faithful servants; and she was highly favoured in the opportunity thus afforded her, of witnessing with her own eyes a surprising instance of his almighty power.
Secondly, we proposed to consider, why it was necessary that a miracle should be wrought for the restoration of her son, who might have been healed of his disease, before it had assumed a mortal character. And here we may observe, that miracles are the seal of a divine mission, and that consequently the exercise of so striking an one at Nain, where much people and many of our Saviour's disciples were present, must have been, as it actually proved to be, a most irresistible proof of the divinity of our blessed Saviour. The miracle performed upon the young man was so convincing a demonstration of the divine commission with which our Saviour was invested, so strongly were the works of God made manifest in it, that it appeared evident to all those who had accompanied his dead body (now thus astonishingly restored to life), that the Christ, the Messiah, was indeed come among them ; "and they glorified God, saying, that a great prophet is risen up among us, and that God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about."
If we further contemplate the nature of the miracle now under consideration, we can conceive nothing more indicative of superhuman and almighty power. The restoration of the dead to life is a work infinitely beyond the compass of a mortal agent. Nothing but that omnipotence which first breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, can rekindle the living principle when once extinguished. Here then was an evidence of our Redeemer's divinity, which nought but wilful blindness or obstinate prejudice could gainsay or resist. How must it have confirmed the faith of the wavering disciples, and carried a conviction to the heart of all, that the Being who thus controlled the issues of life and death, was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. If then this miracle was calculated to advance the kingdom of God, and establish the gospel of Christ, let us with humility and devout admiration adore the Divine condescension and goodness, in employing an instrument so humble as the widow's son, for the accomplishment of so high a purpose, and in converting mankind from the error of unbelief, not by the tremendous sign of calling down fire from heaven to destroy them, but by the still small voice of mercy, by deeds of benevolence, and miracles of love.
Before I conclude, let me draw two practical inferences from the narrative before us.
To those who have been accustomed to regard the misfortunes and sorrows of life, either as the effects of chance, or as proofs that they are no longer the objects of God's merciful protection, to such I would suggest, that they have hitherto been labouring under erroneous notions of the nature of God's providence. If the poor widow was so far chastened and corrected by her troubles, as to be deemed worthy of being again entrusted with her lost treasure, and of becoming the mean, whereby her Saviour deigned to display his almighty power, surely the follower of the cross will glory in his tribulations, and bless God, not only for the apparent good, but for the apparent evils which befal him. A state of suffering, it is true, can never be agreeable to human nature; but let the true believer once be convinced that it is in any way conducive to the glory of God, or the benefit of his own soul, he will submit cheerfully to the dispensations of Heaven, and look for his reward hereafter in another and a better world. Nor will he be left unassisted here; the Lord will have compassion upon him, as he had upon the widow of Nain, and will restore light and life eternal even unto him, who was once dead in trespasses and sins. Though the path of his earthly pilgrimage be strewed with the briers and thorns of adversity, a hand unseen shall guide his way and smooth his difficulties; and he, who by patient endurance of evil, and a steady course of piety, has endeavoured to promote the glory of God, will be rewarded in heaven to all eternity.
The other inference which I would derive from the subject now under consideration, is the indispensable obligation which binds us all, as disciples of Christ, to commiserate, and as far as we are able, to
lieve the necessities of those in distress. There was scarcely a miraele performed by our Lord, which was not an instance of mercy and compassion. His whole life on earth was passed in doing good, both to the souls and bodies of men. He wept with the sorrowing sisters at the tomb of Lazarus; he pitied and relieved the afflicted widow. Now the faithful servant of Christ must strive in all respects to be like his Master, He cannot indeed imitate him in those miraculous demonstrations of benevolence, in which he healed the sick, and raised the dead to life ; but in showing kindness to the distressed, in administering to the uttermost of his power to the wants of the needy, he can and must resemble him. “ By this,” says our Redeemer, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Think not then that your lives may be whiled away in frivolity and inactivity, far less in sin and guilty pleasure. The spiritual and temporal wants
of your brethren have a claim upon your attention, and wretched, beyond description wretched, will be the fate of those who turn a deaf ear to such claimants. Tremble at the awful doom which our Saviour has declared shall be denounced against such at the day of judgment, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
PHYSICA SACRA.-No. IV.
THE MICE OF THE PHILISTINES.
" Then said they, What shall be the trespass-offering which we shall return to him ?
They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines ; for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore, ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice, that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your
land."-1 Sam. vi. 4, 5. There is no direct or positive account given in this, or in any other passage of the Bible, of the plague which, in this instance, happened to the Philistines. All that can be gathered respecting it is incidental, but that little is sufficient to furnish a testimony to the truth of the Bible ; and it is to establish this testimony that we now.come to consider the circumstance alluded to.*
The country of the Philistine was bounded by the Mediterranean on the west, and by the wilderness of Judea, and the volcanic region of the Dead Sea, upon the east, and consisted of five principalities, whose capitals were the cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron, (see 1 Sam. vi. 17, 18, and Zech. ix. 5, 6 ;) containing, besides, other towns, (2 Chron. xxvi. 6,) as Jabneh, Gerar, &c., and villages.
These people were idolaters, who worshipped, amongst other idols, at the time in question, Dagon, whose temple was at Ashdod, the Ceres of the Greeks, as I shall attempt to prove in the note below, and afterwards Apollo, whose temple was at Askelon. Baalzebub, the God of Ekron, I was also another of their deities. It was to the oracle of this latter deity that Abaziah sent to inquire respecting his recovery from his sickness, (2 Kings i. 2,) which makes it clear that Baalzebub, (lord of flies,) was one who was supposed to have power over diseases. There would, it therefore seems, be some ground to conclude, that the reading of Beelze povß, in Matt. xii. 24, and Luke xi. 15, is not incorrect; for it was a cure performed by our blessed Lord upon a
* ! am of course aware, that in one or two passages in certain MSS. words have been incorporated apparently from the marginal glosses, stating distinctly that mice were poured forth from the earth ; but as in the Hebrew and Greek texts these words are not found, I conclude that they are spurious. (See Poole's Synopsis.)
+ See Joshua xiii. 3, Gen. xx. 2, xxvi. 1. 1 2 Kings i. 2, 6, 16.
possessed person, who was both blind and dumb, which led to the remark of the Pharisees; and if this reading be admitted, there is a manifest agreement between the allusion to Beelzebub by the Scribes and Pharisees, and the conduct of Ahaziah.*
Though not necessarily involved in the particular object of these scriptural illustrations, yet it may be useful to trace, where it can be done, the general connexion between the notions of the heathen and the statements of Scripture ; and the consequences of those notions as shown by their practices. A very curious instance of a coincidence of the kind occurs in the History of Diseases, by Pliny, (Nat. Hist. lib. xxix. 6.) He says that the " ashes of the heads and tails of mice, and especially of field-mice, were good for the recovery of sight; and the cure of alopecia (a falling of the hair) was sometimes effected by the powder of mice. "Alopecias cinis è murium capitibus caudisquc et totius muris emendat: præcipuè si veneficio acciderit hæc injuria." “ Murium capitum caudarumque cinere ex melle inunctis claritatem visus restitui dicunt, multoque magis gliris aut muris sylvestris cinere,'' &c. For the former complaint, "powder of flies was also recommended : and Pliny says once when a bull was sacrificed at the Olympic Games to the god Myiodes, clouds of flies left the country. Now Beelzebub was so called, it is said, because so many flies attended the sacrifices in his honour ; and Pausanias alludes to the sacrifices offered by the early Greeks to Hercules as Zeus 'Atbuvios, the fly-banishing Jove. Is there no connexion here between the Philistine and Greek superstitions ? and since Apollo was called Eulvbevs because he destroyed mice, is there not a reason why the magi employed mice and flies, in the cure of diseases, when the above connexion is considered? There must be some reference to the Scripture history in the fable about mice, told by Ælian; and the histories of Apollo and Hercules are connected by their adventures. That Samson was the Hercules of the Greeks there can be little doubt, and his adventures took place in the country of the Philistines, (the worshippers of Baalzebub,) in allusion to one of which, viz. that mentioned in Judges xv. 4, 5, Ovid has some lines in his Fasti, (iv. 681-712,) where he mentions the custom at Rome of turning foxes tied together into the Circus, with firebrands at their tails. The disease prescribed for with the powder of mice, was called Alopecia, because it was common to foxes. Apollo, the author of medicine, might tberefore prescribe powder of mice, which he destroyed, and which were a Philistine pest, to cure a complaint common to foxes, which, like mice, abound in the country, and are celebrated in the history of the Philistines, from the traditions of whom the Greeks and Romans, no doubt, imported a certain share of those superstitions which they borrowed from all nations to make up their own Pantheism.
Clemens Alexandrinus (Cohortatio ad Gentes, 2,) says after Ptolemy, that the mice of that country (called ouívdous,) were worshipped by the people of the 'Troad, because they gnawed asunder the bow-strings of their enemies; and thence the name of Smintheus was given to Apollo; and after Heraclides, (De Ædificatione Templorum Acarnania) he says, that on the promontory of Actium, where stood the temple of Apollo Actius, before the other sacred rites were performed, an ox was sacrificed to the flies. There is an evident connexion between all these circumstances; and since Apollo had a temple at Askelon, in Philistia, and oracles elsew here, and Abaziah consulted the oracle of Baal-zebub (the god of flies,) and Apollo and Baal. zebub were supposed to have power over diseases, and Baal, or Bel, when uncompounded, signifies the same as Apollo, it is very clear that Apollo and Baalzebub were, if not the same deity, representatives of a similar power. The god Bel, or Belinus of the Kelts, to whom a bull was a title of fame, is, according to various authors, identical with Apollo. Cæsar (De Bello Gallico, vi. 15,) says, "the Druids believed him to be the expeller of diseases;" and Ausonius, writing to Attius Patteva the father, says
“Tu Bajocassis stirpe Druidarum satus,
Si fama non fallit fidem,
Et inde vobis nomina:
Natoque de Delphis tuo." Con mem Prof. iv, 7-11.
In consequence of the idolatries of the Philistines, the children of Israel made war upon them; and being unable to obtain a victory, they had recourse to the ark of God, -sending for it from Shiloh, under the impression that it would secure to them a victory. But it
The word Pateræ signified the priests of the British Apollo, from pater, to interpret oracles. We know also that the Keltic superstitions are nearly allied to those that obtained in ancient Phenicia, and the adjoining countries. (See on the character, &'c. of Beli, Davies' Mythology and Rites of the British Druids, and also Sammes' Britannia Antiqua Illustrata.) Connected with this allusion, it may be remarked, that since Ceres, with nearly the attributes of Venus, was also worshipped in ancient Britain, and other Keltic nations, she may be supposed to have been worshipped similarly in the Phenician countries ; and thence it may be concluded, that the other Philistine god, Dagon, concerning which there is so much doubt, was nothing but a visible representation of the supposed deity who presided over the fruits of the land, worshipped by a people who principally lived by the produce of the sea. Now Dagon is rendered in Greek Eltwv, frumentarius, (and in the Hebrew Dagon signifies corn;) and Josephus says Dagon is the same as Dercete ; and Philo says further, that Dagon is Jupiter frumentarius. That Dagon might be represented as a mermaid, as several writers have contended, is (see Poole's Synopsis, in loco) not contradicted by the Scriptures, since there is no mention of feet made therein; and Lucian (De Syria Dea) says, that the Phenician Venus had sometimes the form imagined by Horace, Desinit in piscem, mulier famosa superne, though he adds of de tv tñ ipn nóel, praca geuh !ott; whilst Diodorus says the Syrians would not eat fish because they worshipped them. But this, says Lucian, proves nothing the Egyptians did the same without regard to Dercete. Curiously agreeing with this, however, is the remarkable fact, that Ceridwen, the Druidical Ceres, was represented amongst other things as a sow, a hen, a horse, and a ship, a sacred ship called Llan, "a sanctuary or temple;" and Mr. Bryant considers her to be the "genius of the ark," and connected with the history of the ark (of Noah) through the agrarian similitude of a hen. Now on an ancient British coin, figured by Camden, there is a horse and the inscription ORCETI,-the (Or) sanctuary of (Ceti) Ceres ! On another coin there is a female head, inscribed DIRETE, Direit being a title of Ceti, who is introduced in the poem of Aneurin, called Gwarchan Cynvelyn, “ The Talisman of Cunobeline," as taking the form of a horse. Is it then unlikely that the Dercete of the Phenicians may be the Direte or Ceti of the ancient British,-who is Ceres,—and therefore that the whole of the difficulties regarding Dagon may be thus easily resolved? Allowing this, and supposing of course that the worship of Dagon had reference to the arkite superstitions, how admirably does the Scripture account of the destruction of the idol representing the genius of the Noachian ark, the moment the “ark of the covenant" was placed beside it, point to those great doctrines elsewhere declared and symbolized by the religion of the Israelites! That the Philistines regarded the "ark of God” in as sacred a light as they did the ark of Noah, bas been conjectured by Mr. Faber, (Mysteries of the Cabiri, i. 218). He quotes Tacitus, in his account of the ancient Germans, who speaks of a car of their goddess drawn by heifers, and that the car was sacred, to be touched only by the priest, (Germania, 40 :) a custom mentioned by Sanchoniatho of his own people, and mentioned also of the "ark of God" in the chapter before us, (ver. 7.) Owen, (in his Welch Dictionary, voc. Banang, ) says there is a piece of music still known to a few, in which the lowing of the sacred oxen is imitated in drawing the Avanc from the sacred lake. The Avanc appears to symbolize the ark. Pomponius Mela (iii. 8,) speaks also of the Gallicenæ, priestesses of a Gaulish deity (undoubtedly of Ceti or Ceridwen, Ceres,) who had the power of curing ailments reckoned. by others beyond the reach of medicine ; quick at discerning and able to foretel what is to come, and accessible especially to sailors, which agrees remarkably with what we are told of Ahaziah sending to Baalzebub (Apollo) in his sickness: a proof that the Ekronite deity was similar to the Druidical one. Mr. Bryant, (to whose works as well as to those of Mr. Faber, Davies, Poole, Bryant, Calmet, &c. the reader is referred,) says Dagon (Analysis 2. 300) is a representative of Said-on, which as Mr. Davies remarks (Mythology, p. 197) comes near to the Keltic Saidi, the British Saturn, though Nr. B. says ilon, Sidee, was a legitimate title of Ceres. The esta-blishment of this fact must plead for the necessity of a few further observations.