Way to Life Sermons

"Thy calf, 0 Samaria, hath cast thee off." - Hosea 8: 5.

"HE walked in the ways of Jeroboam, son of Nebat who made Israel to sin." - " Howbeit, from the ways of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, he departed not." - " He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin."
So, ringing changes on "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin," runs the history of successive kings in Israel. Thus, while some men live in their good deeds, and like a beautiful insect, or a delicate moss preserved in a mass of golden, aromatic amber seem to lie embalmed in the memory of their worth others live in their sins. So did this Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. His sins were the salt wherewith he was salted.
His history is most instructive. It illustrates the folly of those who count it a matter of indifference what is the religious character of rulers, whether supreme or subordinate. It shows us how one master mind can tell on the minds of others; and how a man's soul leaves its impress, like a thing stamped in wax or struck in iron, or the soul of a nation ; and how that impression will remain long years after his body is mouldered into dust. The truth is, that no man or woman, however poor their circumstances, or mean their lot, are without their influence; like an electric spark passing from link to link, that runs flashing down the chain of successive generations. Indeed, a man's life is as immortal as his soul; and by its influence though dead, he yet speaketh and worketh. For example: Have you family worship? You have. I congratulate you. But why have you this altar? Your father had it; and his father had it; and so, succeeding to this heir-loom, in a sense, and in part, at least, you owe the ornament and palladium of your house to some remote ancestor of whom you know nothing at all. Thus men live after they are dead. Outliving our memory, and more enduring than any monument of brass or marble, our example may prove like the circle that rises round the sinking stone, and, growing wider and wider, embraces a larger and larger sphere, till it dies in gentle wavelets on the distant beach. It reaches a distant shore; your example a distant time.
Take care, then, how you live - warned by the story of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, to whose case my text alludes. Other things besides consumption, and lunacy, and various maladies our flesh is heir to, are hereditary. Example of that, Jeroboam's sin descended to his children arid was transmitted like an entail from sire to son. More than that, it stuck like the malaria of a virulent disease to the very walls of his palace; it infected all his successors, and from the throne spread its deadly influence to the poorest and most distant cottages of the land. His sin is set before us in the text; but before applying these words to ourselves, let me

I. more fully explain the expression, "Thy calf, 0 Samaria," or, 0 Israel, "hath cast thee off."

Jeroboam was a servant of Solomon. One day - for what purpose and on what errand we are not informed - he left Jerusalem; and on reaching a lonely part of the road, was met by Ahijah the Shilonite. Suddenly the prophet seized him; and laying hold of a garment that he happened to wear that day for the first time, rent it in twelve pieces. Jeroboam's surprize, and reverence for the man of God, perhaps, preventing him offering any resistance. Of these he gave ten to the astonished warrior, saying, "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee; because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth, and Chemosh, and Milcom, and have not walked in the ways of my servant David; and I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel; and it shall be if thou wilt obey and hearken unto all that I command thee, and keep my statutes, and my commandments, I will be with thee and make thee a sure house." Having said so, Ahijah vanished. Well, time rolled on, bringing many changes with it; and among others, Solomon died, and Rehoboam, his son, occupied - not filled - his father's throne. The son of a wise man, of the wisest of men, he was himself a fool. To support the splendour of his father's reign, the people had been ground down by heavy taxes; and tired of the burden, they embraced the opportunity of a change of government to say to Rehoboam, "Your father made our yoke heavy; make it lighter." They desired, and indeed demanded a reform. Disaffection was abroad; a storm was brewing in the political atmosphere; and the crisis had come that required a calm head, and a clear eye, and an iron hand at the helm of the state. But a blind pilot stands at the wheel. Rehoboam is not the man for such a time. Turning his back on his father's grey-haired counsellors, he had surrounded himself with hot-headed, inexperienced youths; and listening to their advice, he returns the people this insolent, this insane answer, "My father made your yoke heavy, I will make it heavier; my little finger shall be heavier than my father's loins. He chastised you with whips, I will chastise you with scorpions." Madman! he flung a flaming torch into a magazine of combustibles. No wonder at the result! Lashed into fury by this contemptuous refusal of their demands, the nation rose in rebellion - crying, "To your tents, 0 Israel; David, see to thy house!" They burst asunder the bands of authority; and leaving only two tribes to stand by the house of David, the other ten broke away; and bore Jeroboam forward to the throne of Israel on the grand, resistless wave of a popular revolution. The hour, and the man had come. Ahijah s prophecy was fullilled,
The great English dramatist says -
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."
So Jeroboam found; very soon found. For he was hardly seated on the throne, when a political difficulty arose-and that a very serious one. The Mosaic law required every male to go up three times each year to Jerusalem. An astute and sagacious politician, Jeroboam foresaw how this custom might be attended with dangerous results. He thus reasoned, If the people go up three times a year to Jerusalem - the place, not only of the temple, but of Rehoboam's palace and family - when the blush of my popularity is over, and the fervour of their zeal abates, then, as a river returns to its ancient bed, this fickle multitude may return to their first love; and deserting me and mine, once more attach themselves to a house around which so many noble and patriotic associations are clustered.
Jeroboam was not the man to meet this difficulty aright. A stranger to the faith which is as a best bower anchor to Church or State in a roaring storm, he yielded to that "fear of man, which bringeth a snare." He did what, no doubt, the world had thought a clever thing. Setting up one calf in Bethel, and another in Dan, in opposition to, and in imitation of the cherubim, he sent forth this edict: "Let him that sacrificeth, kiss the calves " - go and worship these. He hoped thus to succeed in arresting the tide of worshippers that would otherwise have set towards Jerusalem year by year. He did succeed. Fatal success! It brought down ruin on his house and government, and was followed by results which should teach our statesmen - -whether they manage affairs at home or abroad - that no policy hi the end shall thrive which traverses the word of God; that that never can be politically right, which is morally and religiously wrong. Jeroboam and his family learned this to their cost. The clever policy by which he was so dexterously to escape a difficulty which he ought to hake met in faith and cast on God, not only failed, but ruined his short-lived dynasty, and brought down God's heaviest judgments on an unhappy land. Hardly had his son taken his father's place, when Baasha rose and hurled him from the throne; and with that thirst of blood which to this day marks the oriental, this upstart slew every man, woman, and child belonging to the royal family. There was not a living creature spared that had a drop of Jeroboam's blood in his veins. And then, amid the silence that reigned over this scene of ruthless massacre, the voice of God in providence was heard, saying, "Thy calf, 0 Jeroboam, hath cast thee off!"
What the "calf" did to the monarch, it did to the people-here called Samaria. Following the steps of their king, they apostatized from God, and turned their backs on his temple. Then judgment succeeded judgment; and one trouble breaking on the back of another, the land had no rest. The commonwealth sank beneath the weight of its idolatry. I have seen a rock so rent and scattered by some vehement explosion, that not a fragment of it could be found. So was this great kingdom rent asunder. The ten tribes were scattered abroad; and though they have been sought east, west. north, &nd south, all the wide world over, there is no certain remnant of them now found on the face of the earth. A broken, bleeding band, they left the land of Israel to go into banishment, and be lost for ages or for ever; and over the two idols that they left behind without a solitary worshipper at their deserted shrine, again the voice of God in providence, might be heard saying, "Thy calf 0 Samaria, hath cast thee off."

II. Let us now make a practical use of these words; and by way of warning and instruction, I observe,

1. That the sentiment of my text is illustrated by the case of those who put riches in the place of God You have seen a piece of iron drawn to a magnet; now what that magnet is to iron, gold is to many. It exerts an omnipotent, at least an irresistible attraction over them. Let the news go forth of the discovery of a country where the veins of the mountains are filled with gold, and the streams roll over golden sands - the glad tidings of salvation have seldom made such a stir. The land may be distant; its soil poor; its climate inhospitable; its inhabitants a race of savages - it does not matter. Sudden farewells are spoken, families are broken up, and the tenderest ties are rudely rent asunder; the roads are crowded with eager emigrants; and under press of sail ships race on the higb seas, striving which first shall touch the golden strand. Men that would have pronounced the hardships they have to suffer intolerable at home, pour in eager crowds upon the scene. They toil, and scheme, and dream of gold; and in the lust for gold, humanity, virtue, and piety are swallowed up - as in a roaring whirlpool. But why go to the gold-fields of California and Australia, to seek in such distant regions illustrations of my remark? They may be found nearer home. Are there none of us - are there not many, as well in quiet rural scenes as in busy cities, whose sole ambition is wealth, who are hasting to be rich? theirs the old cry, the complaint of the grave that, though often gorged with the banquets of battle-field and pestilence, still opens its great, black, greedy jaws to cry "Give, give, give."
The thirst for gold, like the drunkard's, is insatiable. The more it is indulged, the more the flame is fed, it burns the fiercer. These worshippers of Mammon being determined to be rich, have no time for prayer-meetings; they have hardly time for closet prayer; and of money, they have none to spare, certainly nothing more than their "mite," as they call it, for the poor heathen abroad, or the poorer heathen at home. No doubt they pity the lone widow; this poor, thin, ragged child; that orphan boy. Touched by the hunger that looks out of their hollow eyes, and appeals to some lingering feelings of better days, they would give; but ah! they must save money - grow wealthy - die as rich as that man, or accumulate a fortune as great as this. Slaves! Year by year they must save a certain sum, come what may; and go without bread or education who may, they must hoard up wealth. See yonder lake! The bigger the stream that runs into it - lying so beautiful and peaceful in the bosom of the shaggy mountains - the bigger the stream it discharges to water the plains, and, like the path of a Christian, wend its bright and blissful way on to its parent sea. But in sad contrast with that, the more money some men gain, the less they give; in proportion as their wealth increases, their charities diminish. Have we not met it, mourned over it, and seen how a man, setting his heart on gold, and hasting to be rich, came to resemble a vessel with a narrow, contracted neck, out of which water flows less freely when it is full than when it is nearly empty? As there is a law in physics to explain that fact, there is a law in morals to explain this. So long as a man has no hope of becoming rich; so long as in enough of bread to eat, of raiment to put on, of health and strength to do his work and fight his honest way on in the world, he has all man really needs. Having that, he does not set his heart on riches. He is a noble, unselfish, generous, large-hearted, and, for his circumstances, an open-handed man. But by success in business, or otherwise, let a fortune come within his reach, and he clutches at it - grasps it. Then what a change! His eye and ear, and hand close; his sympathies grow dull and blunt; his heart contracts and petrifies. Strange to say, plenty in such cases feeds not poverty but penuriousness; and the ambition of riches opens a door to the meanest avarice.
To what good all this? How often have I thought of riches, when intruding on their lone domain, I have seen a covey of wild fowl, from the reeds of the lake or the heather of the hill side, rise clamorous on the wing, and fly away! Has not many a man who hasted to be rich, and made gold his god, lived to become a bankrupt, and die a beggar ! - buried among the ruins of his ambitious schemes. "I have put a nail into the wheel of fortune," was the boastful exclamation of such a man. God in heaven heard it, put his hand upon the wheel; and, flying round, it hurled the vain boaster in the dust. But grant that some seem to have got the secret how to put a nail into fortune's unsteady wheel; what then? Money is a good thing; but it is worth, not wealth, that conunands respect. I bestow that on him who applies money to noble purposes; and heartily subscribe to the saying, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver or gold."
Money, no doubt, is a power; but a power of well-defined and narrow limits. It will purchase plenty, but not peace; it will furnish your table with luxuries, but not you with an appetite to enjoy them; it will surround your sick-bed with physicians, but not restore health to your sickly frame; it will encompass you with a cloud of flatterers, but never procure you one true friend; it will bribe into silence the tongues of accusing men, but not an accusing conscience; it will pay some debts, but not the least one of all your debts to the law of God; it will relieve many fears, hut not those of guilt - the terrors that crown the brows of Death. He stands as grim and terrible by the dying-bed of wealth as by the pallet of the poorest beggar whom pitiless riches has thrust from her door. And when death, seizing him by the throat, has flung the worldling on his back and, lying on the edge of the grave, he finds "all is vanity" that he has toiled and sinned for, and his hold relaxes and the world slips away from his grasp, and he falls back, shrieking, into a lost eternity, this voice comes sounding from the throne of God, "Thy calf hath cast thee off."
2. The sentiment of my text is illustrated by the case of those who live for fame-for the favour, not of God, but of men. The fragrant rose and the stinging nettle, though plants of very different properties, may grow side by side in the same soil. Even so, though the love of money and that of fame are different passions, both are "of the earth, earthy" - the latter, parent as it has been of many brave and noble deeds, being not less than the former a thing of earth. And how does all history, sacred and profane, ancient and modern, shew what a capricious divinity he worships who courts the applause of men; on what a precarious footing he stands who is a popular idol!
Look, for example, at our Saviour, who had his day of popularity, and was crowned with unsought honours. Yesterday the streets were thronged with thousands who, as they attended Jesus progress, rent the air with shouts of Hosannah! hosannah to the son of David! To-day the wind has shifted. Through the streets of Jerusalem rolls the same crowd; the voices are the same; the object of their attention and cries the same; but while yesterday it was Hosannah! today it is, Crucify him I crucify him - away with that fellow to the cross! With the same stage and actors, how different the scene! Yesterday it was a brilliant triumph to-day it is a bloody tragedy.
From David's Son turn back now to David himself. Look at that gallant, modest youth - his cheek flushed with the excitement of the fight, and blushing deeper crimson under the gaze of so many eyes! Old men, shedding tears of joy, load him with praises; the youth of Israel regard him with a generous admiration; while a fair crowd of blooming maidens, with harp in hand and flowery garlands on their heads, sing, as they dance before him, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands." The curtain falls on that scene, and rises on another. An aged man is hurrying across the stage; time has silvered his noble head; tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks; an exile from Jerusalem, he is followed only by a small band, who go to share the misfortunes of their discrowned and dishonoured master. It is David; the same man who, years before, had the popularity that stirred the envy of a king. Why do they drive him from his throne, and home, and capital? What evil has he done? Evil! He has done none - nothing to forfeit the favour of the giddy multitude, or blot out the memory of the glorious day when, meeting his giant foe in single combat, he slew the Philistine and saved the State. He is the same man; but they are not the same people. Well was it for David on that dark, disastrous day, that he had never made fame his idol, or the public favour his ruling passion; and that he had steered his course, not by the shifting lights of earth, but by the pole-star of God's holy word! Well was it that no bearded prophet came out on this fugitive king, to stand in his path, and point to a people who hath flung him off, and flung him out, saying, "Thy calf hath cast thee off!"
I have known a patriot who had done good service to the State, hissed by the populace who once cheered him to the echo. I have seen a preacher, once followed by crowds that hung upon his lips, stand up amid cold and empty benches; and, when his locke were grey, and his hands were palsied, address himself to a few scattered hearers. Well was it for these men that they sought the people's profit - not their praise! Well, when the laurels man had bound around their brows were dropping into dust and decay, that their eyes had been raised to a crown immortal in the heavens! Well that an ungodly world could not reproach them, asking, Where is now thy God? Well, above all, that God himself, pointing to the deserted house, or hissing crowd, did not say, Thy calf hath cast thee off! Calm, and not much moved by the vicissitudes of a changing world, is the soul that finds its centre and its rest in God.
3. The sentiment of my text is illustrated also by the case of those who seek their happiness in the pleasures of sin.
Look at yonder wretched, more than wretched, guilty drunkard; though, to the shame of a country and government that surrounds him with temptations, the poor wretch is sometimes as much sinned against as sinning. With beggary hung on his back, palsy shaking his hand, and in his downcast head and averted looks a sense of shame and degradation - how unlike what once he was? Where is now the jovial song? where the clever jest? where the bright and ready wit that, flashing over the festive scene, was followed by thunders of applause? Gone! Despised and shunned, like poor Robert Burns, by those who, for the sake of his fascinating accomplishments, once courted his society - driven from his drunken haunts by the greedy traffickers who have been building up their accursed fortunes out of the wreck of his body, soul, peace, character, home, all that is dear and precious upon earth - his calf hath cast him off. Or look at yon fallen woman drinking the dregs of her bitter, damning cup! Flattered, seduced, betrayed, and now cast away as a loathsome thing by the villain-hand that plucked the flower - " plucked the rose and left the thorn" - see her refused even a place to die in, and thrust forth lest her moans should disturb hellish orgies! How do these groans of a body racked with pain, of a soul tortured with dreadful memories, and already suffering the torments of hell, sound like the echo of the words, "Thy calf hath cast thee off!" I never stood in a cold, lonely, unfurnished garret, where some such wretch, like a dying dog, had dragged herself quietly to die; I never saw the bloated, degraded, ragged drunkard, driven from the door where he had wasted wages that should have gone to bless wife, and children, and make a happy home, but the voice of God seemed to sound out these words, "Thy calf hath cast thee off." Such cases teach us - may the Holy Spirit impress and bless the lesson - that "the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" and that "the way of the transgressors is hard !
Turn from these scenes, and let me introduce you to a clamber where we have been summoned to the bedside of one that lies a-dying, after having run a course of vice-early, fiercely, madly run it. This young man has gone down the dance of pleasure - and danced it out. The lights quenched; the music ceased; the actors gone; he is left alone upon the stage. Now, another fire than that of guilty passions is burning in his veins. His heart is beating a quick march to the grave. Laughed at so long as he appeared in the distance, Death with grim and ghastly aspect is now standing by his side. He had, very probably to quiet an uneasy conscience, imbibed infidel opinions; and his infidelity, a rotten plank, bends under the weight of the hour - is breaking beneath his feet! To my dying day I never can forget either how eagerly he flung out his arms to catch a hold of Christ, or the cries of that ghastly man as he was swept off into eternity. Lost or saved, I cannot tell; but the silence of the skeptic's chamber seemed to be broken by a voice that said, "Thy calf hath cast thee off."
I have shown how riches will cast you off, and how the world will cast you off, and how pleasure will one day fling you from her polluted arms over into the pit. Let me now speak for Christ, and tell you of him who will not-will never cast you off. Would God that I might prevail on one, and another, and another, to come, and, casting themselves this hour into his arms, close with his offered mercy. A great statesman, abandoned in his old age by his sovereigns lay dying one day in England; and it is recorded of him that he said, "If I had served my God as faithfully as I have served my king, he had not cast me off now." How true! Blessed God! thou wilt never abandon any who put their trust in thee-" They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, that cannot be moved." I have seen a master cast off an old, faithful servant. When his hair was grey, and his back was bent, and his arm was weak, and his once stalwart frame was worn out in service, he has been thrown on the parish, or on the cold charity of the world. Blessed Jesus! thou never didst cast off old servant, or old soldier of thine! Masters? Not masters only, but even a mother may cast off! She can "forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the fruit of her womb." But Jesus! this true loving mother, who fondles her infant, presses him to her bosom, teaches the laughing boy to walk, kisses away his tears, hastes to raise him when he falls, sings him to sleep, watches by his cradle-couch, is ready to dash into the burning house, or leap into the boiling flood, to save him, is but thy dim, imperfect image! How justly may we crown thy brows with the chaplet David wove to the memory of Jonathan, "Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women!"
Let sinners, then, come to Jesus. Come now! He will never cast you off - no, though you were the greatest sinner that ever sinned on earth, he will heal your backslidings, and love you freely. Be it that you are grown grey in sin, that there is falsehood, robbery, seduction, even blood, on your hand, that there is no crime man can commit that you have not done, it matters not. Lay your sins on Jesus! You shall be forgiven; and your welcome will be that of the returning prodigal who, ere he had time to cry, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight," was folded in the old man's arms, and felt the tears from a father's eyes dropping on his haggard cheek. To every penitent who weeps on his bosom, Jesus says, I will never leave thee. Yes. Your mother may leave you, so may the wife of your bosom, so may wealth and health and earthiy friends; these all, the whole world, may leave you, but "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Leave us! He is never so near as when all others leave us. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." Let dying chambers witness how true to such promises is the believer's God. Look here - a Christian is dying; striking the last blows of a long, hard-fought battle, the sword is about to drop from his hand - the crown is descending on his head Stand• aside and give him air! Lay your hand on his heart; it is fluttering like.a dying bird! Hush, he speaks; bend over him and lay your ear close to his lips. The voice is weak and tremubus, but in that dread hour how strong the faith that whispers, with life's fading breath, "My heart and my flesh faint and fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for evermore!

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