Imagini ale paginilor

took possession of the deposed monarch. Omniscience might err and repent; but Saul's contrition could not avert the extreme penalty inflicted for the defective obedience of an untutored rustic, on whom the responsibilities of government had been suddenly thrust.

Thus, Jehovah and Samuel abandoned the Chosen Race to the personal government of a man, worried into insanity or divinely afflicted as a demoniac, whose intermittent frenzy was to be further intensified by the irritating consciousness that a divinely appointed rival awaited his deposition or death to occupy the throne of Judah.

Saul and his subjects had never ceased to reverence Jehovah ; they are not accused of worshipping alien gods; and yet, for merely trivial errors, the career of the king was closed by suicide or assassination; and his unhappy subjects slain or driven forth as fugitives before the victorious Philistines. What clearer refutation can we hold of the theory, sustained by all the prophets, that the calamities of Israel were manifestations of divine wrath against idolatry ? Shall we not rather say that the Hebrews were driven to worship at other shrines by the violated promises of their prophets ?

In the story of Saul we detect the popular error which classes royalty among the divine institutions of Scripture—a fallacy refuted by Samuel when he called down fire from heaven to attest divine condemnation of monarchy. The prophets spoke of the Lord's anointed' when they had usurped the right to nominate Hebrew kings; but monarchy originated, not in divine, but in human wisdom, seeking social order and political stability through the personal rule of the strongest and the

wisest, who thus became the founders of permanent dynasties, born to the heritage of governing nations. In modern times, constitutional monarchy commands the allegiance of all, who wisely recognise the wisdom of loyalty to the hereditary chief of the commonwealth, claiming our homage, not as the representative of a sacred superstition, but as the executor of the wisdom of the ages. Unanointed kings, therefore, receive their meed of reverence from nations who identify their greatness with a governing race; and, when Royalty claims our homage in the person of a lovely and charming woman, born in the purple as the descendant of kings, loyalty needs no prophetic fiction to evoke its highest form of chivalrous devotion. Alexandra of Wales may seem to inspire, amid scenes of peaceful prosperity, no greater depth of national feeling than respectful interest in a lady of exalted rank; but, if she were overshadowed by the misfortunes of a Marie Stuart, or a Marie Antoinette, men would stake life and fortune in her cause, and, losing on the cast, walk proudly to the scaffold with a smile on their lips.

The disastrous degeneracy of parliamentary government in our time gives us the greater occasion for rejoicing that we still possess a Royal Dynasty to which we may, some day, appeal, to save society from anarchy and confiscation, and rule us in the good old fashion of beneficent despotism.




THE accession of David to power effected important changes in the social and political condition of the Hebrews. The new monarch was not only a pious man, at all times ready to sing the praises of Jehovah, but also a practical statesman, who detected in political success many other elements besides the miraculous. Whilst, therefore, conciliating priests and prophets with diplomatic tact, he conducted his administration in harmony with the ordinary rules of political expediency, and directed special attention to the arts of military organisation, which have exercised a more important influence on the rise and fall of empires than the prayers of priests or the curses of prophets—but with what results for the Hebrew people?

More than a thousand years had elapsed since Canaan had been promised to the descendants of Abraham, and about four centuries since Joshua had partially conquered and divided the land among the tribes of Israel; and

yet the work of blood was now to be renewed to establish, by right of conquest, a merely mushroom empire, doomed by prophets to disruption within the third generation. We read of David smiting the Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, and rivalling

Joshua in the ferocious cruelties inflicted on men and animals; but what of the tens of thousands of dead and dying Israelites lying on these numerous battle-fields ? It was very well for David to tune his harp and burst into ecstatic praise of Jehovah for placing on his head the golden crown of Ammon; but the sweetest strains of artistic or inspired minstrelsy could not drown the despairing cry of the widows and orphans of Israel, deprived of their natural protectors, and ignorant how soon the Philistines or Ammonites might return, and imitate David by placing them under iron harrows.1

Not only were the Hebrews under David subject to the calamities involved in ambitious wars of conquest, but so great a favourite of Jehovah or His prophets was this most fortunate king, that the penalties for his errors or crimes were inflicted, not on him, but on his irresponsible subjects.

We need not repeat the well-known episode in the life of David which connects his name with the seduction of Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, as our present interest lies in the form attributed to divine retribution. David, having been convicted by Nathan the prophet, repented in sackcloth and ashes, and was forgiven, but the weight of punishment was inflicted on the nation in the form of civil war with the king's son Absalom, through which twenty thousand Israelites perished in the wood of Ephraim-a heavy tribute of innocent blood exacted through some incomprehensible principle of supernatural justice.

In 2 Sam. xxiv. 1, we have the abrupt announcement: 'And again the anger of the Lord was kindled

1 2 Sam. xii. 31.

against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.' Again in 1 Chron. xxi. we read : “And Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel.'

It is futile to comment on this grotesque parody of providential intervention in human affairs. If the author of Samuel is correct, Jehovah acted as if he were indeed a spirit of evil; but if the compiler of Chronicles is more worthy of credit, Satan had entered upon the scene to enhance the miseries of a nation whose government seems to have been the pastime of capricious gods and men.

The census of Israel and Judah, whether effected under Divine, Satanic, or human auspices, was condemned as a crime by Jehovah, with optional penalties of famine, military disaster, or pestilence. David accepted the latter, and seventy thousand men of Israel accordingly perished, before Jehovah repented of His cruelty, and stayed the hand of the destroying angel.

When we consider the amount of social misery and domestic anguish involved in the unmerited and yet appalling calamity thus inflicted on the plague-stricken victims of divine wrath, we abandon all hope of verifying in the annals of David the existence of a race divinely chosen for the special favour of the same Deity who, nearly one thousand years later, descended on earth to interpret the providential policy of His Father in heaven, not through the pestilential breath of the destroying angel, but by compassionate alleviation of the sufferings of disease.

David is not only a central figure in the historic drama of Israel, but has also exercised an important

« ÎnapoiContinuați »