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THE FATHER'S RECOGNITION OF THE LOST SON EPHRAIM.
Ephraim having come to himself, acknowledges his utter Weakness and Worthlessness, and casts himself upon the Mercy of his Father, who, embracing him, declares, that He has never forgotten him, and that He will surely have Mercy upon him.
Having before promised the recovery of the lost children of Israel; and having specially spoken comfort to Rachel, the mother of Joseph, of whose son Ephraim, the promised fulness of nations was to come, the 'Lord now points to the circumstances in which this people were to he found, when come to themselves. We have now Ephraim's recognition of his Father, and his Father's recognition of him. The scene here described most strikingly reminds us of the parable of the Prodigal Son, who had wandered away from his father, and who stopped not until he had lost his all, Luke xv. 11—32. The man of the country, to whom he had hired himself, had sent him into his fields to feed swine; and, indeed, the English were fain to do the Pope's bidding, even to their becoming collectors of Peter's pence from a neighbouring people, who have since
so obstinately remained in subjection to the Man of Sin—Ephraim was lost, even to himself; but at length he has come to himself, and begins to ruminate upon what he is, and what he might be; and he finds that there is no help in himself; that it is his wisdom, no less than his duty, to throw himself, as all true Protestant worshippers profess to do, wholly upon his Father's good pleasure; and his Father, whose eye has ever followed him in all his wanderings, sees the condition of his son, and his ear is open to his cry. The voice of the prodigal son, Ephraim, is first represented as falling feebly upon the ear; and the Father, as if beginning to recognise it, even in the first breathings of true repentance, says, "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself"—Anon, the words of the voice are heard; and they are found ad
EPHRAIM BROUGHT TO REPENTANCE-HOSEA.
dressed to the Father himself. They are an acknowledgment of his utter inability to do any thing good as of himself. Ephraim's pride and unworthiness are exposed to his view, and he begins to he subdued. - His Father had declared, "The ox knoweth his owner: ""but Israel doth not know." And he acknowledges the condemnation just, saying, "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed," or untaught: The bullock, or ox, was the standard of Ephraim; and he confesses that this animal, even in its untaught state, was a fitting representation of his condition. The Lord has been punishing him for seeking a conformity to the nations around: he sought to be like them, in national policy, and also in religion; and the Lord punished him by giving him both the place and the name of the Gentiles, casting him out of the land, and taking from him the name of Israel, Hos. ch. i. 6—9. But Ephraim considered it not. He still went on frowardly—still indulged in worldly conformity, and want of consideration as to the dealings of God with regard to him. The means which God hath given him, whereby to provide for the poor, and glorify his Maker, he had used for the gratification of his own vanity, pleasure, and pride; and thought it a wonderful selfsacrifice if he bestowed a miserable pittance upon the objects for which his wealth had been bestowed upon him, or rather for which such treasures had been intrusted to his care. Nay, he even takes those treasures, and endows therewith what he acknowledges to be superstition and idolatry, through the cowardly fear of not having the arm of the wicked to trust to in the day of battle.—Ah! this trust in man—this departing from the Living God—this must be repented of.
In Hosea, who dwells so much upon the case of Ephraim, it is said, ch. x. 1, 2, "Israel is an empty vine; he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit, he hath increased the altars—accord
ing to the goodness of his land, they have made goodly images. Their heart is divided: now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars he shall spoil their images." ver. 4. "They have spoken words, swearing falsely, in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field." ver. 12, "Sow to yourselves in righteousness; reap in mercy—break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." Ephraim will at length see the folly of his own way, and the wisdom of an entire return unto his Father: and, conscious of his own ignorance, weakness, and proneness to err, he will at length. be prevailed upon to throw himself upon the free mercy of his God and Father—the forgiving grace—the almighty power of Jehovah, saying, "Turn thou me, and I shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God." -There is a forsaking every false ground of confidence, and a taking the Lord himself as the Portion of his people; and as He who can, and who will, put forth power in those that make Him their defence, Ephraim will yet in truth, in the spirit of adoption, claim the Lord as his God.—As the Lord, who only is able to direct—as God, who alone is mighty to deliver; and, entirely distrusting his own wisdom and power, he will make those of the Most High his own: which can alone be done in the right of the Redeemer. To strengthen in this wise resolution, there is, then, a musing over past experience—there is a recognition of the imperfection of all our past turnings unto God. There was a turning when we forsook the worship of Odin and other new gods, and embraced Christianity; but this was fast getting into the corrupt form of Popery, and was thus a repentance that needed to be repented of: which second repentance took place when the purer doctrines of the Reformation were embraced. Still there was not the full instruction in the word and the ways of God, True, the Scrip
THE FUTURE POSSESSION OF THE LAND.
Then the bounds of Israel's peculiar Inheritance are described, as reaching on the north side from the Great, or Mediterranean Sea, along by Damascus towards Hauran; and then the east side, from Hauran to the East Sea; and then on the south side, from Tamar in the wilderness, to the Mediterranean Sea; along which shall be the border on the west side. Although the Lord shall have his peculiar portion in the midst of the land; and Israel his in the midst of the earth: yet neither shall the Lord the less inherit all nations, nor Israel cease to fill the face of the world with fruit: encompassing all nations with blessing, as well as for being a glory unto the Lord in the midst of all the Gentiles, whom also it was promised they should inherit. And as the Lord's house is to be an house of prayer for all people, and as Israel shall be followers of God as dear children; they shall make their land a home for all people who, from year to year, shall come up to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles:-rejoicing together in the unity of brotherly love; and in holy reverence towards their King; and outwardly expressing in acts of true devotion, and joyful fellowship, their hearts' obedience to these two great commandments, love to God and love to man, the law of this blessed kingdom of the glorified Messiah:-Thus accordingly love shall be shown by the children of Israel to the strangers: "They shall have Inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall come to pass that in what tribe the stranger sojourneth, there shall ye give him his Inheritance, saith the Lord God." Thus shall the Inheritance of Israel be;-not for selfish gratification, but for the communication of blessing unto all, ch. xlvii. 13—23.
Then we have the order in which the tribeships shall lie in stripes, as it were, eastward and westward: beginning with Dan on the north side, and so proceeding with Asher, and Naphtali, and Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Reuben, and Judah, to the north of
the Holy Portion, for the Temple and the Priesthood, and the city, and the prince. And then, on the south side of this holy oblation, the tribeships are appointed of Benjamin, and Simeon, and Issachar, and Zebulun, and Gad. "This is the land that ye shall divide by lot unto the children of Israel for Inheritance: and these are their portions, saith the Lord God." The division of the tribeships is not that which was when Israel were previously in the land: neither is the description correspondent to that which is prophesied of the tribes by Jacob, as to what was to befall them in the last days: the application of which prophecy, as well as that of Moses, must be looked for elsewhere; and may serve for the recognition of the tribes in their present localities, as in dispersion.
The stretching out of the tribeships, in peaceful lines, seems to indicate that they are placed together, not that each may gather itself up in individual strength, as for conflict, but spread itself out to the uttermost for intercommunion; and as if to embrace the globe from the east even unto the west. Reuben, whose by birth was the birthright, is placed between Joseph, who got by adoption the birthright, and Judah who obtained the dominion. This may express the forgiving grace of the Father of Israel; and the courteous affection with which his children shall dwell together in unity near the courts of his house. The removal of the curse is most strikingly manifested in the case of Judah, who is, of the three, nearest to the house of the Lord, in which they shall now indeed praise the Lord, and in truth bow the knee to Him whom formerly they rejected. And the Lord's choosing his portion between those of Judah and Benjamin, who previously joined in putting Him away from them, casting him out of their city, is indeed a lesson of forgiving grace. The fulness of the earthly blessing of Judah and Benjamin, as given by Jacob and Moses, remains to be possessed; and it shall be
EPHRAIM'S RETURN TO HIS FATHER.
tures were unfolded, and there was free opportunity of learning the revealed will of God: but still there was comparative blindness as to the operations of Providence; and of the Spirit of God, by which alone true instruction can be conveyed to the mind: and even to the light to which he has attained, and which he has nationally recognised, he has been unfaithful. Through the fear of those he has overcome, he falters in the protest in which his God hath supported and prospered him. Well may Ephraim be astonished, ashamed, yea, even confounded, at his so long retaining that spirit and conduct for which he was reproved in the days of his youth, as in Hosea, ch. xi. 3—8: "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love. And I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. He shall not return into the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour, because of their own counsels. And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt Him, How shall I give thee up Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboiim? My heart is turned within me. My repentings are kindled together." And when Ephraim shall be made sensible of all this; and be made truly to confess his worthlessness, weakness, and want of wisdomwhen he shall come to some understanding of the multiplied instructions of his Father, and of his own utter stupidity, under the Lord's dealings with him, both in mercy and in judgment when he shall cast himself upon his God, in humble repentance, and for undeserved grace, then shall he know the truth of his Father's welcome, in recognition of his returning
son, to whom he gives the place of the first-born, saying, "Ephraim!"for now Ephraim will have brought forth the desired fruit, a distrust in himself, and an entire resignation of himself to the will of his God—" My dear son!" accepted in the Beloved
a pleasant child," delighted in by the Father, as becoming adorned with the graces and the gifts of the Spirit of his God and Saviour—"For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore my bowels are troubled for him. I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord." It will be found that, throughout the Old Testament prophecies, even after Ephraim was to appearance lost—left to destruction under the hands of his enemies, he was not forgotten, but most earnestly remembered by the God of Israel, who hath had compassion on him in his low estate, even so as to give the Son of his love into our world, to seek and to save that which was lost; and so as to send more especially to him the offers of his grace, and the bounties of his providence. Northwestward, according to special direction from the days of old, have come the messengers of peace, with, in their hands, the Book of Remembrance, testifying of the Lord's gracious purposes with regard to his people, and spreading before us the riches of his New Covenant mercy: a Covenant sealed with his own blood, providing the fulness of blessing, for those who know they were lost, and who, having no confi. dence in the flesh, are willing to be received back into favour, and fitted for the glorious kingdom of our God upon the terms of sovereign grace.
Yea God hath ever remembered Ephraim in tenderness, and hath been extending to him loving-kindness, although he hath perceived it not. Truly may Israel, as looking-back upon all the way in which the Lord hath led them, exclaim, "His mercy endureth for ever." And that mercy will be yet more abundantly bestowed: in reference to which are the words (Jer. xxxi. 20), "I will surely have