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Hosea 5:1-3 -

National depravity.

"Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all. I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled." "With the words, 'Hear ye this,' the reproof of the sins of Israel makes a new start, and is specially addressed to the priests and the king's house, i . e . the king and his court, to announce to the leaders of the nation the punishment that will follow their apostasy from God and their idolatry, by which they have plunged the people and kingdom headlong into destruction" (Keil and Delitzsch). These words lead us to consider the depravity of a nation.

I. PRIESTS AND PEOPLE ARE INVOLVED IN IT . "Hear ye this." All orders and degrees of men are here cited to appear before the Almighty on account of the sin of the country. Both priests and rulers, clergy and kings, ought, not only to be unimplicated in the moral corruption of a country, but to be evermore the most zealous and efficient agents in purifying the spirit and elevating the moral character of a nation. In their elevated positions they should not allow a breath of general depravity to touch them, but pour down evermore upon all grades of people sentiments and influences that shall purify and bless. Alas! it has been otherwise; both have, for ages, proved the greatest contaminators and curses of their race. Priests have oftentimes been fiends in sacerdotal robes, and kings beastly voluptuaries in royal garb and stately gait. No man is a real priest of God, and no man a true king, who is not the most distinguished exemplar and promoter of those heavenly virtues which alone can confer peace, stability, and honor upon a country.

II. UNFAITHFULNESS TO GOD IS A PROOF OF IT . "For judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor." "As hunters spread their net and snares upon the hills Mizpah and Tabor, so ye have snared the people into idolatry, and made them your prey by injustice." As Mizpah and Tabor mean a "watch-tower" and a "lofty place," a fit scene for hunters; playing on the words, the prophet implies, "In the lofty place in which I have set you, whereas ye ought to hare been the watchers of the people, guarding them from evil, ye have been as hunters entrapping them into it." The meaning is "These kings and priests use their elevated positions in turning men away from the true God." "And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all." "Revolters" means apostates, and these apostates were "profound," deeply rooted, sunk into the lowest depths of idolatry. "To make slaughter." Their offerings were not sacrifices, they were mere slaughters, butcheries; there was nothing sacred about them. Here, then, is a proof of the general depravity of a nation. A nation that is unfaithful to its true God is a tree rotten in its roots, a river poisoned in its spring. Philosophically there can be no morality where there is no fidelity to him whose existence is the foundation and whose will is the rule of all virtue.

III. THE JUDGE OF THE WOULD IS COGNIZANT OF IT . "I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me." No covering can conceal it, no argument will disprove it. It lays bare to the eye of Omniscience. "I know Ephraim." Though they were ignorant of him, he knew them and read them through and through. Nations often cover over their depravity By the promotion of benevolent institutions by encouraging the ordinances of public worship, and by a public profession of religion. But there is an eye that penetrates through the thick covering—he sees the devil in the angel; "He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men."

CONCLUSION . Suppose not that national depravity is something distinct from the depravity of the individual. It is but the aggregation of individual depravities. Nor suppose that, because priests and kings may be the mightiest agents in promoting national immorality and irreligion, each individual in the nation is less accountable for his sins on that account. No priest or king can compel us to sin. Sin is an act of freedom, and for it each man is held responsible to the Most High. Daniel Webster was once asked, "What is the most important thought you ever entertained?" He replied, after a moment's reflection, "The most important thought I ever had was my individual responsibility to God."—D.T.

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