And the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king. I.
ITS BEGINNING THROUGH HOME INFLUENCE. Here all start life in right or wrong direction. Home influence affects societies, Churches, and nations.
II. ITS CONTINUANCE BY EVIL COUNSELLORS (ver. 4). A nation with evil legislators like a ship directed in the midst of rooks — in imminent peril.
III. ITS END IN JUDGMENT WHICH IT ENTAILED.
For his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.
Every first thing continues for ever with the child; the first colour, the first music, the first flower paint the foreground of life. Every new educator effects less than his predecessor, until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institute, a circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all the nations he has seen than by his nurse.
Mothers, ye are the sculptors of the souls of the coming men; queens of the cradle, humble or high, ye are the queens of the future. In your hands lie the destinies of men. I am not speaking poetry, but plain fact, which history proves. Nero's mother was a murderess; Nero was a murderer, on a gigantic scale. Byron's mother was proud, ill-tempered, and violent; Byron was proud, ill-tempered, and violent. Washington's mother was noble and pure; Washington was noble and pure. Scott's mother loved poetry and painting; you know what Walter Scott was. Carlyle's mother was stern, and full of reverence; Carlyle very much so. Wesley's mother was a God-like woman; Wesley was a God-like man. The prison chaplain will tell you that the last thing forgotten, in all the recklessness of dissolute profligacy, is the prayer or hymn taught by a mother's lips, or uttered at a father's knee. Yes, when all other roads are closed, there is one road open to the heart of the desperate man — the memory of his mother.
"For his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly." There must be a mistranslation! All nature is offended by this tremendous affront. Can we not.find some other word for "mother"? Any other word will do better, even "father" would not be so objectionable. The one word that cannot be tolerated here is the word that is found, namely, "mother"! We might close the Bible here, and say the book that contains this statement was never inspired. But we cannot do so. Then the word "counsellor" is so full of plan, premeditation, arrangement; the mother was a schoolmistress, with one pupil, and she suggested, invented, culminated ends, whispered, threw out hints, advised bad policies; told him when he was halting because the course was evil to "go on!" Napoleon said, "They that rock the cradle rule the world." To have a cradle rocked by such a mother as Athaliah surely were enough to be foredoomed to endless misery! How sweetly the text would have read had it proceeded on the lines of nature! — for his mother was his counsellor to do bravely. Surely the word "wickedly" is a misprint, traceable to some careless copyist! — his mother was his counsellor to do wisely, patiently, hopefully, — these would have been womanly words, words most motherly, the very words with which we build home and Church and heaven. But the word is "wickedly," and we must regard it in its literal significance. What are mothers doing now? They could be God's foremost ministers. No man can pray like a woman; no man has the art of eloquence as a woman has it; no one can come into life so silently, quietly, blessingly as woman, mother, sister. If women would preach surely the world would listen. They ought to preach; they know the secret of love, they have the answer to the Cross, they can solve in some degree the enigma of sacrifice. This is the very reason of the horribleness of the text. If woman had been otherwise, then the word "wickedly" would not have read with such a sense of irony and moral collision as it does in this instance. It is because woman can be so heavenly that she can be so low, and wicked, and bad; it is because she can be so like a saviour that she can be such an engine and agent of ruin.
And Athaliah reigned over the land.
A distinguished authority on European history is fond of pointing to the evil effects of royal marriages as one of the chief drawbacks to the monarchical system of government. A crown may at any time devolve upon a woman, and by her marriage with a powerful reigning prince her country may virtually be subjected to a foreign yoke. If it happens that the new sovereign professes a different religion from that of his wife's subjects, the evils arising from the marriage are seriously aggravated. Some such fate befell the Netherlands as the result of the marriage of Mary of Burgundy with the Emperor Maximilian, and England was only saved from the danger of transference to Catholic dominion by the caution and patriotism of Queen Elizabeth. Athaliah's usurpation was a bold attempt to reverse the usual process and transfer the husband's dominions to the authority of faith of the wife's family. It is probable that Athaliah's permanent success would have led to the absorption of Judah in the northern kingdom. Our own history furnishes numerous illustrations of the evil influences that come in the train of foreign queens. Edward II suffered grievously at the hands of his French queen; Henry VI.'s wife, Margaret of Anjou, contributed considerably to the prolonged bitterness of the struggle between York and Lancaster; and to Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine of Aragon the country owed the miseries and persecutions inflicted by Mary Tudor. But no foreign queen of England has had the opportunities for mischief that were enjoyed and fully utilised by Athaliah. The peace and honour and prosperity of godly families in all ranks of life have been disturbed, and often destroyed, by the marriage of one of their members with a woman of alien spirit mad temperament.
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