Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 17881820
The Evil Jeroboam
By Nathanael Emmons (17451840)
[Born in East Haddam, Conn., 1745. Died at Franklin, Mass., 1840. From a Fast-Day Sermon preached 9 April, 1801, and supposed to be an attack upon Jefferson, the newly-inaugurated President.]
IT appears, from his character and conduct in early life, that he possessed, in a high degree, the art of captivating and corrupting all sorts of people with whom he conversed. And when he was clothed with the ensigns of royalty, his power and opportunity of corrupting his subjects greatly increased. He became the standard of taste, and the model of imitation. His sentiments and manners became a living law to his subjects. In his familiar intercourse with all around him, he undoubtedly seized those soft moments, which were the most favorable to his malignant design of seduction. This he could do without departing from the dignity of his station; but it appears that he did more than this, and even stooped to mingle with the priests, and to burn incense upon the altars of the golden gods of his own making. He was such an apostate from the true religion, and such a bigot to idolatry, that he esteemed nothing too low, nor too mean to be done, that would serve to eradicate every moral and religious principle from the minds of the people. Hence it is natural to conclude, that he did more to drive Israel from following the Lord, by his personal example, than by all the other methods he employed for that impious purpose. And, indeed, his example is oftener mentioned than anything else, as the fatal cause of corrupting and destroying the people whom he governed. High and low, rich and poor, princes and people, are said to walk in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. It is certain, however, that his loose and irreligious example gave peculiar weight and authority to his idolatrous institutions and his partial appointments in church and state, and largely contributed to drive all the tribes of Israel from following the Lord, and eventually to plunge them in perpetual ruin.
The character and conduct of Jeroboam may lead us to form a just estimate of good rulers. Everything appears in the truest light, by the way of contrast. Folly is a foil to wisdom; vice is a foil to virtue; false religion is a foil to that which is true: and wicked rulers are a foil to those who are wise and faithful. These, however, are often despised and reproached, when they deserve to be esteemed and admired. Though Solomon was the greatest man, and the wisest king, that ever adorned an earthly throne; and though the measures which he devised and pursued raised his kingdom to the summit of national prosperity, yet his subjects did not duly appreciate the blessings of his reign until he was succeeded by a vile and impious usurper. Then the striking contrast between Solomon and Jeroboam could not fail to open the eyes of a stupid and ungrateful nation. Those who had unreasonably murmured under the wise and gentle administration of the best of rulers, must have found the little finger of Jeroboam thicker than the loins of a wise and lenient prince. Solomon did a great deal to promote the temporal and eternal interests of his subjects; but Jeroboam did as much to ruin his subjects, both in time and eternity. Never before was there a greater contrast between two rulers in succession than between Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who drave Israel from following the Lord, and his great and illustrious predecessor. It seems God intended by this contrast, to make the house of Israel deeply sensible of the pre-eminent virtues and services of Solomon; and, by recording this contrast, he undoubtedly meant to teach future nations properly to appreciate those who govern them in wisdom and integrity. Let us all learn this lesson, and especially those who have complained of the late wise and gentle administration of government. It is more than possible that our nation may find themselves in the hand of a Jeroboam who will drive them from following the Lord; and whenever they do they will rue the day, and detest the folly, delusion, and intrigue, which raised him to the head of the United States.