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provoke thee no more. This hand, which thou hast restored, shall be consecrated to thee, in pulling down these bold abominations; yet now, behold, he goes on in his old courses, and, as if God had neither done him good nor evil, lives and dies idolatrous. No stone is more hard or insensate than a sinful heart: the changes of judgment and mercy do but obdure it, instead of melting
THE SEDUCED PROPHET.
JEROBOAM's hand is amended, his soul is not; that continues still dry and inflexible: yet, while he is unthankful to the author of his recovery, he is thankful to the instrument; he kindly invites the prophet whom he had threatened, and will remunerate him whom he endeavoured to punish. The worst men may be sensible of bodily favours. Civil respects may well stand with gracelessness. Many a one would be liberal of their purses, if they might be allowed to be niggardly of their obedience.
As God, so his prophet, cares not for these waste courtesies, where he sees main duties neglected. More piety would have done well with less compliment. The man of God returns a blunt and peremptory denial to so bounteous an offer :
66 If thou wilt give me half thine house I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread or drink water in this place.” Kindness is more safely done to an idolater, than taken from him; that which is done to him obligeth him, that which is taken from him obligeth us: his obligation to us may be occasion of his good, our obligation to him may occasion our hurt; the surest way is to keep aloof from the infectiously wicked.
The prophet is not uncivil, to reject the favour of a prince without some reason: he yields no reason of his refusal but the command of his God. God hath charged him, “Eat no bread, nor drink no water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.” It is not for a prophet to plead human or carnal grounds for the actions of his function : he may not move but upon a divine warrant. Would this seer have looked with the eyes of flesh and blood, he might have found many arguments for his yielding: He is a king that invites me; his reward, by enriching me, may benefit many; and who knows how much my further conversation may prevail to reform him? how can he be but well prepared for good counsel by a miraculous cure ? how gainfully should my receipt of a temporal courtesy be exchanged with a spiritual to him? all Israel will follow him either in idolatry, cr reformation; which way can be devised of doing so great service to God and the church, as by reclaiming him? What can yield so great likelihood of his reclamation, as the opportunity of my further entireness with him? But the prophet dares not argue cases, where he had a command; whatever become of Jeroboam and Israel, Ġod must be obeyed; neither profit, nor hopes may carry us cross to the word of our Maker. How safe had this seer been, if he had kept him ever upon
this sure guard, which he no sooner leaves than he miscarries!
So deeply doth God detest idolatry, that he forbids his prophet to eat the bread, to drink the water of a people infected with this sin ; yea, to tread in those very steps which their feet have touched. If this inhibition were personal, yet the grounds of it are common. No pestilence should be more shunned than the conversation of the misreligious, or openly scandalous. It is no thank to us, if their familiarity do not infect us with their wickedness.
I know not what to think of an old prophet that dwells in Bethel, within the air of Jeroboam's idol, within the noise of his sacrifices; that lives where the man of God dares not eat; that permitted his sons to be present at that idolatrous service. If he were a prophet of God, what did he now in Bethel ? why did he wink at the sin of Jeroboam ? what needed a seer to come out of Judah, for the reproof of that sin, which was acted under his nose ? why did he lie? why did his family partake with idolaters? if he were not a prophet of God, how had he true visions, how had he true messages from God? why did he second the menacing word of that prophet, whom he seduced ? why did he desire that his own bones might be honoured with his scpulchre ? Doubtless he was a prophet of God, but corrupt, resty, vicious. Prophecy doth not always presuppose sanctification ; many a one hath had visions from God, who shall never enjoy the vision of God. A very Balaam, in his extasies, hath so clear a revelation of the Messiah to come, as scarce ever any of the holiest prophets; yea, his very ass hath both her mouth miraculously opened, and her eyes to see and notify that angel, which was hid from her master: yea, Satan himself sometimes receives notice from God of his future actions; which else that evil spirit could neither foretel, nor foresee. These kinds of graces are both rare and common; rare, in that they are seldom given to any; common, in that they are indifferently given to the evil, and to the good. A little holiness is worth much illumination.
Whether out of envy to hear that said by the seer of Judah, which he either knew not or smothered ; to hear that done by another, which he could not have effected, and could not choose but admire; or whether out of desire to make trial of the fidelity of so powerful a messenger, the old prophet hastens to overtake, to recal that man of God, who had so defied his Bethel, whom he finds sitting faint and
weary under an oak in the way, taking the benefit of that shade which he hated to receive from those contagious groves that he had left behind him: his habit easily bewrayed him, to a man of his own trade; neither doth his tongue spare to profess himself. The old prophet of Bethel invites him to return to a repast; and is answered with the same words, wherewith Jeroboam's offer was repelled : the man of God varies not a syllable from his message. It concerns us to take good heed of our charge, when we go on God's errand. A denial doth but invite the importunate; what he cannot do by entreaty, the old man tries to do by persuasion. “I am a prophet also as thou art, and an angel spake to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread, and drink water."
There is no temptation so dangerous, as that which comes shrouded under a vail of holiness, and pretends authority of God himself. Jeroboam threatens, the prophet stands undaunted; Jeroboam fawns and promises, the prophet holds constant: now comes a grey-headed seer, and pleads a
counter-message from God, the prophet yields and transgresses. Satan may affright us as a fiend, but he seduces us as an angel of light.
Who would have looked for a liar under hoary hairs, and a holy mantle ? who would not have trusted that gravity, when there was no colour of any gain in the untruth? Nothing is so apt to deceive as the fairest semblances, as the sweetest words. We cannot err, if we believe not the speech for the person, but the person for the speech. Well might this man of God think, an aged man, a prophet, an old prophet, will not, sure, belie God unto a prophet; no man will forge a lie, but for an advantage. What can this man gain by this match, but the entertainment of an unprofitable guest? Perhaps, though God would not allow me to feast
with Jeroboam, yet, pitying my faintness, he may allow me to eat with a prophet. Perhaps, now that I have approved my fidelity in refusing the bread of Bethel, God thinks good to send me a gracious release of that strict charge. Why should I think, that God's revelations are not as free to others, as to me? and if this prophet have received a countermand from an angel of God, how shall I not disobey God, if I do not follow him?
Upon this ground he returns with this deceitful host; and, when the meat was now in his mouth, receives the true message of death, from the same lips that brought him the false message of his invitation ; Thus saith the Lord, “ For as much as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the Lord, and hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, but camest back and hast eaten bread, and drunk water in the place forbidden thee, thy carcass shall not come to the sepulchre of thy fathers.”
O woeful prophet! when he looks on his host, he sees his executioner; while he is feeding of his body, he hears of his carcass : at the table he hears of his denied sepulchre ; and all this for eating and drinking where he was forbidden by God, though bidden as from God. The violation of the least charge of God is mortal. No pretences can warrant the transgression of a divine command: a word from God is pleaded on both sides; the one was received immediately from God, the other related mediately by man: one the prophet was sure of, the other was questionable. A sure word of God may not be left for an uncertain : an express charge of the Almighty admitteth not of any check: his will is but one as himself is ; and therefore it is out of the danger of contradiction.
Methinks I see the man of God change countenance at this sharp sauce of his pleasing morsel; his face beforehand is dyed with the paleness of death. Methinks I hear him urging many unkind