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dom, was well worthy of credit in the news of his son. Experience is a great encouragement of our trust. It is a good matter to be faithful; this loadstone of our fidelity shall draw to us even hearts of iron, and hold them to our reliance; as, contrarily, deceit doth both argue and make a bankrupt. Who can trust where he is disappointed ? O God, so oft, so ever have we found thee true in all thy promises, in all thy performances, that, if we do not seek thee, if we do not trust thee in the sequel, we are worthy of our loss, worthy of thy desertions.
Yet I do not see that Jeroboam sends to the prophet for his aid, but for intelligence. Curiosity is guilty of this message, and not devotion : he calls not for the prayers, nor
for the benediction of that holy man, but for mere information of the event. He well saw what the prayers of a prophet could do: that which cured his hand, might it not have cured his son? yet he that said to a man of God, “ Intreat the face of the Lord thy God, that he may restore my hand,” says not now, in his message to Ahijah, Intreat thy God to restore my son.
Sin makes such a strangeness betwixt God and man, that the guilty heart either thinks not of suing to God, or fears it. What a poor contentment it was to foreknow that evil which he could not avoid, and whose notice could but hasten his misery! Yet thus fond is our restless curiosity, that it seeks ease in the drawing on of torment: he is worthy of sorrow that will not stay till it comes to him, but goes to fetch it.
Whom doth Jeroboam send on this message but his wife, and how, but disguised? why her, and why thus ? Neither durst he trust this errand with another, nor with her in her own form: it was a secret that Jeroboam sends to a prophet of God: none might know it but his own bosom, and she that lay in it; if this had been noised in Israel, the example had been dangerous: who would not have said, The king is glad to leave his counterfeit deities, and seek to the true;
why should we adhere to them whom he forsakes? As the message must not be known to the people, so she that bears it must not be known to the prophet; her name, her habit must be changed; she must put off her robes, and put on a russet coat; she must put off the queen, and put on the peasant; instead of a sceptre, she must take up a basket, and go a masked pilgrimage to Shiloh. O the fondness of vain men, that think to juggle with the Almighty, and to hide their counsels from that all-seeing eye! If this change of habit were necessary at Bethel, yet what needs it at Shiloh? though she would hide her face from her subjects, yet why should she not pull off her muffler, and show herself to the prophet? Certainly, what policy began, guiltiness must continue. Well might she think, there can be no good answer expected by the wife of Jeroboam : my presence will do no less than solicit a reproof. No prophet can speak well to the consort of a founder of idolatry; I may perhaps hear good as another, though, as for myself, I can look for nothing but tidings of evil. Wicked hearts know they deserve ill at God's hands, and therefore they do all they can to avoid the eyes of his displeased justice ; and if they cannot do it by colours of dissimulation, they will do it by imploration of shelter ; they shall say to the rocks, " Fall on us, and cover us.”
But, О the gross folly mixed with the craft of wickedness! could Jeroboam think that the prophet could know the event of his son's disease, and did he think that he could not know the disguise of his wife? the one was present, the other future; this was but wrapped in a clout, that event was wrapped in the counsel of God; yet this politic head presumes that the greater shall be revealed, where the lesser shall be hid. There was never wicked man that was not infatuate, and in nothing more than in those things wherein he hoped most to transcend the reach of others.
Ahijah shunning the iniquity of the times, was retired to a solitary corner of Shiloh ; no place could be too private for an honest prophet, in so extreme depravedness: yet even there doth the king of Israel take notice of his seclusion, and sends his wife to that poor cell laden with presents that dissembled their bearer ; had she offered jewels, or gold, her greatness had been suspected ; now she brings loaves, and cracknels, and honey; her hand answers her back; she gives as she seems, not as she is. Something she must give, even when she acts the poorest client.
The prophets of God were not wont to have empty visitations: they who hated bribes, yet refused not tokens of gratitude. Yea, the God of heaven, who neither needs our goods, nor is capable of our gratifications, yet would have no man to come to him giftless. Woe to those sacrilegious hands, that, instead of bringing to the prophets, carry from them !
Jeroboam was a bad man, yet as he had a towardly son, so he had an obedient wife, else she had not wanted excuses to turn off both the journey and the disguise; against the disguise, she had pleaded the unbeseemingness of her person and state; against the journey, the perils of so long and solitary a walk. Perhaps a lion might be in the way, the lion that tore the prophet in pieces; perhaps robbers: or, if not they, perhaps her chastity might be in danger: an unguarded solitariness in the weaker sex might be a provocation to some forced uncleanness. She cast off all these shifting projections of fear; according to the will of her husband, she changes her raiment; she sets upon the journey, and overcomes it. What needed this disguise to an old prophet, whose dim eyes were set with age ? all clothes, all faces were alike to a blind seer.
The visions of Ahijah were inward, neither was his bodily sight more dusky, than the eyes of his mind were clear and piercing. It was not
the common light of men whereby he saw, but divine illumination ; things absent, things future were no less obvious to those spiritual beams, than present things are to us. Ere the quick eyes of that great lady can discern him, he hath espied her; and, as soon as he hears the sound of her feet, she hears from him the und of her name,
66 Come in thou wife of Jeroboam.” How God laughs in heaven at the frivolous fetches of crafty politicians, and, when they think themselves most sure, shames them with a detection, with a defeat! What an idleness it is for foolish hypocrites to hope they can dance in a net, unseen of heaven!
Never before was this queen troubled to hear of herself; now she is; her very name strikes her with astonishment, and prepares her for the assured horror of following judgments, “I am sent to thee with heavy tidings; go tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel." Could this lady less wonder at the mercy of this style of God, than tremble at the sequel of his justice ? Lo, Israel hath forsaken God, yet God still owns Israel. Israel hath gone a whoring, yet God hath not divorced her. O the infinite goodness of our longsuffering God, whom our foulest sins cannot rob of his compassions !
By how much dearer Israel was to God, so much more odious is Jeroboam that hath married Israel. Terrible is that vengeance which God thunders against him by his prophet, whose passionate message upbraids him with his promotions, chargeth him with his sins, and lastly denounceth his judgments. No mouth was fitter to cast this royalty in the teeth of Jeroboam, than that by which'it was first foretold, forepromised: every circumstance of the advancement aggravates the sin. : “ I exalted thee;" thou couldst not rise to honour alone. “I exalted thee from among the people,” not from the peers; thy rank was but common before this rise; “I ex
alted thee from among the people to be a prince :" subordinate height was not enough for thee, no seat would serve thee but a throne; " yea to be a prince of my people Israel.” No nation was for thee but my chosen one, none but my royal inheritance: neither did I raise thee into a vacant throne ; a forlorn and forsaken principality might be thankless; but, “I rent the kingdom away from another for thy sake,” yea, from what other but the grandchild of David ? out of his hands did I wrest the sceptre to give it into thine. O what high favours doth God sometimes cast away upon unworthy subjects! How do his abused bounties double both their sin and judgment!
The sins of this prince were no less eminent than his obligations, therefore his judgments shall be no less eminent than his sins. How bitterly doth God express that, which shall be more bitter in the execution; “Behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat." O heavy load that this disguised princess must carry to her husband! But because these evils, though grievous, yet might be remote, therefore, for a present handsel of vengeance, she is dismissed with the sad tidings of the death of her son; "When thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die." It is heavy news for a mother that she must lose her son, but worse yet that she may not see him. In these cases of our final departures, our presence gives some mitigation to our grief. Might she but have closed the eyes, and received the last breath of her dying son, the loss had been more tolerable; I know not how our personal farewell eases our heart, even while it increases our passion ; but now she shall no more