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see, nor be seen of her Abijah.
She shall no sooner be in the city, than he shall be out of the world. Yet more, to perfect her sorrow, she hears, that in him alone there is found some good, the rest of her issue are graceless; she must lose the good, and hold the graceless; he shall die to afflict her, they shall live to afflict her.
Yet what a mixture is here of severity and favour in one act! favour to the son, severity to the father; severity to the father, that he must lose such a son; favour to the son, that he shall be taken from such a father. Jeroboam is wicked, and therefore he shall not enjoy an Abijah; Abijah hath some good things, therefore he shall be removed from the danger of the depravation of Jeroboam. Sometimes God strikes in favour, but more often forbears out of severity. The best are fittest for heaven, the earth is fittest for the worst; this is the region of sin and misery, that of immortality It is no argument of disfavour to be taken early from a well-led life, as not of approbation to age in sin.
As the soul of Abijah is favoured in the removal, so is his body with a burial; he shall have alone both tears and tomb, all the rest of his brethren shall have no grave but dogs and fowls, now sorrow but for their life. Though the carcase be insensible of any position, yet honest sepulture is a blessing. It is fit the body should be duly respected on earth, whose soul is glorious in heaven.
The two houses of Judah and Israel grow up now together in an ambitious rivalry; this splitted plant branches out so severally, as if it had forgotten that
ever it was joined in the root. The throne of David oft changeth the possessors, and more complaineth of their iniquity than their remove. Abijam inherits the sins of his father Rehoboam, no less than his crown; and so spends his three years, as if he had been no whit akin to his grandfather's virtues. It is no news that grace is not traduced, while vice is; therefore is his reign short, because it was wicked. It was a sad case, when both the kings of Judah and Israel, though enemies, yet conspired in sin. Rehoboam, like his father Solomon, began graciously, but fell to idolatry; as he followed his father, so his son, so his people followed him. O what a face of a church was here, when Israel worshipped Jeroboam's calves, when Judah built them high places and images, and groves on every high hill, and under every green tree! On both hands God is forsaken, his temple neglected, his worship adulterate ; and this, not for some short brunt, but during the succession of two kings: for, after the first three years, Rehoboam changed his father's religion, as his shields, from gold to brass; the rest of his seventeen years were led in impiety. His son Abijam trod in the same miry steps, and Judah with them both. If there were any doubtless there were some) faithful hearts yet remaining in both kingdoms, during these heavy times, what a corrosive it must needs have been to them, to see so deplored and miserable a depravation !
There was no visible church upon earth but here; and this, what a one! O God, how low dost thou sometimes suffer thine own flock to be driven ! what woeful wanes and eclipses hast thou ordained for this heavenly body! Yet, at last, an Asa shall arise from the loins, from the grave of Abijam ; he shall revive David, and reform Judah. The gloomy times of corruption shall not last always: the light of truth and peace shall at length break out, and bless the sad hearts of the righteous.
It is a wonder how Asa should be good, of the seed of Abijam, of the soil of Maachah, both wicked, both idolatrous. God would have us see that grace is from heaven, neither needs the helps of these earthly conveyances. Should not the children of good parents sometimes be evil, and the children of evil parents good, virtue would seem natural, and the giver would lose his thanks. Thus we have seen a fair flower spring out of dung, and a well fruited tree rise out of a sour stock: education hath no less power to corrupt than nature. It is therefore the just praise of Asa, that, being trained up under an idolatrous Maachah, he maintained his piety; as, contrarily, it is a shame for those, that have been bred up in the precepts and examples of virtue and godliness, to fall off to lewdness or superstition. There are four principal monuments of Asa's virtue, as so many rich stones in his diadem; he took away sodomy and idols out of Judah. Who cannot wonder more that he found them there, than that he removed them? what a strange incongruity is this, Sodom in Jerusalem! idols in Judah! Surely debauched profession proves desperate; admit the idols, ye cannot doubt of the sodomy. If they have changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things, it is no marvel, if God give them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. If they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, no marvel if God give them to vile affections, to change the natural use into that which is against nature, burning in lust one towards another, men with men working that which is unseemly.
Contrarily, admit the sodomy, ye cannot doubt of the idols; unnatural beastliness in manners is punished justly with a sottish dotage in religion, bodily
pollution with spiritual. How should the soul care to be chaste, that keeps a stew in the body! Asa begins with the banishment of both, scouring Judah of this double uncleanness. In vain should he have hoped to restore God to his kingdom, while these abominations inhabited it. It is justly the main care of worthy and religious princes to clear their coasts of the foulest sins. O the impartial zeal of Asa! There were idols that challenged a prerogative of favour, the idols that his father had made: all these he defaces : the name of a father cannot protect an idol; the duty to his parent cannot win him to a liking, to a forbearance of his misdevotion; yea, so much the more doth the heart of Asa rise against these puppets, for that they were the sin, the shame of his father. Did there want, think we, some courtier of his father's retinue, to say, Sir, favour the memory of him that begot you; you cannot demolish these statues without the dishonour of the erector; hide your dislike at the least; it will be your glory to lay your finger upon this blot of
father's reputation; if you list not to allow his act, yet wink at it. The godly zeal of Asa turns the deaf ear to these monitors, and lets them see, that he doth not more honour a father than hate an idol: no dearness of person should take off the edge of our detestation of the sin. Nature is worthy of forgetfulness and contempt, in opposition to the God of nature ; upon the same ground as he removed the idols of his father Abijam, so, for idols, he removed his grandmother Maachah; she would not be removed from her obscene idols, she is therefore removed from the station of her honour. That princess had aged, both in her regency and superstition: under her rod was Asa brought up, and schooled in the rudiments of her idolatry; whom she could not infect, she hoped to overawe: so, as if Asa will not follow her gods, yet she presumes that she may retain her own.
Doubtless no means were neglected for her reclamation ; none would prevail. Religious Asa gathers up himself, and begins to remember that he is a king, though a son ; that she, though a mother, yet is a subject; that her eminence could not but countenance idolatry; that her greatness suppressed religion, which he should in vain hope to reform, while her superstition swayed: forgetting therefore the challenges of nature, the awe of infancy, the custom of reverence, he strips her of that command, which he saw prejudical to his Maker. All respects of flesh and blood must be trampled on for God. Could that long-settled idolatry want abettors ? Questionless some or other would
This was the religion of your father Abijam, this of your grandfather Rehoboam, this of the latter days of your wise and great grandfather Solomon, this of your grandmother Maachah, this of your great grandmother Naamah ; why should it not be yours? why should you suspect either the wisdom, or piety, or salvation of so many predecessors ? Good Asa had learned to contemn prescription against a direct law; he had the grace to know it was no measuring truth by so modern antiquity; his eyes scorning to look so low, raise up themselves to the uncorrupt times of Solomon, to David, to Samuel, to the Judges, to Joshua, to Moses, to the Patriarchs, to Noah, to the religious founders of the first world, to the first Father of mankind, to Paradise, to Heaven. In comparison of these, Maachah's God cannot overlook yesterday; the ancientest error is but a novice to truth; and if never any example could be pleaded for purity of religion, it is enough that the precept is express. He knew what God said in Sinai, and wrote in the tables, “ Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor any similitude; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them.” If all the world had been an idolater, ever since that word was given, he knew