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how little that precedent could avail for disobedience. Practice must be corrected by law, and not the law yield to practice: Maachah therefore goes down from her seat, her idols from their grove, she to retiredness : they to the fire, and from thence to the water; woeful deities that could both burn and drown!
Neither did the zeal of Asa more magnify itself in these privative acts of weeding out the corruptions of religion, than in the positive acts of a holý plantation. In the falling of those idolatrous shrines, the temple of God flourishes; that doth he furnish with those sacred treasures, which were dedicated by himself, by his progenitors; like the true son of David, he would not serve God cost free : Rehoboam turned Solomon's gold into brass; Asa turns Rehoboam's brass into gold. Some of these vessels, it seems, Abijam, Asa's father, had dedicated to God; but, after his vow, inquired, yea, withheld them.
Asa, like a good son, pays his father's debts, and his own. It is a good sign of a well-meant devotion, when we can abide it chargeable ; as contrarily, in the affairs of God, a niggardly hand argues a cold and hollow heart.
All these were noble and excellent acts, the extirpation of sodomy, the demolition of idols, the removal of Maachah, the bounteous contribution to the temple; but that which gives true life unto all these is a sound root. “ Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.” No less laudable works than these have proceeded from hypocrisy, which while they have carried away applause from men, have lost their thanks with God. All Asa's gold was but dross to his pure intentions. But, О what great and many
may consist with uprightness! What alloys of imperfection will there be found in the most refined soul! Four no small faults are found in true-hearted Asa ; first, the high places stood still, unremoved; what high places? There were some dedicated to the worship
of false gods, these Asa took away; there were some misdevoted to the worship of the true God, these he let stand. There was gross idolatry in the former, there was a weak will-worship in the latter ; while he opposes impiety, he winks at mistakings: yet even the variety of altars was forbidden by an express charge from God, who had confined his service to the temple. With one breath doth God report both these ; “ The high places were not removed, yet nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect.” God will not see weaknesses where he sees truth; how pleasing a thing is sincerity, that, in favour thereof, the mercy of our just God digests many an error! O God, let our hearts go upright, though our feet slide; the fall cannot, through thy grace, be deadly, however it may shame or pain us.
Besides, to confront his rival of Israel, Baasha, this religious king of Judah fetches in Benhadad the king of Syria into God's inheritance, upon too dear a rate; the breach of his league, the expilation of the temple. All the wealth, wherewith Asa had endowed the house of the Lord, was little enough to hire an Edomite to betray his fidelity, and to invade Israel : leagues may be made with infidels; not at such a price, upon
such terms; there can be no warrant for a wilful subornation of perfidiousness; in these cases of outward things, the mercy of God dispenseth with our true necessities, not with the affected. O Asa, where was thy piety, while thou robbest God to corrupt an infidel, for the slaughter of Israelites? O princes, where is your piety, while ye hire Turks to the slaughter of Christians ? to the spoil of God's church?
Yet, which was worse, Asa doth not only employ the Syrian, but relies on him, relies not on God; a confidence less sinful cost his grandfather David dear; and when Hanani, God's seer, the herald of heaven, came to denounce war against him for these sins, Asa, instead of penitence, breaks into choler: fury sparkles in those eyes which should have gushed out with wa
ter: those lips that should have called for mercy, command
revenge; how ill do these two agree, the heart of David, the tongue of Jeroboam! That holy grandfather of his would not have done so; when God's messenger reproved him for sin, he condemned it, and himself for it; I see his tears, I do not hear his threats. It ill becomes a faithful heart to rage where it should sorrow, and, instead of submission, to persecute. Sometimes no difference appears betwixt a son of David and the son of Nebat.Any man may do ill, but to defend it, to outface it, is for rebels: yet even upright Asa imprisons the prophet, and crushes his gainsayers. It were pity that the best man should be judged by every of his actions, and not by all; the course of our life must either allow or condemn us, not these sudden eruptions.
As the life, so the death-bed of Asa wanted not infirmities; long and prosperous had his reign been ; now, after forty years' health and happiness, he, that imprisoned the prophet, is imprisoned in his bed. There is more pain in those fetters which God put upon Asa, than those which Asa puts upon Hanani : and now, behold, he that in his war seeks to Benhadad, not to God, in his sickness seeks not to God, but to physicians. We cannot easily put upon God a greater wrong than the alienation of our trust. Earthly means are for use, not for confidence; we may, we must employ them, we may not rely upon them. Well may God challenge our trust, as his peculiar, which, if we cast upon any creature, we deify it. Whence have herbs, and drugs, and physicians, their being and efficacy, but from that divine hand? No marvel then if Asa's gout struck to his heart, and his feet carried him to his grave, since his heart was miscarried, for the cure of his feet, to an injurious misconfidence in the means, with neglect of his Maker.
ELIJAH WITH THE SAREPTAN.
Who should be matched with Moses in the hill of Tabor but Elijah ? surely, next after Moses, there was never any prophet of the Old Testament more glorious than he; none more glorious, none more obscure: the other prophets are not mentioned without the name of their parent, for the mutual honour both of the father and the son; Elijah, as if he had been a son of the earth, comes forth with the bare mention of the place of his birth. Meanness of descent is no block in God's way to the most honourable vocations; it matters not whose son he be, whom God will grace with his service. In the greatest honours that human nature is capable of, God forgets our parents : as when we shall be raised up to a glorious life, there shall be no respect had to the loins whence we came; so it is proportionally in these spiritual advancements.
These times were fit for an Elijah; an Elijah was fit for them; the eminentest prophet is reserved for the corruptest age. Israel had never such a king as Ahab for impiety, never so miraculous a prophet as Elijah; this Elijah is addressed to this Aħab. The God of spirits knows how to proportion men to the occasions, and to raise up to himself such witnesses, as may be most able to convince the world. A mild Moses was for the low estate of afflicted Israel; mild in spirit, but mighty in wonders ; mild of spirit, because he had to do with a persecuted, and yet a touchy and perverse people; mighty in wonders, because he had to do with a Pharaoh. A grave and holy Samuel was for the quiet consistence of Israel; a fiery-spirited Elijah was for the desperatest declination of Israel.
And if, in the late times of the depraved condition of his Church, God have raised up some spirits, that have been more warm and stirring than those of common mould, we cannot censure the choice, when we see the service.
The first word that we hear from Elijah is an oath, and a threat to Ahab, to Israel: “ As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” He comes in like a tempest, who went out in a whirlwind ; doubtless he had spoken fair and peaceable invitations to Israel, though we hear them not; this was but the storm which followed his repulse, their obstinacy. After many solicitations and warnings, Israel is stricken by the same tongue that had prayed for it; Elijah dares avouch these judgments to their head, to Ahab. do not so much wonder at the boldness of Elijah, as at his power; yea, whoso sees his power, can no whit wonder at his boldness: how could he be but bold to the face of a man, who was thus powerful with God? As if God had lent him the keys of heaven to shut it up, and open it at pleasure, he can say, “ There shall be neither dew, nor rain, these years, but according to my word.” O God, how far it hath pleased thee to communicate thyself to a weak man! what angel could ever say thus ? Thy hand, O Lord, is not shortened; why art thou not thus marvellous in the ministers of thy Gospel ? is it for that their miracles were ours? is it for that thou wouldst have us live by faith, not by sense ? is it for that our task is spiritual, and therefore more abstracted from bodily helps ? We cannot command the sun with Joshua, nor the thunder with Samuel, nor the rain with Elijah; it shall content us, if we can fix the sun of righteousness in the soul, if we can thunder out the judgments of God against sin, if we can water the earthen hearts of men with the former and latter rain of heavenly doctrine.