« FöregåendeFortsätt »
mole-hills of earth, when wise men have of the sons of Gideon for your rulers, or refused the proffers of kingdoms? Why of strangers ? If of the sons of Gideon, do we not rather labour for that kingdom whether of all, or one? If of one, whether which is free from all cares, from all un- of your own flesh and blood, or of others certainty?
unknown? To cast off the sons of Gideon Yet he that refuses their crown, calls for strangers, were unthankful; to admit for their ear-rings, although not to enrich of seventy kings in one small country, were himself, but religion. So long had God unreasonable; to admit of any other, rather been a stranger to Israel, that now super-than their own kinsman, were unnatural. stition goes current for devout worship. It Gideon's sons therefore must rule amongst were pity that good intentions should make all Israel; one of his sons amongst those any man wicked; here they did so. Never seventy: and who should be that one but man meant better than Gideon in his rich Abimelech? Natural respects are the most ephod; yet this very act set all Israel on dangerous corrupters of all elections. What whoring. God had chosen a place, and a hope can there be of worthy superiors in service of his own. When the wit of man any free people, where nearness of blood will be overpleasing God with better de- carries it from fitness of disposition? Whilst vices than his own, it turns to madness, they say, “ He is our brother," they are and ends in mischief.
enemies to themselves and Israel.
Fair words have won his brethren, they
the Shechemites: the Shechemites furnish CONTEMPLATION VIII. - ABIMELECH's him with money, money with men: his USURPATION.
men begin with murder, and now Abime.
lech reigns alone. Flattery, bribes, and Gideon refused the kingdom of Israel blood, are the usual stairs of the ambitious. when it was offered ; his seventy sons | The money of Baal is a fit hire for muroffered not to obtain that sceptre, which derers; that which idolatry hath gathered their father's victory had deserved to make is fitly spent upon treason. One devil is hereditary: only Abimelech, the concu- ready to help another in mischief; seldom bine's son, sues and ambitiously plots for ever are ill-gotten riches better employed. it. What could Abimelech see in himself, It is no wonder if he, that hath Baal his that he should overlook all his brethren? idol, now make an idol of honour. There If he looked to his father, they were his was never any man that worshipped but equals; if to his mother, they were his one idol. Woe be to them that lie in the betrers. Those that are most unworthy of way of the aspiring ! though they be brohonour are hottest in the chase of it; thers, they shall bleed; yea, the nearer whilst the consciousness of better deserts they are, the more sure is their ruin. Who bids men sit still, and stay to be either im- would not now think that Abimelech should portuned or neglected. There can be no find a hell in his breast, after so barbarous greater sign of unfitness, than vehement and unnatural a massacre? and yet, behold, suit. It is hard to say, whether there be he is as senseless as the stone upon which more pride or ignorance in ambition. I the blood of his seventy brethren was have noted this difference betwixt spiri- spilt. Where ambition hath possessed it. tual and earthly honour, and the clients of self thoroughly of the soul, it turns the both; we cannot be worthy of the one heart into steel, and makes it incapable of without earnest prosecution, nor with ear- a conscience. All sins will easily down with nest prosecution worthy of the other. The the man that is resolved to rise. violent obtain heaven; only the meek are Only Jotham fell not at that fatal stone worthy to inherit the earth.
with his brethren. It is a hard battle That which an aspiring heart hath pro- where none escapes. He escapes, not to jected, it will find both argument and means reign, nor to revenge, but to be a prophet, to effect: if either bribes or favour will and a witness of the vengeance of God carry it, the proud man will not sit out. | upon the usurper, upon the abêttors ; he
The Shechemites are fit brokers for Abi- lives to tell Abimelech that he was but a melech: that city which once betrayed bramble, a weed, rather than a tree. A itself to utter depopulation, in yielding to right bramble indeed, that grew out of the the suit of Hamor, now betrays itself, and base hedge-row of a concubine; that could all Israel, in yielding to the request of Abi- not lift up his head from the earth, unless melech. By them hath this usurper made | he were supported by some bush or pale himself a fair way to the throne. It was of Shechem, that had laid hold of the an easy question, Whether will ye admit | Aeece of Israel, and had drawn blood of all his brethren ; and, lastly, that had no sub- | legiance. Though all Israel should have stance in him, but the sap of vain glory, fallen off from Abimelech, yet they of and the pricks of cruelty. It was better Shechem should have stuck close. It was than a kingdom to him, out of his obscure their act, they ought to have made it good. bier, to see the fire out of this bramble to How should good princes be honoured, consume those trees. · The view of God's when even Abimelechs, once settled, canrevenge is so much more pleasing to a good not be opposed with safety? Now they heart, than his own, by how much it is begin to revolt to the rest of Israel. Yet, more just and full.
if this had been done out of repentance, it There was never such a pattern of un- had been praiseworthy ; but to be done thankfulness as these Israelites. They out of a treacherous inconstancy, was unwho lately thought a kingdom too small worthy of Israelites. How could Abimerecompense for Gideon and his sons, now lech hope for fidelity, of them, whom he think it too much for his seed to live ; and had made and found traitors to his father's take lise away from the sons of him that blood ? No man knows how to be sure of gave them both life and liberty. Yet if him that is unconscionable. He that hath this had been some hundreds of years been unfaithful to one, knows the way to after, when time had worn out the memory be perfidious, and is only fit for his trust of Jerub-baal, it might have borne a better that is worthy to be deceived; whereas excuse. No man can hope to hold pace faithfulness, besides the present good, lays with time the best names may not think a ground of further assurance. The friend. scorn to be unknown to following genera- ship that is begun in evil cannot stand : tions. But ere their deliverer was cold in wickedness, both of its own nature, and his coffin, to pay his benefits (which deserve through the curse of God, is ever unsteady; to be everlasting) with the extirpation of and though there be not a disagreement in bis posterity, it was more than savage. | hell (being but the place of retribution, What can be looked for from idolaters? If not of action), yet on earth there is no a man have cast off his God, he will easily peace among the wicked; whereas that cast off his friends. When religion is once affection which is knit in God, is indisgone, humanity will not stay long after. soluble.
That which the people were punished If the men of Shechem had abandoned afterwards for but desiring, he enjoys. Now their false god, with their false king, and is Abimelech seated in the throne which out of a serious remorse, and desire of sahis father refused, and no rival is seen to tisfaction for their idolatry and blood, had envy his peace. But how long will this opposed this tyrant, and preferred Jotham glory last? Stay but three years, and ye to his throne, there might have been both shall see this bramble withered and burnt. warrant for their quarrel, and hope of sucThe prosperity of the wicked is but shortcess : but now, if Abimelech be a wicked and fickle, A stolen crown (though it may usurper, yet the Shechemites are idolatrous look fair) cannot be made of any but brittle traitors. How could they think, that God stuff. All life is uncertain ; but wickedness would rather revenge Abimelech's bloody overruns nature,
intrusion by them, than their treachery The evil spirit thrust himself into the and idolatry by Abimelech ? When the plot of Abimelech's usurpation and murder, quarrel is betwixt God and Satan, there and wrought with the Shechemites for is no doubt of the issue ; but when one both; and now God sends the evil spirit devil fights with another, what certainty betwixt Abimelech and the Shechemites is there of the victory? Though the cause to work the ruin of each other. The first of God had been good, yet it had been safe could not have been without God; but, in for them to look to themselves. The unthe second, God challenges a part. Re-worthiness of the agent many times curses venge is his, where the sin is ours. It a good enterprise. had been pity that the Shechemites should No sooner is a secret dislike kindled in have been plagued by any other hand than any people against their governors, than Abimelech's. They raised him unjustly to there is a gale ready to blow the coals. It the throne; they are the first that feel the were a wonder, if ever any faction should weight of his sceptre. The foolish bird want a head; as, contrarily, never any man limes herself with that which grew from her was so ill, as not to have some favourers : own excretion. Who wonders to see the Abimelech hath a Zebul in the midst of kind peasant stung with his own snake ? Shechem. Lightly, all treasons are be.
The breach begins at Shechem: his own trayed, even with some of their own: bis countrymen fly off from their promised gl. i intelligence brings the sword of Abimelech
upon Shechem, who now hath demolished dered, save only in guiltiness? They bear the city, and sown it with salt. O the just but their own blood; he the weight of all successions of the revenges of God! Gie | theirs. How happy a thing it is to live deon's ephod is punished with the blood of well, that our death, as it is certain, so may his sons; the blood of his sons is shed by be comfortable! What a vanity is it to the procurement of the Shechemites; the exult in the death of them whom we must blood of the Shechemites is shed by Abi- follow the same way! melech; the blood of Abimelech is spilt The tyrant hath his payment, and that by a woman. The retaliations of God are time which he should have bestowed in sure and just, and make a more due pedi- calling for mercy to God, and washing his gree than descent of nature.
soul' with the last tears of contrition, he The pursued Shechemites fly to the vainly spends in deprecating an idle rehouse of their god Berith: now they are proach: “ Kill me," that it may not be said safe; that place is at once a fort, and a he died by a woman-a fit conclusion for sanctuary. Whither should we fly in our such a life! The expectation of true and distress, but to our God? And now this endless torment doth not so much vex him, refuge shall teach them what a god they as the frivolous report of a dishonour : neihave served. The jealous God, whom ther is he so much troubled with Abime. they had forsaken, hath them now where lech's frying in hell, as Abimelech is slain he would, and rejoices at once to be avenged by a woman. So vain fools are niggardly of their god and them. Had they not of their reputation, and prodigal of their made the house of Baal their shelter, they souls. Do we not see them run wilfully had not died so fearfully. Now, according into the field, into the grave, into hell? and to the prophecy of Jotham, a fire goes out all lest it should be said, they have but as of the bramble, and consumes these cedars, much fear as wit. and their eternal flames begin in the house of their Berith. The confusion of wicked men rises out of the false deities which they have doted on.
BOOK X. Of all the conspirators against Gideon's sons, only Abimelech yet survives; and CONTEMPLATION 1. --- JEPHTHAH. his day is now coming. His success against Shechem hath filled his heart with thoughts Israel, that had now long gone a who. of victory; he hath caged up the inhabi- ring from God, hath been punished by the tants of Tebez within their tower also; regiment of the concubine's son, and at and what remains for them, but the same last seeks protection from the son of a har. end with their neighbours? And behold, | lot. It is no small misery to be obliged while his hand is busy in putting fire to the unto the unworthy. The concubine's son door of their tower, which yet was not made suit to them; they made suit to the high (for then he could not have discerned son of the harlot. It was no fault of Jepha woman to be his executioner), a stone thah that he had an ill mother; yet is he from a woman's hand strikes his head. branded with the indignity of his bastardy. His pain in dying was not so much, as his Neither would God conceal this blemish indignation to know by whom he died; / of nature, which Jephthah could neither and rather will he die twice, than a woman avoid nor remedy. God, to show his deshould kill him. If God had not known testation of whoredom, revenges it not his stomach so big, he had not vexed him only upon the actors, but upon their issue. with the impotency of his victor. God Hence he hath shut out the base son from finds a time to reckon with wicked men, the congregation of Israel, to the tenth for all the arrearages of their sins. Our generation, that a transient evil night have sins are not more our debts to God, than a durable reproach attending it; and that his judgments are his debts to our sins, after the death of the adulterer, yet his which at last he will be sure to pay home. shame might live. But that God, who There now lies the greatness of Abimelech: justly ties men to his laws, will not abide upon one stone had he slain his seventy we should tie him to our laws, or his own: brethren, and now a stone slays him : his he can both rectify and ennoble the blood head had stolen the crown of Israel, and of Jephthah. That no man should be too now his head is smitten. And what is much discouraged with the errors of his Abimelech better that he was a king ? propagation, even the base son of man What difference is there between him and may be the lawfully begotten of God; and any of his seventy brethren whom he mur. I though he be cast out from the inheritance of his brethren upon earth, may be admitted of those in our peace, whom we must to the kingdom of Israel.
make use of in our extremity; else it is but I hear no praise of the lawful issue of just that we should be rejected of those Gilead; only this misbegotten son is com- whom we have rejected. mended for his valour, and set at the stern I Can we look for any other answer from of Israel. The common gifts of God re- God than this? Did ye not drive me out spect not the parentage or blood, but are of your houses, out of your hearts, in the indifferently scattered where he pleases to time of your health and jollity? Did ye let them fall. The choice of the Almighty not plead the strictness of my charge, and is not guided by our rules: as in spiritual, the weight of my yoke? Did not your so in earthly things, it is not in him that wilful sins expel me from your souls? What willeth. If God would have men glory in do you now, crouching and creeping to me these outward privileges, he would bestow in the evil day? Surely, O God, it is but them upon none but the worthy.
justice, if thou be not found of those which Now, who can be proud of strength or were glad to lose thee! It is thy mercy if, greatness, when he sees him that is not so after many checks and delays, thou wilt be honest, yet is more valiant, and more ad- | found at last. Where an act cannot be vanced? Had not Jephthah been base, reversed, there is no amends but confeshe had not been thrust out; and if he had sion; and if God himself take up with this not been thrust out from his brethren, he satisfaction, “ He that confesses shall find had never been the captain of Israel. By mercy,” how much more should men hold contrary paces to ours, it pleaseth God to themselves well paid, with words of hucome to his own ends: and how usually mility and deprecation! doth he look the contrary way to that he Jephthah's wisdom had not been anmoves? No man can measure the conclu- swerable to his valour, if he had not made sion of God's act by his beginning. He his match beforehand. He could not but that fetches good out of evil, raises the know how treacherously Israel had dealt glory of men out of their ruin. Men love with Gideon. We cannot make too sure to go the nearest way, and often fail. God work, when we have to do with unfaithful commonly goes about, and in his own time men. It hath been an old policy to serve comes surely home.
ourselves of men, and, after our advantage, The Gileadites were not so forward to ex- to turn them up. He bargains, therefore, pel Jephthah, as glad to recal him. No Am- | for his sovereignty, ere he win it: “ Shall I monite threatened them, when they parted be your head ?" We are all naturally amwith such a helper: now, whom they cast bitious, and are ready to buy honour even out in their peace, they fetch home in their with hazard. And if the hope of a trouble. danger and misery. That God who never some superiority encouraged Jephthah to gave aught in vain, will find a time to make fight against the forces of Ammon, what use of any gift that he hath bestowed upon heart should we take in the battles of God, men. The valour of Jephthah shall not against spiritual wickednesses, when the rust in his secresy, but be employed to the God of heaven hath said, “ To him that common preservation of Israel. Necessity overcomes, will I give power over nations, will drive us to seek up all our helps, even and to sit with me in my throne?" O that those whom our wantonness hath despised. we could bend our eyes upon the recom
How justly are the suits of our need up- pense of our reward ! how willingly should braided with the errors of our prosperity! we march forward against those mighty The elders of Gilead now hear of their | Ammonites ! Jephthah is noted for his ancient wrong, and dare not find fault with valour, and yet he treats with Ammon, ere their exprobration : “ Did ye not hate me, he fights. To make war any other than our and expel me out of my father's house? | last remedy, is not courage, but cruelty and how then come ye now to me in time of rashness. And now, when reason will not tribulation ?" The same expostulation that prevail, he betakes himself to his sword. Jephthah makes with Gilead, God also at As God began the war with Jephthah. the same time makes with Israel: “ Ye in raising up his heart to that pitch of forhave forsaken me, and have served other titude; so Jephthah began his war at God, gods; wherefore should I deliver you any / in craving victory from him, and pouring more? Go, and cry unto the gods whom out his vow to him. His hand took hold ye have served." "As we, so God also of his sword, his heart of God; therefore finds it seasonable to tell his children of he, whom the Old Testament styles valiant, their faults, while he is whipping them. the New styles faithful; he who is com. It is a safe and wise course, to make much | mended for his strength, dares trust in none
but the arm of God: “ If thou wilt give me the daughter of the head of Israel; this the Ammonites into my hand.” If Jeph-day hath made both Israel free, my father thah had not looked upward for his vic. a conqueror, and myself in him noble : and tory, in vain had the Gileadites looked up shall my affection make no difference? to him. This is the disposition of all good What must my father needs think, if he hearts: they look to their sword, or their shall find me sitting sullenly at home, whilst bow, as servants, not as patrons; and, all Israel strives who shall run first to bless whilst they use them, trust to God. If we him with their acclamations ? Should I could do so in all our businesses, we should only be insensible of his and the common have both more joy in their success, and happiness? less discomfort in their miscarriage. It And now behold, when she looks for was his zeal to vow; it was his sin to vow most thanks, her father answers the mea. rashly. Jacob, his forefather, of whom he sure of her feet with the knockings of his learned to vow, might have taught him a breast, and weeps at her music, and tears better form: “If God will be with me, his clothes, to look upon her whom he then shall the Lord be my God.” It is best loved, and gives no answer to her well with vows, when the thing promised timbrels, but, “ Alas, my daughter, thou makes the promise good. But when Jeph- art of them that trouble me!" Her joy thah says, " Whatsoever thing cometh alone hath changed the day, and lost the out of the doors of my house shall be the comfort of that victory which she enjoyed Lord's, and I will offer it for a burnt sacri. to see won. It falls out often, that those fice;" his devotion is blind, and his good times and occasions which promise most affection overruns his judgment. For what contentment, prove most doleful in the if a dog or a swine, or an ass, had met him? issue. The heart of this virgin was never where had been the promise of his conse- lifted up so high as now, neither did any cration?
day of her life seem happy but this; and Vows are as they are made, like unto this only proves the day of her solemn and scents : if they be of ill composition, no perpetual mourning. As contrarily, the thing offends more; if well tempered, no | times and events which we have most disthing is more pleasant. Either certainty of trusted, prove most beneficial. It is good, evil, or uncertainty of good, or impossibi- in a fair morning, to think of the storm lity of performance, makes vows no service that may rise ere night, and to enjoy both to God. When we vow what we cannot, good and evil fearfully. or what we ought not do, we mock God. Miserable is that devotion which troubles instead of honouring him. It is a vain us in the performance. Nothing is more thing for us to go about to catch God hood. | pleasant than the acts of true piety. Jephwinked. The conscience shall never find thah might well see the wrong of this re. peace in any way, but that which we seeligion, in the distaste of it: yet, while before us, and which we know safe, both himself had troubled his daughter, he says, in the kind and circumstances. There is no “ Alas, my daughter, thou art of them comfort in, Peradventure I may please God. that trouble me!" She did but her duty; What good child will not take part of the he did what he should not : yet he would parent's joy? If Jephthah return with be rid of the blame, though he caunot of trophies, it is no marvel if his daughter the smart. No man is willing to own a meet him with timbrels. O that we could sin: the first man shifted it from himself be so affected with the glorious acts of our to his wife; this from himself to his daughheavenly Father! Thou subduest thine ter. He was ready to accuse another, enemies, and mightily deliverest thy people, which only committed it himself. It were O God: a song waiteth for thee in Sion. happy if we could be as loath to commit sin,
Who would have suspected danger in a | as to acknowledge it. dutiful triumph? Well might Jephthah's The inconsideration of this vow was very daughter have thought, My sex forbade me tough and settled: “I have opened my to do any thing towards the help of my mouth, and cannot go back.” If there father's victory: I can do little, if I cannot were just cause to repent, it was the weakappland it. If nature have made me weak, ness of his zeal to think that a vow could yet not unthankful : nothing forbids my bind him to evil. An unlawful vow is ill joy to be as strong as the victor's. Though made, but worse performed. It were pity I might not go out with my father to fight, this constancy should light upon any one yet I may meet him with gratulations. A but a holy object. No loan can make a timbrel may become these hands which truer debt than our vow; which if we pay were unfit for a sword : this day hath made | not in our performance, God will pay us