« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ing, rageth; and sends a message of death and shut the heavens, fetch down both fire to Elijah: “ So let the gods do to me, and and water with his prayers; he that durst more also, if I make not thy life as the life chide and contest with all Israel; that durst of one of them, by to-morrow about this kill the four hundred and fifty Baalites with time." Neither scourges nor favours can the sword, - doth he shrink at the frowns work any thing with the obstinately wicked. and threats of a woman? doth he wish to All evil hearts are not equally disaffected be rid of his life, because he feared to lose to good: Ahab and Jezebel were both bad it? Who can expect an undaunted conenough, yet Ahab yields to that work of stancy from flesh and blood, when Elijah God, which Jezebel stubbornly opposeth : fails? The strongest and holiest saint upon Ahab melts with that water, with that fire, earth is subject to some qualms of fear and wherewith Jezebel is hardened: Ahab was infirmity: to be always and unchangeably bashfully, Jezebel audaciously impious. The good, is proper only to the glorious spirits weaker sex is ever commonly stronger in in heaven. Thus the wise and holy God passion, and more vehemently carried with will have his power perfected in our weak. the sway of their desires, whether to good or ness. It is in vain for us, while we carry evil : she swears and stamps at that where this flesh about us, to hope for so exact at she should have trembled; she swears health, as not to be cast down sometimes by those gods of hers, which were not able with fits of spiritual distemper. It is no to save their prophets, that she will kill the new thing for holy men to wish for death: prophet of God, who had scorned her gods, who can either marvel at, or blame the deand slain her prophets.
sire of advantage? For the weary traveller It is well that Jezebel could not keep to long for rest, the prisoner for liberty, the counsel : her threat preserved him whom banished for home, it is so natural, that the she had meant to kill. The wisdom and contrary disposition were monstrous. The power of God could have found evasions benefit of the change is a just motive to for his prophet, in her greatest secrecy; but our appetition; but to call for death out of now, he needs no other means of rescue a satiety of life, out of an impatience of sufbut her own lips. She is no less vain than fering, is a weakness unbeseeming a saint. the gods she swears by. In spite of her | It is not enough, O Elijah! God hath more fury, and her oath, and her gods, Elijah work yet for thee: thy God hath more shall live: at once shall she find hersell | honoured thee than thy fathers, and thou frustrate and forsworn: she is now ready shalt live to honour him. to bite her tongue, to eat her heart, for Toil and sorrow have lulled the prophet anger, at the disappointment of her cruel asleep under this juniper-tree; that wholevow. It were no living for godly men, if some shade was well chosen for his repose. the hands of tyrants were allowed to be While death was called for, the cozen of as bloody as their hearts. Men and devils death comes unbidden; the angel of God are under the restraint of the Almighty; waits on him in that hard lodging. No neither are their designs more lavish, than wilderness is too solitary for the attendance their executions short.
of those blessed spirits. As he is guarded, Holy Elijah flies for his life : We hear so is he awaked by that messenger of God, not of the command of God, but we would and stirred up from his rest to his repast; willingly presuppose it: so divine a pro- while he slept, his breakfast is made ready phet should do nothing without God. His for him by those spiritual hands : “ There heels were no new refuge : as nowhere safe was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse within the ten tribes, he flies to Beersheba, of water at his head.” O the never-ceasing in the territories of Judah ; as not there safe care and providence of the Almighty, not from the machinations of Jezebel, he flies to be barred by any place, by any condialone, one day's journey, into the wilder- tion! When means are wanting to us, when ness; there he sits him down under a ju we are wanting to ourselves, when to God, niper tree, and, as weary of life, no less even then doth he follow us with his than of his way, wishes to rise no more: mercy, and cast favour upon us, beyond, “ It is enough now, O Lord, take away my against expectation! What variety of purlife, for I am not better than my fathers.” O veyance doth he make for his servant ! One strange and uncouth mutation! What is this while the ravens, then the Sareptan, now we hear? Elijah fainting and giving up! the angel, shall be his caterer; none of them that heroical spirit dejected and prostrate! without a miracle: those other provided He that durst say to Ahab's face, “it is for him waking, this sleeping. O God! thou and thy father's house that troubleth the eye of thy providence is not dimmer, Israel ;" he that could raise the dead, open the hand of thy power is not shorter : only teach thou us to serve thee, to trust | answer satisfied, the question had not been thee.
re-demanded. Now, that sullen answer, Needs must the prophet eat, and drink, which Elijah gave in the darkness of the and sleep, with much comfort, while he cave, is challenged into the light, not with. saw that he had such a guardian, attend-out an awful preface. The Lord first passance, purveyor; and now the second time eth by him with the terrible demonstrations is he raised, by that happy touch, to his of his power: a great and strong wind rent meal, and his way: “ Arise, and eat, be the mountains, and brake the rocks in pieces; cause the journey is too great for thee." that tearing blast was from God - God was What needed he to travel farther, since not in it; so was he in it, as in his other that divine power could as well protect him extraordinary works; not so in it, as by it to in the wilderness, as in Horeb? what needed impart himself to Elijah: it was the usher, he to eat, since he, that meant to sustain not the carriage of God. After the wind him forty days with one meal, might as came an earthquake, more fearful than it; well have sustained him without it? God that did but move the air, this the earth; is a most free agent; neither will he be tied that beat upon some prominences of earth, to the terms of human regularities : it is this shook it from the centre. After the enough that he knows and approves the earthquake came a fire, more fearful than reasons of his own choice and commands. either. The other affected the ear, the feelOnce in forty days and nights shall Elijah ing; but this lets in horror into the soul by eat, to teach us what God can do with the eye, the quickest and most apprehenlittle means; and but once, to teach us what sive of the senses. Elijah shall see God's he can do without means. Once shall the mighty power in the earth, air, fire, before prophet eat— “ Man lives by bread;" and he hear him in the soft voice: all these are but once _ “ Man lives not by bread only, but boisterous harbingers of a meek and but by every word that proceeds out of the still word. In that God was! behold, in mouth of God." Moses, Elijah, our Saviour, t'vat gentle and mild breath there was omfasted each of them forty days and forty nipotency; there was but powerfulness in nights: the three great fasters met glori. those fierce representations: there is not ously in Tabor. I find not where God ever always the greatest efficacy, where is the honoured any man for feasting : it is ab- greatest noise. God loves to make way for stinence, not fulness, that makes a man himself by terror ; but he conveys himself capable of heavenly visions of divine glory. to us in sweetness. It is happy for us, if,
The journey was not of itself so long : after the gusts and flashes of the law, we the prophet took those ways, those hours, have heard the soft voice of evangelical which his heart gave him. In the very same mercy. mount where Moses first saw God, shall In this very mount, with the same horror, Elijah see him: one and the same cave, as God had delivered his law to Moses and is very probable, was the receptacle to both. Israel. It is no marvel if Elijah wrapt his It could not but be a great confirmation of face in his mantle: his obedience draws him Elijah, to renew the sight of those sensible forth to the mouth of the cave; his fear monuments of God's favour and protection still hides his head. Had there not been to his faithful predecessor. Moses came to much courage in the prophet's faith, he had see God in the bush of Horeb; God came not stood out these affrightful forerunners to find Elijah in the cave of Horeb. What of the divine presence, though with his face dost thou here, Elijah ? The place was discovered. The very angels do no less, before rected by a providence, not by a command. that all-glorious Majesty, than veil themHe is hid sure enough from Jezebel ; he selves with their wings. Far be it from us, cannot be hid from the all-seeing eye of once to think of that infinite and omnipotent God: “ Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Deity, without an humble awfulness! or whither shall I fly from thy presence ? Fear changes not the tenor of Elijah's If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there ; answer: he hath not left one word behind if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art him in the cave: “ I have been very jeathere. If I take the wings of the morning, lous for the Lord God of Hosts, because and dwell in the utmost parts of the sea, the children of Israel have forsaken thy coeven there shall thine hand find me, and venant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy right hand shall hold me." Twice had thy prophets with the sword, and I, even God propounded the same question to Eli. I only, am left, and they seek my life to jah: once in the heart, once in the mouth take it away.” I hear not a direct answer of the cave. Twice doth the prophet an- from the prophet to the demand of God : swer in the same words. Had the first then he had said, I run away from the
threats of Jezebel, and here I hide my head | king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, Elisha from her malicious pursuit. His guiltiness for his successor. All these shall revenge would not let him speak out all : he had the quarrels of God and him; one shall 'rather say, “I have been more jealous for begin, the other shall prosecute, the third the Lord God of Hosts, than I was fearful shall perfect the vengeance upon Israel. of Jezebel." We are all willing to make the A prophet shall avenge the wrongs done best of our own case; but what he wants to a prophet. Elisha is found, not in his of his own accusation, he spends upon the study, but in the field; not with a book in complaint of Israel. Neither doth he more his hand, but a plough. His father Shabemoan himself than exclaim against them, | phat was a rich farmer in Abel-meholah; as apostates from God's covenant, violaters himself was a good husbandman, trained of his altars, murderers of his prophets. It up, not in the schools of the prophets, but must needs be a desperate condition of Is- in the thrifty trade of tillage ; and, behold, rael, that drives Elijah to indict them before this is the man whom God will pick out the throne of God. That tongue of his was of all Israel for a prophet. God seeth not used to plead for them, to sue for their par- as man seeth; neither doth he choose men don: it could not be but a forcible wick/ because they are fit, but therefore fits them, edness that makes it their accuser. Those because he hath chosen them : his call is idolatrous Israelites were well forward to above all earthly institution. reformation : the fire and rain from heaven, I hear not of aught that Elijah said; only at the prayers of Elijah, had won them to he casts his cloak upon Elisha in the pasa scorn of Baal: only the violence of Je sage: that mantle, that act, was vocal. To. zebel turned the stream, and now they are gether with this sign, God's instinct teachre-settled in impiety, and persecute him for eth this amazed son of Shaphat, that he an enemy, whom they almost adored for a was designed to a higher work, to break up benefactor, otherwise Elijah had not com- the fallow-ground of Israel by his propheplained of what they had been. Who would | tical function. He finds a strange virtue in think it? Jezebel can do more than Elijah. that robe; and, as if his heart were changed No miracle is so prevalent with the vulgar with that habit, forgets his team, and runs as the sway of authority, whether to good after Elijah, and sues for the leave of a or evil.
farewell to his parents, ere he had any but Thou art deceived, 0 Elijah! thou art | a dumb command to follow. The secret not left alone; neither is all Israel tainted.call of God offers an inward force to the God hath children and prophets in Israel, heart, and insensibly draws us beyond the though thou see them not: those clear eyes power of our resistance. Grace is no enemy of the seer discern not the secret store of to good nature: well may the respects to God; they looked not into Obadiah's caves, our earthly parents stand with our duties to they looked not into the closets of the re. | our Father in heaven. I do not see Elisha ligious Israelites. He that sees the heart, wring his hands, and deplore his condition, can say, “ I have left me seven thousand that he shall leave the world and follow a in Israel;" all the knees which have not prophet, but for the joy of that change he bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath makes a feast; those oxen, those utensils not kissed him. According to the fashion of of husbandry, whereon his former labours the wealthy, God pleaseth himself in hidden had been bestowed, shall now be gladly detreasures : it is enough that his own eyes voted to the celebration of that happy day, behold his riches. Never did he, never will wherein he is honoured with so blessed an he, leave himself unfurnished with holy employment. If with desire, if with cheer. clients, in the midst of the foulest deprava. fulness, we do not enter into the works of tions of his church. The sight of his faith our heavenly Master, they are not like to ful ones hath sometimes been lost, never the prosper in our hands. He is not worthy of being. Do your worst, О ye gates of hell ! this spiritual station, who holds not the God will have his own. He, that could service of God his highest, his richest prehave more, will have some: that founda- ferment. tion is sure, “ God knoweth who are his.”
It was a true cordial for Elijah's solitari. ness, that he had seven thousand invisible
BOOK XIX. abettors: neither is it a small comfort to our weakness, to have companions in good. CONTEMPLATION I. - AHAB AND BERHADAD. For the wickedness of Israel God hath another receipt, the oil of royal and prophe. There is nothing more dangerous for any rical unction: Elijah must anoint Hazael state, than to call in foreign powers, for tnr suppressing of a home-bred enemy; the strained subjection turns desperate. If con. remedy hath often, in this case, proved ditions be imposed worse than death, there worse than the disease. Asa, king of Ju-needs no long disputation of the remedy, dah, implores the aid of Benhadad the Sy. The elders of Israel, whose share was prorian, against Baaslia, king of Israel. That portional in this danger, hearten Ahab to stranger hath good colour to set his foot in a denial; which yet comes out so fearfulls, some outskirt towns of Israel; and now as that it appears rather extorted by the these serve him but for the handsel of more. peremptory indignation of the people, than Such sweetness doth that Edomite find in proceeding out of any generosity of his the soil of Israel, that his ambition will not spirit; neither doth he say, I will not, but, take up with less than all; he, that entered I may not. The proud Syrian, who would as a friend, will proceed as a conqueror ; have taken it in foul scorn to be denied, and now aims at no less than Samaria it. though he had sent for all the heads of Is. self, the heart, the head, of the ten tribes. rael, snuffs up the wind like the wild ass There was no cause to hope for better suc. in the wilderness, and brays, and threats, cess of so perfidious a league with an infidel: and swears: “ The gods do so to me, and who can look for other than war, when he more also, if the dust of Samaria shall sufsees Ahab and Jezebel in the throne, Israel fice for handfuls for all the people that folin the groves and temples of Baalim ? The low me." Not the men, not the goods ambition of Benhadad was not so much only, of Samaria, shall be carried away capguilty of this war, as the idolatry of that tive, but the very earth whereon it stands; wicked nation. How can they expect peace and this, with how much ease! No soldier from earth, who do wilfully fight against shall need to be charged with more than an heaven? Rather will the God of hosts arm handful, to make a valley where the mother the brute, the senseless creatures, against city of Israel once stood. O vain boaster: Israel, than he will suffer their defiance in whom I know not whether pride or folis unrevenged. Ahab and Benhadad are well be more eminent. Victory is to be achieved, matched ; an idolatrous Israelite with a not to be sworn : future events are no matpaganish Idumean: well may God plague ter of an oath; thy gods, if they had been, each with other, who means vengeance might have been called as witnesses of thy to them both. Ahab finds himself hard intentions, not of that success whereot pressed with the siege, and therefore is glad thou wouldst be the author without them. to enter into treaties of peace. Benhadad Thy gods can do nothing to thee, nothing knows his own strength, and offers insolent for thee, nothing for themselves! All thine conditions : “ Thy silver and thy gold is Aramites shall not carry away one corn of mine; thy wives also and thy children, even sand out of Israel, except it be upon the the goodliest are mine." It is a fearful thing soles of their feet, in their shameful flight: to be in the mercy of an enemy : in case of it is well if they can carry back those skins hostility, might will carve for itself. Ahab that they brought thither. “Let not him now, after the division of Judah, was but that girdeth on his harness, boast himself half a king. Benhadad had two-and-thirty as he that putteth it off.” There is no cause kings to attend him: what equality was in to fear that man that trusts in himself. this opposition ? Wisely doth Ahab, there. Man may cast the dice of war, but the disfore, as a reed in a tempest, stoop to this position of them is of the Lord. violent charge of so potent an enemy: Ahab was lewd, but Benhadad was inso“ My lord, o king, according to thy saying, lent: if, therefore, Ahab shall be scourged I am thine, and all that I have." It is not with the rod of Benhadad's fear, Benhadad for the overpowered to capitulate. Weak- shall be smitten with the sword of Ahab's ness may not argue, but yield. Tyranny revenge. Of all things, God will not enis but drawn on by submission; and where důre a presumptuous and self-confident it finds fear and dejection, insulteth. Ben vaunter. After Elijah's flight and comhadad, not content with the sovereignty of plaint, yet a prophet is addressed to Ahab: Ahab's goods, calls for the possession: Thus saith the Lord, hast thou seen all Ahab had offered the dominion, with reser. this great multitude ? behold, I will deliver vation of his subordinate interest; he will it into thine hand this day, and thou shalt be a tributary, so he may be an owner. know that I am the Lord." Who can wonBenhadad imperiously, besides the com- der enough at this unweariable mercy of mand, calls for the property, and suffers God? After the fire and rain fetched mira. not the king of Israel to enjoy those things culously from heaven, Ahab had promised at all, which he would enjoy but under much, performed nothing; yet again will the favour of that predominancy. Over- / God bless and solicit him with victory: one
of those prophets, whom he persecuted to / How easy is it for him that made the death, shall comfort his dejection with the heart, to fill it with terror and consternation, news of his deliverance and triumph. Had even where no fear is! Those whom God this great work been wrought without pre- hath destined to slaughter, he will smite; monition, either chance, or Baal, or the neither needs he any other enemy or exe. golden calves, had carried away the thanks.cutioner, than what he finds in their own Beforehand, therefore, shall Ahab know bosom. We are not the masters of our own both the author and the means of his vic.courage or fears: both are put into us by tory: God for the author; the two hundred that overruling power that created us. Stay and thirty-two young men of the princes for now, O stay, thou great king of Syria, and the means. What are these for the van- take with thee those forgotten handfuls of guard, and seven thousand Israelites for the dust of Israel; thy gods will do so to the main battle, against the troops of three thee, and more also, if thy followers return and thirty kings, and as many centuries of without their vowed burden. Learn now Syrians as Israel had single soldiers? An of the despised king of Israel, from henceequality of number had taken away the forth, not to sound the triumph before the wonder of the event; but now the God of battle, not to boast thyself in the girding on Hosts will be confessed in this issue, not of thine harness, as in the putting off. the valour of men. How indifferent is it I hear not of either the public thanks. with thee, O Lord, to save by many or by giving or amendment of Ahab. Neither few, to destroy many or few! A world is danger nor victory can change him from no more to thee than a man: how easy is it himself. Benhadad and he, though enefor thee to enable us to be more than con- | mies, agree in unrepentance; the one is no querors over principalities and powers ! to more moved with mercy, than the other subdue spiritual wickedness to flesh and with judgment : neither is God any change. blood! Through thee we can do great ling in his proceedings towards both; his things; yea, we can do all things through judgment shall still follow the Syrian, his thee that strengthenest us. Let us not want mercy Israel ; mercy both in fore warning saith: we are sure there can be no want in and re-delivering Ahab; judgment in over. thy power or mercy.
throwing Benhadad. The prophet of God There was nothing in Benhadad's pavi. | comes again, and both foretels the intended lions but drink, and surfeit, and jollity, as re-encounter of the Syrian, and advises if wine should make way for blood. Secu- the care and preparation of Israel: “ Go, rity is the certain usher of destruction. We strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what never have so much cause to fear, as when thou dost; for at the return of the year, we fear nothing. This handful of Israel the king of Syria will come up against thee." dares look out, upon the prophet's assur-God purposeth the deliverance of Israel, ance, to the vast host of Benhadad. It is yet may not they neglect their fortifications: enough for that proud pagan to sit still and the merciful intentions of God towards them command amongst his cups. To defile their may not make them careless; the industry fingers with the blood of so few, seemed no and courage of the Israelites fall within the mastery; that act would be inglorious on decree of their victory. Security is the bane the part of the victors : more easily might of good success. It is no contemning of a they bring in three heads of dead enemies, foiled enemy: the shame of a former disthan one alive. Imperiously enough, there.grace and miscarriage whets his valour, and fore, doth this boaster, out of his chair of sharpens it to revenge. No power is so state and ease, command, “ Whether they dreadful as that which is recollected froin be come out for peace, take them alive; or an overthrow. whether they be come out for war, take The hostility against the Israel of God them alive :" there needs no more, but, may sleep, but will hardly die. If the Ara. “ take them;" this field is won with a word. mites sit still, it is but till they be fully O the vain and ignorant presumptions of ready for an assault; time will show that wretched men, that will be reckoning with their cessation was only for their advantage. out, against their Maker!
Neither is it otherwise with our spiritual Every Israelite kills his man; the Sy- adversaries : sometime their onsets are innans fly, and cannot run away from death: / termitted; they tempt not always, they al. Benhadad and his kings are more beholdenways hate us ; their forbearance is not out to their horses, than to their gods or them- of favour, but attendance of opportunity. selves, for life and safety, else they had | Happy are we, if, out of a suspicion of their been either taken or slain by those whom silence, we can as busily prepare for their they commanded to be taken.
resistance, as they do for our in pugnation.