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As it is a shame to be beaten, so yet the norant pagans, whose tongues might seem shame is less by how much the victor is no slander. That proud head of Benhadad, greater. To mitigate the grief and indigna- that spoke such big words of the dust of tion of Benhadad's foil, his parasites ascribe Israel, and swore by his gods that he would it to gods, not to men: a human power kill and conquer, is now glad to hide itself could no more have vanquished him, than in a blind hole of Aphek; and now, instead a divine power could by him be resisted:of questioning the power of the God of “ Their gods are gods of the hills." Igno- | Israel, is glad to hear the mercy of the rant Syrians, that name gods and confine kings of Israel: “ Behold now, we have them, varying their deities according to si. heard that the kings of the house of Israel tuations : they saw that Samaria, whence are merciful kings ; let us, I pray thee, put they were repelled, stood upon the hill of sackcloth on our loins, and ropes on our Shemer; they saw the temple of Jerusalem heads, and go out to the king of Israel ; stood upon Mount Sion; they knew it peradventure he will save thy life.” usual with the Israelites to sacrifice in their | There can be no more powerful attrachigh places, and perhaps they had heard tive of humble submission, than the intimaof Elijah's altar upon mount Carmel; and tion and conceit of mercy; we do at once now they sottishly measure the effects of fear and hate the inexorable. This is it, the power by the place of the worship, as O Lord, that allures us to thy throne of if he, that was omnipotent on the hill, was grace, the knowledge of the grace of that impotent in the valley. What doltish con. throne: with thee is mercy and plenteous ceits doth blind paganism frame to itself of redemption; thine hand is open before our a godhead! As they have many gods, so mouths, before our hearts. If we did not finite; every region, every hill, every dale, see thee smile upon suitors, we durst not every stream, hath their several gods, and press to thy footstool. Behold now, we each so knows his own bounds, that he know that the king of heaven, the God of dares not offer to encroach upon the other, Israel, is a merciful God; let us put sackor, if he do, buys it with loss. Who would | cloth upon our loins, and strew ashes upon think that so gross blockisliness should find our heads, and go meet the Lord God of harbour in a reasonable soul? A man doth Israel, that he may save our souls. not alter with his station : he that wrestled How well doth this habit become insostrongly upon the hill, loseth not his force | lent and blasphemous Benhadad and his in the plain; all places find him alike ac- followers! a rope and sackcloth! a rope for tive, alike valorous : yet these barbarous a crown, sackcloth for a robe! Neither is Aramites shame not to imagine that of God, there less change in the tongue: “ Thy ser. which they would blush to affirm of their vant Benhadad saith, I pray thee let me own champions. Superstition infatuates live;" even now the king of Israel said to the heart out of measure; neither is there Benhadad, “ My Lord, O king, I am thine ; any fancy so absurd or monstrous, which tell my lord the king, all that thou didst credulous infidelity is not ready to entertain send for to thy servant, I will do:" now with applause.
Benhadad sends to the king of Israel In how high scorn doth God take it, to be “ Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee, thus basely undervalued by rude heathens ! | let me live." He that was erewhile a lord This very misopinion concerning the God and king, is now a servant; and he that of Israel shall cost the Syrianz a shameful was a servant to the king of Syria, is now and perfect destruction. They may call a his lord: he that would blow away all Iscouncil of war, and lay their heads together, rael in dust, is now glad to beg for his own and change their kings into captains, and | life at the door of a despised enemy. No the hills into valleys; but they shall find courage is so haughty, which the God of more graves in the plains than in the moun- | hosts cannot easily bring under : what are tains. This very misprision of God shall | men or devils in those Almighty hands? make Ahab, though he were more lewd, The greater the dejection was, the stronger victorious : an hundred thousand Syrians was the motive of commiseration; that hal shall fall in one day by those few hands of ter pleaded for life, and that plea, but for Israel; and a dead wall in Aphek, to whose a life, stirred the bowels for favour. How shelter they fled, shall revenge God upon readily did Ahab see, in Benhadad's sudthe rest that remained. The stones in the den misery, the image of the instability of wall shall rather turn executioners, than a all human things, and relents at the view blasphemous Aramite shall escape unre of so deep and passionate a submission! venged! So much doth the jealous God Had not Benhadad said, “ Thy servant," bate to be robbed of his glory, even by ig. Ahab had never said, “ My brother." Seb
dom ever was there loss in humility. How | hand, yea, and a wound in smiting. I know much less can we fear disparagement in the not whether it were an harder task for the annihilating of ourselves before that infinite prophet to require a wound, than for a Majesty! The drowning man snatches at well-meaning Israelite to give it : both must every twig: it is no marvel if the messengers be done. The prophet hath what he would, of Benhadad catch hastily at that last of what he must will, a sight of his own blood; grace, and hold it fast, “ Thy brother Ben- and now disguised herewith, and with ashes hadad.” Favours are wont to draw on each upon his face, he waylays the king of Isother; kindnesses breed on themselves ; rael, and sadly complains of himself in a real neither need we any other persuasions to parable, for dismissing a Syrian prisoner beneficence, than from our own acts. Ahab delivered to his hands, upon no less charge calls for the king of Syria, sets him in his than his life, and soon receives sentence of own chariot, treats with him of an easy yet death from his own mouth. Well was that firm league, gives him both his life and his wound bestowed, that struck Ahab's soul kingdom. Neither is the crown of Syria through the flesh of the prophet: the dissooner lost than recovered; only he, that guise is removed; the king sees not a soldier came a free prince, returns tributary ; only but a seer; and now finds that he hath unhis train is clipped too short for his wings ; awares passed sentence upon himself. There a hundred and twenty-seven thousand Sy- needs no other doom than from the lips of rians are abated of his guard homeward. the offender : “ Thus saith the Lord, Be. Blasphemy hath escaped too well. Ahab cause thou hast let go out of thy hand a hath at once peace with Benhadad, war man whom I appointed to utter destrucwith God: God proclaims it by his herald, tion, therefore thy life shall go for his life, one of the sons of the prophets; not yet and thy people for his people." Had not in his own form, but disguised, both in Ahab known the will of God concerning fashion and complaint. It was a strange suit | Benhadad, that had been mercy to an eneof a prophet, “ Smite me, I pray thee :" | my, which was now cruelty to himself, to many a prophet was smitten and would not; Israel. His ears had heard of the blasphenever any but this wished to be smitten. mies of that wicked tongue. His eyes had The rest of his fellows were glad to say, seen God go before him, in the example of “ Save me;" this only says, “ Smite me." | that revenge. No prince can strike so deep His honest neighbour, out of love and re into his state, as in not striking: in private verence, forbears to strike: there are too favour there may be public unmerciful. many, thinks he, that smite the prophets, ness. though I refrain; what wrong hast thou done, that I should repay with blows? Hadst thou sued for a favour, I could not CONTEMPLATION II. — AHAB AND NABOTH. have denied thee: now thou suest for thine hurt, the denial is a favour. Thus he Naboth had a fair vineyard : it had been thought, but charity cannot excuse disobe- better for him to have had none : his vine. dience. Had the man of God called for yard yielded him the bitter grapes of death. blows upon his own head, the refusal had Many a one hath been sold to death by his been just and thankworthy ; but now that lands and goods : wealth hath been a snare, he says, “ In the word of the Lord, smite as to the soul, so to the life. Why do we me," this kindness is deadly : “ Because call those goods, which are many times the thou hast not obeyed the voice of the Lord, bane of the owner? Naboth's vineyard lay behold, as soon as thou art departed from near to the court of Jezebel : it had been me, a lion shall slay thee." It is not for better for him had it been planted in the us to examine the charges of the Almighty: wilderness. Doubtless this vicinity made be they never so harsh or improbable, if it more commodious to the possessor, but they be once known for his, there is no more envious and unsafe. It was now the way but obedience or death. Not to smite perpetual object of an evil eye, and stirred a prophet, when God commands, is no less those desires which could neither be well sin than to smite a prophet when God for- denied, nor satisfied: eminency is still joined bids. It is the divine precept or prohibition with peril, obscurity with peace. There that either makes or aggravates an evil; can be no worse annoyance to an inherit. and if the Israelite be thus revenged that ance, than the greatness of an evil neighsmote not a prophet, what shall become of bourhood. Naboth's vines stood too near Ahab that smote not Benhadad! Every the smoke of Jezebel's chimneys, too much man is not thus indulgent: an easy request within the prospect of Ahab's window. will gain blows to a prophet from the next | Now, lately, had the king of Israel been
twice victorious over the Syrians; no sooner | Ahab might not lawfully require. It pleased is he returned home, than he is overcome God to be very punctual and cautelous, with evil desires : the foil he gave was not both in the distinction and preservation of worse than that he took. There is more the entireness of these Jewish inheritances. true glory in the conquest of our lusts, than | Nothing but extreme necessity might warin all bloody trophies. In vain shall Ahab rant a sale of land, and that but for a time; boast of subduing a foreign enemy, while if not sooner, yet, at the jubilee, it must he is subdued by a domestic enemy within revert to the first owner. It was not withhis own breast. Opportunity and conve- out a comfortable signification, that whosonience are guilty of many a theft : had not ever had once his part in the land of prothis ground lain so fair, Ahab had not been mise, could never lose it. Certainly Ahab tempted ; his eye lets in this evil guest into could not but know this divine restriction, the soul, which now dares come forth at yet doubts not to say, “ Give me thy vine. the mouth : “ Give me thy vineyard, that yard." The unconscionable will know no I may have it for a garden of herbs, because other law, but their profit, their pleasure. it is near to my house, and I will give thee A lawless greatness hates all limitations, and a better vineyard for it ; or, if it seem good abides not to hear men should need any to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in other warrant but will. money." Yet had Ahab so much civility Naboth dares not be thus tractable. How and justice, that he would not wring Na- gladly would he be quit of his inheritance, both's patrimony out of his hands by force, | if God would acquit him from the sin! not but requires it upon a fair composition, out of wilfulness, but obedience, doth this whether of price or of exchange. His go- | faithful Israelite hold off from this demand vernment was vicious, not tyrannical ; pro- of his sovereign; not daring to please an priety of goods was inviolably maintained earthly king, with offending the heavenly. by him : no less was Naboth allowed to When princes command lawful things, God claim a right in his vineyard, than Ahab in commands by them; when unlawful, they his palace. This we owe to lawful sove command against God. Passive obedience reignty to call aught our own; and well we must give; active we may not: we folworthy is this privilege to be repaid with low them as subordinate, not as opposite, all humble and loyal respects. The motion to the Highest. of Ahab, had it been to any other than an Who cannot but see and pity the straits Israelite, had been as just, equal, reason- of honest Naboth? Ahab requires what able, as the repulse had been rude, churlish, God forbids ; he must fall out either with inhumane. It is fit that princes should re. his God or his king. Conscience carries bim ceive due satisfaction in the just demands, | against policy; and he resolved not to sin, not only of their necessities, but conyeni- that he might be gracious : for a world he ence and pleasure : well may they challenge may not give his vineyard. Those who are this retribution to the benefit of our com themselves godless, think the holy care of mon peace and protection. If there be any others but idly scrupulous. The king of sweetness in our vineyards, any strength in Israel could not choose but see, that only our fields, we may thank their sceptres : God's prohibition lay in the way of his de. justly may they expect from us the commo. signs, not the stomach of a froward subject; dity, the delight of their habitation; and if yet he goes away into his house heavy and we gladly yield not to their full elbow-room, displeased, and casts himself down upon his both of their site and provision, we can be bed, turns away his face, and refuses his no other than ungrateful. Yet dares not Na- meat : he hath taken a surfeit of Naboth's both give any other answer to so plausible grapes, which mars his appetite, and threats a motion, than, “ The Lord forbid it me, | his life. How ill can great hearts endure that I should give thee the inheritance of to be crossed, though upon the most reamy fathers." The honest Israelite saw vio. sonable and just grounds! Ahab's place lence in this ingenuity: there are no stronger called him to the guardianship of God's commands than the requests of the great. I law; and now his heart is ready to break, It is well that Ahab will not wrest away that this parcel of that law may not be this patrimony; it is not well that he desired broken. No marvel if he made not dainty it; the land was not so much stood upon to transgress a local statute of God, who as the law. One earth might be as good as did so shamefully violate the eternal law of another, and money equivalent to either; both tables. the Lord had forbidden to alien their in. I know not whether the spleen or the heritance. Naboth doth not fear loss, but gall of Ahab be more affected; whether sin : what Naboth might not lawfully do, more of anger or grief, I cannot sav; but
297 sick he is, and keeps his bed, and baulks | customs, for their own advantage. She his meat, as if he should die of no other knew the Israelites had so much remainder death, than the salads that he would have of grace, as to hold blasphemy worthy of nad. O the impotent passion and insa death; she knew their manner was to ex. tiable desires of cuvetousness! Ahab is lord piate those crying sins with public humiliaand king of all the territories of Israel : Na tion; she knew that two witnesses at least both is the owner of one poor vineyard. must cast the offender: all these she urges Ahab cannot enjoy Israel, if Naboth en to her own purpose. There is no mischief joy his vineyard. Besides Samaria, Ahab so devilish, as that which is cloaked with was the great lord paramount of Damascus piety. Simulation of holiness doubleth a and all Syria, the victor of him that was at- | villany. This murder had not been half so tended with two-and-thirty kings. Naboth foul, if it had not been thus masked with was a plain townsman of Jezreel, the good a religious observation. Besides devotion, husband of a little vineyard. Whether is what a fair pretence of legality is here! the wealthier? I do not hear Naboth wish Blasphemy against God and his anointed for any thing of Abab's: I hear Ahab wish may not pass unrevenged. The offender is ing, not without indignation of a repulse, convented before the sad and severe bench for somewhat from Naboth. Riches and of magistracy. The justice of Israel allows poverty are no more in the heart, than in not to condemn an absent, an unheard mathe hand: he is wealthy, that is contented; | lefactor : witnesses come forth and agree he is poor, that wanteth more. O rich Na- in the intentation of the crime; the judges both, that carest not for all the large pos- rend their garments, and strike their breasts sessions of Ahab, so thou mayest be the as grieved, not more for the sin than the lord of thine own vineyard! O miserable punishment: their very countenance must Ahab, that carest not for thine own pos say, Naboth should not die if his offence sessions, while thou mayest not be the lord did not force our justice; and now he is of Naboth's vineyard !
no good subject, no true Israelite, that hath He that caused the disease sends him a not a stone for Naboth. physician. Satan knew of old how to make Jezebel knew well to whom she wrote. use of such helpers. Jezebel comes to Had not those letters fallen upon the times Ahab's bedside, and casts cold water in his of a woful degeneration of Israel, they had face, and puts into him spirits of her own received no less strong denials from the extracting : “ Dost thou now govern the elders, than Ahab had from Naboth: “God kingdom of Israel? Arise, eat bread, and forbid, that the senate of Jezreel should let thine heart be merry; I will give thee forge a perjury, belie truth, condemn innothe vineyard of Naboth.” Ahab wanted cency, brook corruption." Command just neither wit nor wickedness; yet is he in things, we are ready to die in the zeal of both a very novice to this Sidonian dame. our obedience; we dare not inbrue our There needs no other devil than Jezebel, hands in the blood of an innocent. whether to project evil, or to work it. She But she knew whom she had engaged, chides the pusillanimity of her dejected whom she had marred, by making conscious. husband, and persuades him his rule cannot It were strange if they, who can countebe free, unless it be licentious; that there nance evil with greatness, should want should be no bounds for sovereignty, but factors for the unjustest designs. Miserable will. Already hath she contrived to have is that people whose rulers, instead of puby fraud and force, what was denied to en. nishing, plot and encourage wickedness; treaty. Nothing needs but the name, but when a distillation of evil falls from the the seal, of Abab: let her alone with the head, upon the lungs of any state, there rest. How present are the wits of the must needs follow a deadly consumption. weaker sex for the devising of wickedness! Yet perhaps there wanted not some co. She frames a letter in Ahab's name to the lour of pretence for this proceeding : they senators of Jezreel, wherein she requires could not but hear, that some words had them to proclaim a fast, to suborn two false passed betwixt the king and Naboth; haply witnesses against Naboth, to charge him it was suggested, that Naboth had secretly with blasphemy against God and the king, overlashed into saucy and contemptuous to stone him to death: a ready payment terms to his sovereign, such as neither might for a ,ch vineyard. Whose indignation be well borne, nor yet, by reason of their riseth noi, o hear Jezebel name a fast? | privacy, legally convinced. The bench of The great contemners of the most impor-Jezreel should but supply a form to the just tant laws of God, yet can be content to matter and desert of condemnation: what make use of some divine, both statutes and was it for them to give their hand to thie obscure midwifery of justice? It is enough fair flowers, and savoury herbs, may thy that their king is an accuser and witness of new garden yield thee! please thyself with that wrong which only their sentence can thy Jezebel, in the triumph over the carcass formally revenge. All this cannot wash of a scrupulous subject : let me rather die their hands from the guilt of blood : if jus. with Naboth, than rejoice with thee; his tice be blind, in respect of partiality, she turn is over, thine is to come. The stones may not be blind in respect of the grounds that overwhelmed innocent Naboth, were of execution. Had Naboth been a blas. nothing to those that smite thee: “ Hast phemer, or a traitor, yet these men were thou killed, and also taken possession ? no better than murderers. What difference Thus saith the Lord, In the place where is there betwixt the stroke of magistracy, dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs and of man-slaughter, but due conviction ? lick thy blood, even thine." What meanest
Wickedness never spake out of a throne, thou, O Elijah, to charge this murder upon and complained of the defect of instru. | Ahab ? he kept his chamber, Jezebel wrote, ments. Naboth was, it seems, strictly the elders condemned, the people stoned; conscionable, his fellow-citizens loose and yet thou sayest, “ Hast thou killed?” Well lawless; they are glad to have gotten such did Ahab know, that Jezebel could not an opportunity of despatch. No clause of give this vineyard with dry hands; yet was Ahab's letter is not observed: a fast is he content to wink at what she would do: warned, the city is assembled, Naboth is he but sits still while Jezebel works, only convented, accused, confronted, sentenced, his signet is suffered to walk for the sealing stoned. His vineyard is escheated to the of this unknown purchase. Those that are crown; Ahab takes speedy and quiet pos- trusted with authority, may offend no less session. How still dotlı God sit in heaven, in connivancy or neglect, than others in and look upon the complots of treachery act, in participation; not only command, and villanies, as if they did not concern consent, countenance, but very permission, him! The success so answers their desires, feoffs public persons in those sins which as if both heaven and earth were their they might and will not prevent. God loves friends. It is the plague, which seems the to punish by retaliation: Naboth and Ahab felicity of sinners, to speed well in their shall both bleed; Naboth by the stones of lewd enterprises; no reckoning is brought in the Jezreelites, Ahab by the shafts of the the midst of the meal; the end pays for all. Aramites; the dogs shall taste of the blood While Ahab is rejoicing in his new garden of both. What Ahab hath done in cruelty, plot, and promising himself contentment he shall suffer in justice : the case and the in this commodious enlargement, in comes end make the difference happy on Naboth's Elijah, sent from God, with an errand of side ; on Ahab's, woful: Naboth, bleeds as vengeance. Methinks I see how the king's a martyr, Ahab as a murderer. Whatever countenance changed, with what aghast is Ahab's condition, Naboth changes a vine. eyes and pale cheeks he looked upon that yard on earth, for a kingdom in heaven. unwelcome prophet. Little pleasure took Never any wicked man gained by the perhe in his prospect, while it was clogged with secution of an innocent; never any ivnosuch a guest ; yet his tongue begins first, cent man was a loser by suffering from the “ Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" wicked. Great is the power of conscience. Upon Neither was this judgment personal, but the last meeting, for anght we know, Ahab hereditary : “ I will take away thy posteri. and Elijah parted friends. The prophet ty, and will make thine house like the house had lackeyed his coach, and took a peace of Jeroboam." Him that dieth of Ahab in able leave at this town's end; now Ahab's the city, “ the dogs shall eat;" and hiin heart told him (neither needed any other that dieth in the field, “ shall the fowls of messenger) that God and his propbet were the air eat." Ahab shall not need to take fallen out with him: his continuing idolatry, thought for the traducing of this ill-gotten now seconded with blood, bids him look inheritance; God hath taken order for his for nothing but frowns from heaven. A heirs, whom his sin hath made no less the guilty heart can never be at peace. Had heirs of his curse, than of his body. Their not Ahab known how ill he had deserved | father's cruelty to Naboth hath made them, of God, he had never saluted his prophet together with their mother Jezebel, dog's by the name of an enemy; he had never | meat. The revenge of God doth at last been troubled to be found by Elijah, if his make amends for the delay. Whether now own breast had not found him out for an is Naboth's vineyard paid for ? enemy to God. Much good may thy vine. The man that had sold himself to work yard do thee, O thou king of Israel! many | wickedness. yet rues the bargain. I do not