« FöregåendeFortsätt »
hear Ahab, as bad as he was, revile or own bounds. Justly doth Ahab challenge threaten the prophet, but he rends his his own, justly doth he move a war to reclothes, and wears and lies in sackcloth, cover his own from a perfidious tributary: and fasts, and walks softly. Who that had the lawfulness of actions may not be judged seen Ahab, would not have deemed him a by the events, but by the grounds. The true penitent? All this was the vizard of wise and holy Arbiter of the world knows sorrow, not the face; or if the face, not why, many times, the better cause hath the the heart; or if the sorrow of the heart, yet worst success. Many a just business is not the repentance: a sorrow for the judg. crossed, for a punishment to the agent. ment, not a repentance for the sin. The Yet Israel and Judah were now pierced very devils howl to be tormented. Grief in friendship. Jehoshaphat, the good king is not ever a sign of grace. Ahab rends of Judah, had made affinity with Ahab, the his clothes, he did not rend his heart; he idolatrous king of Israel; and, besides a puts on sackcloth, not amendment; he personal visitation, joins his forces with his lies in sackcloth, but he lies in his idolatry: new kinsman, against an old confederate. he walks softly, he walks not sincerely. Judah had called in Syria against Israel; Wordly sorrow causeth death ; happy is and now Israel calls in Judah against Sy. that grief for which the soul is the holier. ria : Thus rather should it be: it is fit that
Yet what is this I see? this very shadow the more pure church should join with the of penitence carries away mercy. It is no more corrupt, against a common paganish small mercy to defer an evil; even Ahab's enemy. humiliation shall prorogue the judgment: Jehoshaphat hath matched with Ahab; such as the penitence was, such shall be not with a divorce of his devotion. He the reward; a temporary reward of a tem- will fight, not without God: “ Inquire, I porary penitence. As Ahab might be thus pray thee, at the word of the Lord to-day." sorrowful, and never the better, so he may llad he done thus sooner, I fear Athaliah be thus favoured, and never the happier. bad never called him father : this motion O God, how graciously art thou ready to was news in Israel. It was wont to be reward a sound and holy repentance, who said, “ Inquire of Baal.” The good king of art thus indulgent to a carnal and servile Judah will bring religion into fashion in the dejection!
court of Israel. Ahab had inquired of his counsellor: what needed he be so devout
as to inquire of his prophets? Only Jeho. CONTEMPLATION III. — AHAB AND MICAIAH ; shaphat's presence made him thus godly. OR, THE DEATH OF AHAB.
It is an happy thing to converse with the
virtuous; their counsel and example canWho would have looked to have heard not but leave some tincture behind them any more of the wars of the Syrians with of a good profession, if not of piety. Those Israel, after so great a slaughter, after so that are truly religious dare not but take firm a league ; a league not of peace only, God with them in all their affairs ; with but of brotherhood: the halters, the sack. him they can be as valiant, as timorous cloth of Benhadad's followers, were worn without him. out, as of use, so of memory, and now they Ahab had clergy enough, such as it was. are changed for iron and steel. It is but four hundred prophets of the groves were three years that this peace lasts ; and now reserved from appearing to Elijah's chalthat war begins which shall make an end lenge: these are now consulted by Ahab ; of Ahab. The king of Israel rues his un. they live to betray the life of him who just mercy: according to the word of the saved theirs. These care not so much prophet, that gift of a life was but an ex- | to inquire about what God would say, as change; because Ahab gave Benhadad his | what Ahab would have them say: they saw life, Benhadad shall take Ahab's: he must which way the king's heart was bent; that forfeit in himself what he hath given to way they bent their tongues: “ Go up, for another. There can be no better fruit of the Lord shall deliver it into the hands of the too much kindness to infidels. It was one king." False prophets care only to please : article of the league betwixt Ahab and his a plausible falsehood passes with them brother Benhadad, that there should be a above a harsh truth. Had they seen Ahab speedy restitution of all the Israelitish cities: fearful, they had said, “ Peace, peace;" the rest are yielded; only Ramoth-Gilead now they see him resolute, “War and vic. is held back, unthankfully, injuriously. He tory." It is a fearful presage of ruin, when that begged but his life, receives his king. the prophets conspire in assentation. com, and now rests not content with his / Their number consent: confidence hath
easily won credit with Ahab; we do all | confession of two kings, who thought this willingly believe what we wish. Jehosha-convocation of prophets not unworthy of phat is not so soon satisfied : these prophets their greatest representation of state and were, it is like, obtruded to him (a stranger) majesty: there he finds Zedekiah, the leader for the true prophets of the true God. The of that false crew, not speaking only, but judicious king sees cause to suspect them, acting his prediction. Signs were no less and now, perceiving at what altars they used by the prophets than words: this arch served, hates to rest in their testimony : flatterer hath made him horns of iron; the “ Is there not here a prophet of the Lord horn is forcible, the iron irresistible: by besides, that we might inquire of him ?" | an irresistible force shall Ahab push the One single prophet, speaking from the Syrians, as if there were more certainty oracles of God, is more worth than four in this man's hands, than in his tongue, if hundred Baalites: truth may not ever be this son of Chenaanah had not had a foremeasured by the poll. It is not number, head of brass for impudency, and a heart of but weight, that must carry it in a council | lead for flexibleness to humours and times, of prophets. A solid verity in one mouth he had never devised these horns of iron is worthy to preponderate light falsehood wherewith his king was gored unto blood. in a thousand.
However, it is enough for him that he is Even king Ahab, as bad as he was, kept believed, that he is seconded. All this great tale of his prophets, and could give account | inquest of these prophets gave up their of one that was missing : “ There is yet verdict to this foreman; not one of four one man, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, by hundred dissented. Unanimity of opinion whom they may inquire of the Lord; but in the greatest ecclesiastical assemblies, is I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good not ever an argument of truth; there may concerning me, but evil. It is very probable, be as common, and as firm, agreement in that Micaiah was that disguised prophet, error. who brought to Ahab the fearful message of The messenger that came from Micaiah, displeasure and death, for dismissing Ben- like a carnal friend, sets him in a way of hadad, for which he was ever since fast in favour; tells him what the rest had said ; prison, deep in disgrace. O corrupt heart | how they pleased; how unsafe it would be of self-condemned Ahab! If Micaiah spake for him to vary, how beneficial to assent. true to thee, how was it evil? If others Those that adore earthly greatness, think said false, how was it good? And if Mi- | every man should doat upon their idols, and caiah spake from the Lord, why dost thou hold no terms too high for their ambitious hate him? This hath wont to be the an- purchases. Faithful Micaiah scorns the cient lot of truth, censure and hatred : cen- motion ; he knows the price of the word, sure of the message ; hatred of the bearer. and contemns it: “ As the Lord liveth, To carnal ears, the message is evil, if un what the Lord saith unto me, that will I pleasing; and, if plausible, good : if it be speak.” Neither fears, nor favours, can sweet, it cannot be poison ; if bitter, it can- tempt the holily resolute; they can trample not be wholesome. The distemper of the upon dangers or honours with a careless receiver is guilty of this misconceit: in it foot; and, whether they be smiled or frown. self, every truth, as it is good, so amiable ; ed on by the great, dare not either alter or every falsehood, loathsome, as evil. A sick conceal their errand. palate cries out of the taste of those liquors The question is moved to Micaiah: he which are well allowed of the healthful. at first yields, then he contradicts; yields It is a sign of a good state of the soul, in words, contradicts in pronunciation : the when every verdure can receive his proper syllables are for them, the sound against judgment.
them : ironies deny strongest in affirming. Wise and good Jehoshaphat dissuades And now, being pressed home, he tells Ahab from so hard an opinion, and sees them, that God had showed him those cause so much more to urge the consul- sheep of Israel should, ere long, by this tation of Micaiah, by how much he finds means. want their shepherd. The very him more unpleasing. The king of Israel, resemblance, to a good prince, had been to satisfy the importunity of so great and effective: the sheep is a helpless creature, dear an ally, sends an officer for Micaiah: not able either to guard or guide itself; all he knew well, belike, where to find him; the safety, all the direction of it, is from within those four walls, where unjust cruelty the keeper, without whom every cur chases had disposed of that innocent seer. Out of and worries it, every tract seduceth it: the obscurity of the prison is the poor pro- such shall Israel soon be, if Ahab be ruled phet fetched in the light of so glorious a l by bis prophets. The king of Israel doth not believe, but quarrel; not at himself, | Jehoshophat cannot but wonder at so unwho had deserved evil, but at the prophet, equal a contention, to see one silly pro. who foresignified it; and is more careful phet affronting four hundred; with whom, that the king of Judah should mark how lest confidence should carry it, behold true he had foretold concerning the pro- Zedekiah, more bold, more zealous: if phet, than how the prophet had foretold Micaiah have given him, with his fellows, concerning him.
the lie, he gives Micaiah the fist. Before Bold Micaiah, as no whit discouraged these two great guardians of peace and jus. with the unjust checks of greatness, doubles tice, swaggering Zedekiah smites Micaiah his prediction, and, by a second vision, par- on the face; and with the blow expostu. ticularizeth the means of this dangerous | lates: “ Which way went the Spirit of the error. While the two kings sat majestically | Lord from me, to speak unto thee?" For on their thrones, he tells them of a more a prophet to smite a prophet, in the face of glorious throne than theirs, whereon he saw two kings, was intolerably insolent; the act the King of gods sitting: while they were was much unbeseeming the person, more compassed with some hundreds of prophets, the presence : prophets may reprove, they and thousands of subjects and soldiers, he may not strike. It was enough for Ahab tells them of all the host of heaven at to punish with the hand ; no weapon was tending that other throne : while they were for Zedekiah, but his tongue: neither could deliberating of a war, he tells them of a this rude presumption have been well taken, God of heaven justly decreeing the judg. if malice had not made magistracy insenment of a deadly deception to Alab. The sible of this usurpation. Ahab was well decree of the Highest is not more plainly content to see that hated mouth beaten by revealed, than expressed parabolically. The any hand. It is no new condition of God's wise and holy God is represented, after the faithful messengers to smart for saying truth. manner of men, consulting of that ruin which | Falsehood doth not more bewray itself in he intended to the wicked king of Israel. any thing than in blows: truth suffers, while That uncreated and infinite Wisdom needs error persecutes. None are more ready to not the advice of any finite and created boast of the Spirit of God, than those that powers to direct him, needs not the assent have the least; as in vessels, the full are or aid of any spirit for his execution, much silent. less of an evil one ; yet here an evil spirit Innocent Micaiah neither defends nor is brought in, by way of vision mixt with complains. It would have well beseemed parable, proffering the service of his lie, the religious king of Judah to have spoken accepted, employed, successful. These fi- in the cause of the dumb, to have checked gures are not void of truth: the action and insolent Zedekiah. He is content to give event are reduced to a decree; the decree way to this tide of peremptory and general is shadowed out by the resemblance of opposition. The helpless prophet stands human proceedings. All evil motions and alone, yet lays about him with his tongue: counsels are originally from that malignant « Behold, thou shalt see, in that day when spirit: that evil spirit could have no power thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide over men, but by the permission, by the thyself.” Now the proud Baalite showed decree, of the Almighty. That Almighty, himself too much; ere long, he shall be glad as be is no author of sin, so he ordains all to lurk unseen; his horns of iron cannot evil to good: it is good that is just; it is bear off his danger. The son of Ahab canjust that one sin should be punished by not choose but, in the zeal of revenging his another: Satan is herein no other than the father's deadly seducement, call for that executioner of that God, who is as far from | false head of Zedekiah. In vain shall that infusing evil, as from not revenging it. Now impostor seek to hide himself from justice; Ahab sees the ground of that applauded but, in the meanwhile, he goes away with consent of his rabble of prophets; one evil honour, Micaiah with censure: “ Take Mispirit hath no less deceived them, than they caiah, and carry him back to Amon, the their master : he is one, therefore he agrees governor of the city, and to Joash the king's with himself; he is evil, therefore both he son, and say, Thus saith the king, put this and they agree in deceit.
fellow in prison, and feed him with bread O tie poble and undaunted spirit of Mi- of affliction, and with water of affliction, caiah! Neither the thrones of the kings, nor until I come in peace.” the number of the prophets, could abate one A hard doom of truth! the jail for his word of his true, though displeasing mes- lodging, coarse bread and water for his food, sage: the king of Israel shall hear that he shall but reserve Micaiah for a further reis misled by liars, they by a devil. Surely, | venge : the return of Ahab shall be the bane of the prophet. Was not this he that cries deliver him— his cries, not to his pur. advised Benhadad not to boast in the put- suers, but to his God; whose mercy takes ting on his armour, as in the ungirding it; not advantage of our infirmity, but rescues and doth he now promise himself peace and us from those evils which we wilfully provictory, before he buckle it on ? No warn- voke. It is Ahab against whom, not the ing will dissuade the wilful: so assured doth Syrians only, but God himself, intends this Ahab make himself of success, that he quarrel; the enemy is taken off from Je. threatens, ere he go, what he will do when hoshaplat. O the just and mighty hand he returns in peace. How justly doth God of that divine Providence, which directeth deride the misreckonings of proud and fool all our actions to his own ends, which takes ish men! If Ahab had no other sins, his order where every shaft shall light, and very confidence shall defeat him; yet the guides the arrow of the strong archer into prophet cannot be overcome in his resolu. the joints of Ahab's harness! It was shot tion; he knows his grounds cannot deceive | at a venture, falls by a destiny; and there him, and dares, therefore, cast the credit falls, where it may carry death to a hidden of his function upon this issue : “ If thou debtor. In all actions, both voluntary and return at all in peace, the Lord hath not casual, thy will, O God, shall be done by spoken by me;" and he said, “ Hearken, us, with whatever intentions. Little did O people, every one of you." Let him the Syrian know whom he had stricken, no never be called a prophet, that dare not more than the arrow wherewith he struck: trust his God. This was no adventure, an invisible hand disposeth of both, to the therefore, of reputation or life : since he punishment of Ahab, to the vindication knew whom he believed, the event was no of Micaiah. How worthily, O God, art less sure, than if it had been past. He is thou to be adored in thy justice and wisno God, that is not constant to himself : dom! to be feared in thy judgments! Too hath he spoken, and shall he not perform? | late doth Ahab now think of the fair warnWhat hold have we for our souls, but his ings of Micaiah, which he unwisely coneternal word? The being of God is not temned; of the painful flatteries of Zedemore sure than his promises, than his sen- kiah, which he stubbornly believed: that tences of judgment. Well may we appeal guilty blood of his runs down out of his to the testimony of the world in both : if wound into the midst of his chariot, and tnere be not plagues for the wicked, if there pays Naboth his arrearages. O Ahab, what be not rewards for the righteous, God hath art thou the better for thine ivory house, not spoken by us.
while thou hast a black soul? what comNot Ahab only, but good Jehoshaphat, fort hast thou now in those flattering prois carried with the multitude : their forces phets, which tickled thine ears, and secured are joined against Ramoth. The king of thee of victories? what joy is it to thee Israel doth not so trust his prophets, that now, that thou wast great? Who had not he dares trust himself in his own clothes ; rather be Micaiah in the jail, than Ahab in thus shall he elude Micaiah's threat: I wist the chariot? Wicked men have the advanthe judgment of God, the Syrian shafts, can- tage of the way; godly men of the end. The not find him out in this unsuspected disguise. chariot is washed in the pool of Samaria; How fondly do vain men imagine to shift the dogs come to claim their due; they lick off the just revenges of the Almighty ! up the blood of the great king of Israel.
The king of Syria gives charge to his The tongues of those brute creatures shall captains to fight against none but the king make good the tongue of God's prophet. of Israel. Thus doth the unthankful infi Micaiah is justified, Naboth is revenged, del repay the mercy of his late victor; ill the Baalites confounded, Ahab judged. was the snake saved, that requites the fa.“ Righteous art thou, O God, in all thy vour of his life with a sting: thus, still the ways, and holy in all thy works !". greatest are the fairest mark to envious eyes. By how much more eminent any man is in the Israel of God, so many more and more aangerous enemies must he expect: both
ELIJAH REVENGED. earth and hell conspire in their opposition to the worthiest. Those who are advanced Ahaziah succeeded his father Ahab, above others, have so much more need of both in his throne and in his sin. Who the guard, both of their own vigilancy, and could look for better issue of those loins, others' prayers. Jehoshaphat had like to of those examples ? God follows him with nave paid dear for his love: he is pursued | a double judgment of the revolt of Moab, for him, in whose amity he offended; his , and of his own sickness. All the reign of
AHAZIAH SICK, AND
Ahab, had Moab been a quiet tributary, | even the very evangelical Israel should yield and furnished Israel with rich flocks and pilgrims to the shrines of darkness! How fleeces ; now their subjection dies with that many, after this clear light of the gospel, warlike king, and will not be inherited. in their losses, in their sicknesses, send to This rebellion took advantage, as from the these infernal oracles, and damn themselves weaker spirits, so from the sickly body of wilfully in a vain curiosity! The message Ahaziah, whose disease was not natural, of the jealous God intercepts them with a but casual: walking in his palace of Samaria, just disdain, as here by Elijah : “ Is it not some grate in the foor of his chamber because there is not a God in Israel, that breaks under him, and gives way to that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of fall, whereby he is bruised, and languisheth. Ekron ?" What can be a greater disparage. The same hand that guided Ahab's shaft,ment to the true God than to be neglected, cracks Ahaziah's lattice. How infinite va. than to stand aside, and see us make love riety of plagues hath the just God for obsti to a hellish rival? Were there no God in nate sinners! whether in the field or in the Israel, in heaven, what could we do other, chamber, he knows to find them out. How what worse? This affront, of whatever fearlessly did Ahaziah walk on his wonted kind, Ahaziah cannot escape without a repavement! The Lord hath laid a trap for venge: “ Therefore thus saith the Lord, him, whereinto, while he thinks least, he Thou shalt not come down from that bed falls irrecoverably. No place is safe for the on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely man that is at variance with God.
die." It is a high indignity to the true God, The body of Ahaziah was not more sick, not to be sought to in our necessities; but than his soul was graceless: none but so to be cashiered from our devotions, as chance was his enemy, none but the god of to have a false God thrust in his room, is Ekron must be his friend. He looks not such a scorn, as it is well if it can escape up to the omnipotent hand of Divine Jus. with one death: let now the famous god of tice for the disease, or of mercy for the Ekron take off that brand of feared morremedy ; an idol is his refuge, whether for tality which the living God hath set upon cure or intelligence. We hear not till now | Ahaziah ; let Baal-zebub make good some of Baal-zebub : this new god of flies is, better news to his distressed supplicant : perhaps, of his making, who now is a suitor rather the king of Israel is himself, without to his own erection. All these heathen his repentance, hasting to Baal-zebub. This deities were but a devil, with change of ap- errand is soon done: the messengers are pellations; the influence of that evil spirit returned, ere they go. Not a little were deluded those miserable clients; else, there they amazed to hear their secret message was no Ay so impotent as that outside of from another's mouth. neither could choose the god of Ekron. Who would think that but think, he that can tell what Ahaziah any Israelite could so far doat upon a stock said, what he thought, can foretell how he or a fiend? Time gathered much credit to shall speed. We have met with a greater this idol : insomuch as the Jews afterwards God than we went to seek; what need we styled Beel-zebub the prince of all the re- | inquire for another answer? With this gions of darkness. Ahaziah is the first that conceit, with this report, they return to brings his oracle in request, and pays him their sick lord, and astonish him with so the tribute of his devotion : he sends mes. short, so sad a relation. No marvel, if the sengers, and says, “ Go, inquire of Baal- king inquired curiously of the habit and fazebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall shion of the man that could know this, that recover of this disease.” The message was durst say this. They describe him a man, either idle or wicked: idle, if he sent it to whether of a hairy skin, or of rough, coarse, a stock; if to a devil, both idle and wicked. careless attire ; thus drest, thus girded. What can the most intelligent spirits know Ahaziah readily apprehends it to be Elijalı, of future things, but what they see either the old friend of his father Ahab, of his in their causes, or in the light of participa- mother Jezebel : more than once had he tion? What a madness was it in Ahaziah seen him, an unwelcome guest, in the court to seek to the postern, while the fore-gate of Israel. The times had been such, that stood open! Could those evil spirits truly the prophet could not at once speak true, foretell events no way pre-existent, yet they | and please : nothing but reproofs and memight not, without sin, be consulted: the naces sounded from the mouth of Elijahı. evil of their nature debars all the benefits Micaiah and he were still as welcome to of their information; if not as intelligencers, the eyes of that guilty prince, as the Syrian mich less may they be sought to as gods. / arrow was into his fesh. Too well, there. Who cannot blush to hear and see that fore, had Ahaziah noted that querulous