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exchange that Gehazi hath made with It well becomes the sons of the prophets Naaman: Naaman came a leper ; returned to enterprise nothing without the allowance a disciple: Gehazi came a disciple; returned of their superiors. Here was a building a leper: Naaman left behind both his dis- | towards none of the curiousest. I do not ease and his money; Gehazi takes up both | see them making means for the procurement his money and his disease. Now shall | of some cunning artificers, nor for the conGehazi never look upon himself, but he quisition of some costly marbles and cedars ; shall think of Naaman, whose skin is trans- but every man shall hew, and square, and ferred upon him with those talents, and frame his own beam. No nice terms were shall wear out the rest of his days in shame, stood upon by these sons of the prophets ; in pain, and sorrow. His tears may wash their thoughts were fixed upon the perfec. off the guilt of his sin, but shall not, like | tion of a spiritual building: as a homely roof another Jordan, wash off his leprosy; that may serve them, so their own hands shall shall ever remain as a hereditary monument raise it. The fingers of these contempla. of divine severity. This son of the pro- tive men did not scorn the axe, and mallet, phet shall more loudly and lively preach and chisel : it was better being there than the justice of God by his face, than others in Obadiah's cave; and they that dwell by their tongue. Happy was it for him, if, now contentedly under rude sticks, will not while his skin was snow-white with leprosy, refuse the squared stones and polished conhis humbled soul was washed white as snow tignations of better times. They shall be ill with the water of true repentance.
teachers of others, that have not learnt both to want and to abound.
The master of this sacred society, Elisha, CONTEMPLATION IX. - ELISHA RAISING THE is not stately, nor austere: he gives not IRON; BLINDING THE ASSYRIANS. only passage to this motion of his colle
giates, but assistance. It was fit the sons There was no loss of Gehazi : when he of the prophets should have convenience of was gone, the prophets increased. An ill dwelling, though not pomp, not costliness. man in the church is but like some shrubby They fall to their work: no man goes slackly tree in a garden, whose shade keeps better about the building of his own house. One plants from growing: a blank doth better of them, more regarding the tree than the in a room, than an ill filling. The view of tool, lets fall the head of the axe into the God's just judgments doth rather draw river. Poor men are sensible of small losses: clients unto him, than alienate them. The he makes his moan to Elisha, “Alas, master, kings of Israel had succeeded in idolatry for it was borrowed." Had the axe been and hate of sincere religion, yet the pro- | his own, the trouble had been the less to pliets multiply : persecution enlargeth the forego it: therefore doth the miscarriage bounds of the church. These very tem- afflict him, because it was of a borrowed pestuous showers bring up flowers and axe. Honest minds are more careful of herbs in abundance : there would have what they have by loan than by propriety. been neither so many, nor so zealous pro. In lending there is a trust, which a good phets, in the languishment of peace. Be- heart cannot disappoint without vexation. sides, what marvel is it if the immediate Alas! poor novices of the prophet, they succession of two such noble leaders, as would be building, and were not worth their Elijah and Elisha, established and aug. | axes; if they would give their labour, they mented religion, and bred multitudes of must borrow their instruments. prophets ? Rather who can marvel, upon Their wealth was spiritual ; outward pothe knowledge of all their miracles, that | verty may well stand with inward riches : all Israel did not prophesy? It is a good he is rich, not that hath the world, but that hearing that the prophets want elbow-room can contemn it. out of their store, not out of the envy of Elisha loves and cherishes this just simneighbours, or incompetency of provision : plicity: rather will he work a miracle, than where vision fails, the people perish; they a borrowed axe shall not be restored. It are blessed where it abounds.
might easily be imagined, he that could When they found themselves straitened, raise up the iron out of the bottom of the they did not presume to carve for them- | water, could tell where it fell in : yet even selves, but they craved the leave, the that powerful hand calls for direction. In counsel of Elisha: “ Let us go, we pray this one point the son of the prophet knows thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every more than Elisha. The notice of particu. man a beam, and let us make us a place larities is neither fit for a creature, nor com. where we may dwell: and he said, Go ye.” |municable: a mean man may best know his
own case : this novice better knows where I worshipped a false ; that, if it were pos. his axe fell, than his master; his master sible, he might win them, he will preserve knows better how to get it out than he. them; and, if they will needs be wanting
There is no reason to be given of super. to God, yet Elisha will not be wanting to natural actions: the prophet borrows anthem. Their impiety shall not make him axe to cut a helve for the lost axe, why did | undutiful. he not make use of that handle which had There cannot be a juster cause of discast the head? Did he hold it unworthy pleasure, than the disclosing of those secret of respect, for that it had abandoned the counsels which are laid up in our ear, in metal wherewith it was trusted ? or did he our breast. The king of Syria, not without make choice of a new stick, that the miracle reason, stomachs this supposed treachery. might be the more clear and unquestion. What prince can bear that an adverse able? Divine power goes a contrary way power should have a party, a pensionary, in to art: we first would have procured the | his own court? How famous was Elisha, head of the axe, and then would have fitted even in foreign regions! Besides Naaman, it with an helve: Elisha fits the head to others of the Syrian nobility take notice of the helve, and causeth the wood, which the miraculous faculties of this prophet of was light, and knew not how to sink, to Israel. He is accused for this secret intel. fetch up the iron, which was heavy, and ligence: no words can escape him, though naturally incapable of supernatation. Whe-spoken in the bed-chamber. O Syrian! whother the metal were stripped of the natural soever thou wert, thou saidst not enough: weight, by the same power which gave it if thy master do but whisper in thine ear, being, or whether, retaining the wonted if he smother his words within his own lips, poise, it was raised by some spiritual ope. if he do but speak within his own bosom, ration, I inquire not: only, I see it swim Elisha knows it from an infallible informa. like cork upon the stream of Jordan, and tion. What counsel is it, () God, that can move towards the hand that lost it. What be hid from thee! what counsel is it that creature is not willing to put off the pro.thou wilt hide from thy seer! Even this perties of nature, at the command of the very word, that accuseth the prophet, is God of nature! O God, how easy is it for known to the accused. He hears this tale thee, when this hard and heavy heart of while it is in telling; he hears the plot for mine is sunk down into the mud of the his apprehension. How ill do the projects world, to fetch it up again by thy mighty of wicked men hang together! They that word, and cause it to float upon the streams confess Elisha knows their secretest words, of life, and to see the face of heaven again ! do yet confer to take him. There are spies
Yet still do the sides of Israel complain upon him, whose espials have moved their of the thorns of Aram : the children of anger and admiration. He is described to Ahab rue their father's unjust mercy. From be in Dothan, a small town of Manasseh. an enemy, it is no making question whether a whole army is sent hither to surprise of strength or wile. The king of Syria con- | him : the opportunity of the night is chosen sults with his servants, where to encamp for the exploit. There shall be no want for his greatest advantage: their opinion is either in the number, or valour, or secresy not more required than their secresy. Eli. of these conspired troops : and now, when sha is a thousand scouts: he sends word they have fully girt in the village with a to the king of Israel of the projects, of the strong and exquisite siege, they make themremoves of his enemy. More than once selves sure of Elisha, and please themselves had Jehoram saved bath his life and his to think how they have encaged the mise. host by these close admonitions : it is well, rable prophet; how they should take him that in something yet a prophet may be at unawares in his bed, in the midst of a obeyed. What strange state-service was secure dream; how they should carry him this which Elisha did, besides the spiritual! fettered to their king : what thanks they The king, the people of Israel, owe them. should have for so welcoine a prisoner. selves and their safety to a despised pro- The successor of Gehazi riseth early in phet. The man of God knew and felt the morning, and seeth all the city encom. them idolaters; yet how careful and vigi. I passed with a fearful host of foot, horse, lant is he for their rescue! If they were chariots : his eyes could meet with nothing bad, yet they were his own: if they were but woods of pikes, and walls of harness, bad, yet not all; God had his number and lustre of metals; and now he runs in amongst their worst: if they were bad, yet affrighted to his master: “ Alas, niy master, the Syrians were worse. The Israelites what shall we do?” He had day enough mis-worshipped the true God; the Syrians to see they were enemies that environed them; to see himself helpless and desperate; I heavenly presidiaries struck a stroke for the and hath only so much life left in him, as prophet, neither doth he require their blows; to lament himself to the partner of his only he turns his prayer to his God, and misery. He cannot flee from his new mas- and says, “ Smite this people, I pray thee, ter, if he would; he runs to him with a with blindness.” With no other than deadwoful clamour: “ Alas, nav master, what ly intentions did those Aramites come down shall we do?"
to Elisha, yet doth he not say, Smite them O the undaunted courage of faith! Elisha with the sword, but, “ Smite them with sees all this, and sits in his chamber so se- blindness." All the evil he wisheth to them cure, as if these had only been the guard of is their repentance: there was no way to Israel, for his safe protection. It is a hard see their error, but by blindness. He that precept that he gives his servant : “ Fear prayed for the opening of his servant's eyes not." As well might he have bid him not to see his safeguard, prays for the blinding to see when he saw, as not to fear when he of his enemies, that they might not see to saw so dreadful a spectacle. The opera | do hurt. tions of the senses are no less certain than As the eyes of Elisha's servant were so those of the affections, where the objects shut, that they saw not the angels when are no less proper. But the task is easy, they saw the Syrians; so the eyes of the if the next word may find belief: “For there Syrians shall be likewise shut, that, when are more with us than with them.” Multi- they see the man, they shall not see the tude, and other outward probabilities, do prophet. To all other objects their eyes both lead the confidence of natural hearts, are clear, only to Elisha they shall be blind ; and fix it. It is for none but David to say, blind, not through darkness, but through “ I will not be afraid of ten thousands of misknowledge : they shall see and mistake people, that have set themselves against me both the person and place. He that made round about." Flesh and blood riseth and the senses, can either hold or delude them falleth, according to the proportion of the at pleasure : how easily can he offer to the strength or weakness of apparent means. siglit other representations than those which
Elisha's man looked about him; yet his arise from the visible matter, and make the master prays, “ Lord, open his eyes, that heart to believe them! he may see.” Naturally we see not while | Justly now might Elisha say, “ This is we do see; every thing is so seen as it is : not the way, neither is this the city," wherebodily eyes discern bodily objects; only spi. in Elisha shall be descried. He was in ritual can see the things of God. Some men Dothan, but not as Elisha ; he shall not be want both eyes and light : Elisha's servant found but in Samaria ; neither can they had eyes, wanted illuinination; no sooner have any guide to him but himself. No were his eyes open, than he saw the moun-sooner are they come into the streets of tain full of horses and chariots of fire round Samaria, than their eyes have leave to know about Elisha. They were there before ; | both the place and the prophet. The first neither doth Elisha pray that those troops | sight they have of themselves is in the trap may be gathered, but that they may be seen: of Israel, in the jaws of death. Those not till now were they descried. Invisible stately palaces, which they now wonder at armies guard the servants of God, while unwillingly, carry no resemblance to them they seem most forsaken of earthly aid, but of their graves. Every Israelite seems most exposed to certain dangers. If the an executioner, every house a jail, every eyes of our faith be as open as those of our beam a gibbet : and now they look upon sense, to see angels as well as Syrians, we Elisha, transformed from their guide to their cannot be appalled with the most unequal common murderer, with horror and pale. terms of hostility. Those blessed spirits ness. It is most just with God to entangle are ready either to rescue our bodies, or to the plotters of wickedness in their own carry up our souls to blessedness; which- / snare. soever shall be enjoined by their Maker, How glad is a mortal enemy to snatch at there is just comfort in both, in either. all advantages of revenge! Never did the
Both these chariots that came to fetch / king of Israel see a more pleasing sight, than Elijah, and those that came to defend Eli- so many Syrian throats at his mercy; and, sha, were fiery. God is not less lovely to as loath to lose so fair a day, as if his fingers his own in the midst of his judgments, than itched to be dipt in blood, he says, “ My he is terrible to his enemies in the demon- father, shall. I smite them, shall I smite stration of his mercies. Thus guarded, it them ?" The repetition argued desire, the is no marvel if Elisha dare walk forth into compellation reverence. Not without al. the midst of the Syrians. Not one of those lowance of a prophet, would the king of Israel lav his hand upon an enemy, so mira- | forbearance of some hostile inroad, all the culously trained home. His heart was still forces of Syria are mustered against Jeho. foul with idolatry, yet would he not taint ram. That very Samaria, which had rehis hand withi forbidden blood. Hypocrisy lieved the distressed Aramites, is by the will be still scrupulous in something; and Aramites besieged, and is famished by those in some awful restraints, is a perfect coun. whom it had fed. The famine within the terfeit of conscience.
walls was more terrible than the sword The charitable prophet soon gives an without. Their worst enemy was shut with. angry prohibition of slaughter: "Thou shalt in, and could not be dislodged of their own not smite them : wouldst thou smite those bowels. Whither hath the idolatry of whom thou hast taken captive with thy Israel brought them! Before they had sword and with thy bow?" as if he had said been scourged with war, with drought, with These are God's captives, not thine; and dearth, as with a single cord; they remain if they were thine own, their blood could incorrigible: and now God twists two of not be shed without cruelty. Though in these bloody lashes together, and galls them the hot chases of war, executions may be even to death : there needs no other exejustifiable; yet in the coolness of delibera- cutioners than their own maws. Those tion, it can be no other than inhuman, to things, which in their nature were not editake those lives which have been yielded to ble, at least to an Israelite, were now both mercy. But here, thy bow and thy sword dear and dainty. The ass was, besides the are guiltless of the success; only a strange untoothsomeness, an inipure creature. That providence of the Almighty hath cast them which the law of ceremonies had made un. into thine hands, whom neither thy force clean, the law of necessity had made deli. nor thy fraud could have compassed. If cate and precious: the bones of so carrion it be victory thou aimest at, overcome them a head could not be picked for less than four with kindness; “ Set bread and water be-hundred pieces of silver. Neither was this fore them, that they may eat and drink.” | scarcity of victuals only, but of all other O noble revenge of Elisha, to feast his per- necessaries for human use: that the belly secutors ! to provide a table for those who might not complain alone, the whole man had provided a grave for him! These was equally pinched. Syrians came to Dothan full of bloody pur. The king of Israel is neither exempted poses, to Elisha: he sends them from Sa- from the judgment, nor yet yields under it. maria full of good cheer and jollity. Thus, He walks upon the walls of his Samaria, to thus should a prophet punish his pursuers. oversee the watches set, the engines ready, No vengeance but this is heroical, and fit the guards changed, together with the pos. for Christian imitation. “ If thine enemy ture of the enemy; when a woman cries to hunger, give him bread to eat ; if he thirst, him out of the city, “ Help, my lord, O give him water to drink ; for thou shalt king." Next to God, what refuge have we heap coals of fire upon his head; and the in all our necessities, but his anointed ? Lord shall reward thee. Be not overcome Earthly sovereignty can aid us in the case with evil, but overcome evil with good." of the injustice of men, but what can it do
The king of Israel hath done that by his against the judgments of God ? “ If the feast, which he could not have done by bis Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help sword. The bands of Syria will no more thee? out of the barn-floor, or out of the come by way of ambush or incursion into wine press?" Even the greatest powers the bounds of Israel. Never did a chari. must stoop to afflictions in themselves : table act go away without the retribution how should they be able to prevent them of a blessing. In doing some good to our in others ? To sue for aid, where is an utter enemies, we do most good to ourselves. impotence of redress, is but to upbraid the God cannot but love in us this imitation of weakness, and aggravate the misery, of his mercy, who bids his sun shine and his those whom we implore. Jehoram mistakes rain fall where he is most provoked; and the suit : the supplicant calls to him for a that love is never fruitless.
woful piece of justice. Two mothers have agreed to eat their sons: the one hatha yield.
ed hers to be boiled and eaten ; the other, CONTEMPLATION X. — THE FAMINE OF after she had taken her part of so prodiSAMARIA RELIEVED.
gious a banquet, withdraws her child, and
hides him from the knife. Hunger and Not many good turns are written in mar- envy make the plaintiff importunate; and ble : soon have these Syrians forgotten the now she craves the benefit of royal justice. Merciful beneficence of Israel. After the She that made the first motion, withholds her part of tlie bargain, and flies from that siege, though through much hardness be promise, whose trust had made this mother foresaw the deliverance. In all this, hos childless. O the direful effects of famine, hath Elisha forfeited his head? All Israel that turns off all respects of nature, and did not afford a head so guiltless, as this gives no place to horror, causing the tender that was destined to slaughter. This is mother to lay her hands, yea her teeth, the fashion of the world: the lewd blame upon the fruit of her own body, and to re- the innocent, and will revenge their own ceive that into her stomach, which she hath sins upon others' uprightness. brought forth of her womb! What should | In the midst of all this sad estate of SamaJehoram do? The match was monstrous; ria, and those storms of Jehoram, the prothe challenge was just, yet unnatural. This phet sits quietly in his own house, amongst complainant had purchased one half of the his holy consorts, bewailing, no doubt, both living child, by the one half of hers dead. the sins and misery of their people, and The mother of the surviving infant is pres. prophetically conferring of the issue ; when sed by covenant, by hunger; restrained by suddenly God reveals to him the bloods nature. To force a mother to deliver up intent and message of Jehoram, and he at her child to voluntary slaughter, had been once reveals it to his fellows: “ See ye hox cruel ; to force a debitor to pay a confessed this son of a murderer hath sent to take arrearage, seemed but equal. If the re-away mine head ?" O the inimitable liberty maining child be not dressed for food, this of a prophet! The same God that showed mother of the devoured child is both rob- him his danger, suggested his words: he bed and famished: if he be, innocent blood may be bold, where we must be awful. Still is shed by authority. It is no marvel if is Naboth's blood laid in Jehoram's dish; the question astonished the judge; not so the foul act of Ahab blemisheth his postemuch for the difficulty of the demand, as rity; and now, when the son threatens viothe horror of the occasion. To what la- lence to the innocent, murder is objected inentable distress did Jehoram find his to him as hereditary. people driven ! Not without cause did the | He, that foresaw his own peril, provides king of Israel rend his garments, and show for his safety : “ Shut the door, and hold his sackcloth; well might he see his people him fast at the door." No man is bound to branded with that ancient curse, which God tender his throat to an unjust stroke: this had denounced against the rebellious: “The bloody commission was prevented by a proLord shall bring a nation against thee of a phetical foresight. The same eve that sa fierce countenance, which shall not regard the executioner coming to smite him, say the person of the old, nor show favour to also the king hastening after him to stay the the young; and he shall besiege thee in all blow: the prophet had been no other than thy gates; and thou shalt eat the fruit of guilty of his own blood, if he had not re thine own body, the flesh of thy sons, and served himself awhile, for the rescue of au. of thy daughters. The tender and delicate thority. O the inconstancy of carnal hearts! woman, her eyes shall be evil towards her It was not long since Jehoram could say to young one that cometh out between her Elisha, “ My father, shall I smite them feet, and toward the children which she now he is ready to smite him as an enemy, shall bear, for she shall eat them for want whom he honoured as a father ; yet again of all things, secretly in the siege and strait- his lips had no sooner given sentence of ness." He mourns for the plague; he mourns death against the prophet, than his feet not for the cause of this plague, his sin, and stir to recal it. theirs : I find his sorrow, I find not his re It should seem that Elisha, upon the pentance. The worst man may grieve for challenges and expostulations of Jehoram's his smart; only the good heart grieves for messenger, had sent a persuasive message, his offence. Instead of being penitent, Je- to the king of Israel, yet awhile to wait horam is furious, and turns his rage from patiently upon God for his deliverance. The his sins, against the prophet : “ God do so discontented prince flies off in an impotent to me, and more also, if the head of Elisha, anger: “ Behold, this evil is of the Lord, the son of Shaphat, shall stand on him this what should I wait for the Lord any longer :" day." Alas! what hath the rigliteous done? | O the desperate resolutions of impatient Perhaps Elisha, that we may imagire some minds! They have stinted God both for colours of this displeasure, forethreatened his time and his measure: if he exceed this judgment, but they deserved it: per- either, they either turn their backs upon haps he might have averted it by his pray- him, or fly in his face. The position was ers; their unrepentance disabled him: per- true; the inference deadly. All that evil haps he persuaded Jehoram to hold out the was of the Lord : they deserved it; he sent