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it. What then? It should have been there. I resolve upon the lesser evil; famine is worse fore argued, He that sent it can remove it: than the Syrian : in the famine there is I will wait upon his mercy, under whose certainty of perishing, amongst the Syrians justice I suffer. Impatience and distrust hazard; perhaps the enemy may have some shall but aggravate my judgment : “ It is pity, hunger hath none; and, were the the Lord, let him do what he will." But death equally certain, it were more easy to now to despair because God is just, to defy die by the sword, than by famine. Upon mercy because it lingers, to reject God for this deliberation they come down into the correction, it is a presumptuous madness, Syrian camp, to find either speed of mercy an impious pettishness.
or despatch. Their hunger would not give Yet, in spite of all these provocations, them respite till morning : by twilight are bo:h of king and people, Elisha hath good they fallen upon the uttermost tents: “ Be. news for Jehoram : .. Thus saith the Lord, hold, there was no man." They marvel at To-morrow, about this time, shall a mea. the silence and solitude: they look and sure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and listen; the noise of their own feet affrighted two measures of barley for a shekel, in the them; their guilty hearts supplied the Sy. gate of Samaria.” Miserable Israel now rians, and expected fearfully, those which sees an end of this hard trial ; one day's were as fearfully fled. How easily can the patience shall free them both of the siege Almighty confound the power of the strong, and famine. God's deliverances may over the policy of the wise! God puts a panic stay our expectation, not the due period of terror into the hearts of the proud Syrians; his own counsels. O infinite mercy! when he makes them hear a noise of chariots, man says, No longer. God says, “ To- and a noise of horses, even the noise of a morrow;" as if he would condescend where great host. They say one to another, he might judge, and would please them who “Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against deserve nothing but punishinent. The word us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of seemed not more comfortable than incre. the Egyptians to come upon us !” They rise dible : “ A lord, on whose hand the king therefore in a confused rout, and, leaving leaned, answered the man of God, and said, all their substance behind them, flee for Behold, if the Lord would make windows their lives. Not long before, Elisha's ser. in heaven, might this thing be.” Prophe- vant saw chariots and horses, but heard cies, before they be fulfilled, are riddles ; none : now, these Syrians hear chariots no spirit can read them, but that by which and horses, but see none : that sight com. they are delivered. It is a foolish and in forted his heart, this sound dismayed theirs. jurious infidelity, to question a possibility, The Israelites heard no noise within the where we know the message is God's: how walls ; the lepers heard no noise without easy is it for that Omnipotent hand to effect the gates; only the Syrians heard this noise those things which surpass all the reach of in their camp. What a scorn doth God human conceit! Had God intended a mi. | put upon these presumptuous Aramites ! raculous multiplication, was it not as easy he will not vouchsafe to use any substantial for him to increase the corn or meal of Sa. stratagem against them; nothing but an maria, as the widow's oil ? was it not as empty sound shall scatter them, and send easy for him to give plenty of victuals, with them home empty of substance, laden with out opening the windows of heaven, as to shame, half dead with fear: the very horses, give plenty of water, without wind or rain ? that might have hastened their flight, are The Almighty hates to be distrusted. This left tied in their tents; their very garments peer of Israel shall rue his unbelief: “ Be- are a burden; all is left behind, save their hold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but bodies, and those breathless for speed. shalt not eat thereof." The sight shall be Doubtless these Syrians knew well to what yielded for conviction; the fruition shall be miserable exigents the inclosed Israelites denied for punishment. Well is that man | were brought, by their siege ; and now made worthy to want the benefit which he would full account to sack and ransack their Sanot believe: who can pity to see infidelity maria ; already had they divided, and swalexcluded from the blessings of earth, from lowed the prey; when suddenly God puts the glory of heaven?
them into a ridiculous confusion, and sends How strange a choice doth God make of them to seek safety in their heels; no booty the intelligencers of so happy a change! is now in price with them but their life, and Four lepers sit at the entering of the gate : happy is he that can run fastest. they see nothing but death before them; | Thus the Almighty laughs at the designs fa nine within the walls, the enemy with of insolent men, and shuts up their counsels out. The election is woful: at last thev in shaine.
The fear of the four lepers began now | Israelite goes away filled, laden, wearied to give way to security : they fill their with the wealthy spoil. bellies, and hide their treasures, and pass As scarcity breeds dearth, so plenty from one tent to another, in a fastidious cheapness. To-day a measure of fine flour choice of the best commodities; they, who is lower rated, than yesterday of dung. erewhile would have held it happiness The cistrustful peer of Israel sees this enough to have been blessed with a crust, | abundance, according to the word of the now wantonly rove for dainties, and from prophet, but enjoys it not. He sees this necessity leap into excess.
plenty can come in at the gate, though the How far self-love carries us in all our windows of heaven be not open. The actions, even to the neglect of the public ! gate is his charge : the famished Israelites Not till their own bellies, and hands, and press in upon him, and bear him down in eyes, were filled, did these lepers think of the throng. Extreme hunger hath no reimparting this news to Israel. At last, spect to greatness. Not their rudeness, when themselves are glutted, they begin to but his own unbelief, hath trampled him remember the hunger of their brethen, and under feet. He that abased the power of now they find room for remorse: “ We do God by his distrust, is abased worthily to not well; this day is a day of good tidings, the heels of the multitude. Faith exalts a and we hold our peace." Nature teaches man above his own sphere; infidelity deus, that it is an injury to engross blessings, presses him into thesdust, into hell : " He and so to mind the private, as if we had no that believes not, is condemned already." relation to a community. We are worthy to be shut out of the city gates for lepers, if the respects to the public good do not oversway with us in all our desires, in all
BOOK XX. our demeanour; and well may we, with these covetous lepers, fear a mischief upon CONTEMPLATION I. - THE SAUNAMITE SUING ourselves, if we shall wilfully conceal bless TO JEHORAM; ELISHA CONFERRING WITH ings froin others.
HAZAEL. The conscience of this wrong and danger sends back the lepers into the city; they | How royally hath Elisha paid the Shuna. call to the porters, and soon transmit the mite for his lodging! To him already she news to the king's household. The king owes the life of her son, both given and of Israel complains not to have his sleep restored; and now again, after so many broken with such intelligence; he ariseth years, as might well have worn out the in the night, and not conteinning good memory of so small a courtesy, herself, her news, though brought by lepers, consults son, her family, owe their lives to so thankwith his servants of the business.
ful a guest. That table and bed, and stool We cannot be too jealous of the inten- and candlestick, were well bestowed. That tions of an enemy. Jehoram wisely sus. candlestick repaid her the light of her future pects this Aight of the Syrians to be but life and condition, that table the means of simulatory and politic, only to draw Israel maintenance, that stool a seat of safe abode, out of their city for the spoil of both. There that bed a quiet rest from the common may be more peril in the back of an enemy calamities of her nation. He is a niggard than in his face : the cruelest slaughters to himself that scants his beneficence to a have been in retiring. Easily therefore is prophet, whose very cold water shall not go the king persuaded to adventure some few unrewarded. Elijah preserved the Sarepforlorn scouts for further assurance. The tan from famine; Elisha the Shunamite: he, word of Elisha is out of his head, out of his by provision of oil and meal; this, by preheart, else there had been no place for this monition : “ Arise, and go, thou and thine doubt. Timorous hearts never think them- household, and sojourn wheresoever thou selves sure; those that have no faith, had canst sojourn." The Sareptan was poor, need of much sense.
and driven to extremes; therefore the proThose few horses that remain are sent phet provides for her from hand to mouth; forth for discovery; they find nothing but the Shunamite was wealthy; and theremonuments of frightfulness, pledges of se-fore the prophet sends her to provide for curity. Now Israel dares issue forth to the herself. The same goodness, that relieves prey: there, as if the Syrians had come our necessity, leaves our competency to the thither to enrich them, they find granaries, hand of our own counsel ; in the one he wardrobes, treasures, and whatever may will make use of his own power, in the serve either for use or ostentation. Every other of our providence.
The very prophet advises this holy client | pation: neither were they. in all likelihood, to leave the bounds of the church, and to pressed with multitude. The rest of Israel seek life, where she should not find religion. were led on with hopes, presuming upon Extremity is for the time a just dispensa. the amends of the next harvest, till their tion, with some common rules of our out-want grew desperate and irremediable; only vard demeanour and motions, even from the forewarned Shunamite prevents the better to worse. All Israel and Judah shall mischief: now she finds what it is to have be famished: the body can be preserved a prophet her friend. Happy are those souls, nowhere, but where the soul shall want. that upon all occasions consult with God's Sometimes the conveniences of the soul seers : they shall be freed from the plagues mus! yield to bodily necessities. Wanton- wherein the secure blindness of others is ness and curiosity can find no advantage heedlessly overtaken. from that which is done out of the power | Seven years had this Shunamite so. of need.
journed in Palestine ; now she returns to It is a long famine that shall afflict Israel. hier own, and is excluded. She, that found He, upon whom the spirit of Elijah was harbour among Philistines, finds oppression doubled, doubled the judgment inflicted by and violence among Israelites: those of her his master. Three years and a half did kindred, taking advantage of her absence, Israel gasp under the drought of Elijah: had shared her possessions. How oft doth seven years' dearth shall it suffer under it fall out, that the worst enemies of a man Elisha. The trials of God are many times are those of his own house! All went by not more grievous for their sharpness, than | contraries with this Shunamite: in the fa. for their continuance.
mine she had enougli, in the common plenty This scarcity shall not come alone : God she was scanted: Philistines were kind unto shall call for it: whatever be the second her, Israelites cruel. Both our fears and our cause, he is the first. The executioners of hopes do not seldom disappoint us. It is safe the Almighty (such are his judgments) stand trusting to that stay which can never fail us, ready waiting upon his just throne ; and do who can easily provide us both of friendship no sooner receive the watch-word, than in Palestine, and of justice in Israel. We they fly upon the world, and plague it for may not judge of the religion by particular sin. Only the cry of our sins moves God actions: a very Philistine may be merciful, to call for vengeance; and, if God once when an Israelite is unjust; the person may call, it must come. How oft, how earnestly, be faulty, when the profession is holy. are we called to repentance, and stir not! | It was not long since the prophet made The messengers of God's wrath fy forth that friendly offer to the Shunamite, out of at the least beck, and fulfil the will of his the desire of a thankful requital : “ What revenge upon those whose obedience would is to be done for thee? wouldst thou be not fulfil the will of 'is command
spoken for to the king, or to the captain After so many proofs of fidelity, the Shu- of the host ?" and she answered, “I dwell namite cannot distrikt the prophet; not among my brethren." Little did she then staying, therefore, to be convicted by the think of this injurious measure, else she event, she removes her family into the land might have said, I dwell among my ene. of the Philistines. No mtion was more op. mies, I dwell among robbers. It is like they posite to Israel, none more worthily odious; were then friendly, who were now cruel and yet there doth the Shunanite seek and find oppressive. There is no trust to be reposed shelter: even the shade oithose trees that in flesh and blood. How should their faare unwholesome may keep'is from a storm. vours be constant, who are, in their nature Everywhere will God find room for his own. and disposition, variable? It is the surest The fields of the Philistines flourish, while way to rely on Him who is ever like himself, the soil of Israel yields nothing but weeds the measure of whose love is eternity. and barrenness. Not that Israel was more Whither sliould the Shunamite go to sinful, but that the sin of Israel vas more in complain of her wrong, but to the court ? tolerable. The offers of grace are so many There is no other refuge of the oppressed, aggravations of wickedness. In equal of. but public authority. All justice is derived fences, those do justly smart mor, who are from sovereignty: kings are not called gods more obliged. No pestilence is so contagious for nothing; they do both sentence and exe. as that which hath taken the purest air. cute for the Almighty.
These Philistine neighbours woud never Doubtless now the poor Shunamite have endured themselves to be festered thought of the courteous proffer of Elisha, with foreigners, especially Israelites, whom and, inissing a friend at the court, is glad they hated, besides religion, for theirusur. | to be the presenter of her own petition.
How happily doth God contrive all events geance of leprosy in the one, with the for the good of his! This supplicant shall merciful resuscitation of the other! There. fall upon that instant for her suit, when the fore is thy judgment fearfully aggravated, king shall be talking with Gehazi, when because thou wouldst not yield to what Gehazi shall be talking of her to the king : thou couldst not oppose. Had not Ahab's the words of Gehazi, the thoughts of the obdurateness been propagated to his son, king, the desires of the Shunamite, shall so powerful demonstrations of divine power be all drawn together, by the wise provi.could not have been uneffectual. Wicked dence of God, into the centre of one mo- | hearts are so much worse, by how much ment, that his oppressed servant might God is better : this an vil is the harder by receive a speedy justice. O the infinite being continually beaten upon, whether wisdom, power, mercy of our God, that in with judgments or mercy. sensibly orders all our ways, as to his own Yet this good use will God have made holy purposes, so to our best advantage ! of this report, and this presence, that the
What doth Jehoram, the king, talking poor Shunamite shall have justice. That with Gehazi the leper ? That very presence son, whose life was restored, shall have his was an eye-sore.
inheritance revived: his estate shall fare But if the cohabitation with the infec. the better for Elisha's miracles. How much tious were forbidden, yet not the confer. more will our merciful God second his own ence. Certainly I begin to think of some blessings, when the favours of unjust men goodness in both these. Had there not are therefore drawn to us, because we have been some goodness in Jehoram, he had been the subjects of divine beneficence! not taken pleasure to hear, even from a It was a large and full award, that this leprous mouth, the miraculous acts and occurrence drew from the king: “ Restore praises of God's prophet. Had there not all that was hers, and all the fruits of the been some goodness in Gehazi, he had not, | field, since the day that she left the land, after so fearful an infliction of judgment, even until now." Not the present possession thus ingenuously recounted the praises of only is given her, but the arrearages. his severe master. He, that told that dear Nothing hinders but thit outward jus. bought lie to the prophet, tells now all tice may stand with gross idolatry. The truths of the prophet to the king. Perhaps widow may thank Elisha for this : his mi. his leprosy had made him clean; if so, racle wrought still, and puts this new life happy was it for him that his forehead was | in her dead estate; his absence did that for white with the disease, if his soul became the preservation of life, which his presence hereupon white with repentance: but we did for the restoring it from death. She may well know that the desire or report that was so ready to expostulate with the of historical truths doth not always argue man of God upon the loss of her son, grace. Still Jehoram, after the inquiry of might, perhaps, have been as ready to imthe prophet's miracles, continues in idola. pute the loss of her estate to his advice. try. He, that was curious to hearken after Now, that for his seke she is enriched with the wonders of Elisha, is not careful to fol. her own, how doth she bless God for so low his doctrine : therefore are Gehazi and | happy a guest! When we have forgotten the Shunamite met before him, that he may our own good tunis, God remeinbers and be convicted, who will not be reformed. | crowns them. Let us do good to all while Why was it else, that the presence of the we have time, but especially to the house. persons should thus unexpectedly make hold of faith. good the relation, if God had not meant | Could Israe' have been sensible of their the inexcusableness of Jehoram, while he own condition it was no small unhappiness must needs say within himself, Thus po- to lose the p'esence of Elisha. Whether tent is the prophet of that God whom I for the idolaries, or for the famine of Isobey not. Were not Elisha's the true God, rael, the prophet is gone into Syria, no how could he work such wonders ? and if doubt Naanan welcomed him thither, and he be the true God. why is he not mine? now woula force upon him thanks for his But what — shall I change Ahab's god for cure, which the man of God would not Jehoshaphat's ? No; I cannot deny the receive a: home. miracles, I will not admit of the author : ! How amous is he now grown that was let Elisha be powerful, I will be constant taken from the team! His name is not conO wretched Jehoram! how much better had fined to liis own nation : foreign countries it been for thee never to have seen the face take notice of it, and kings are glad to listen of Gehazi, and the son of the Shunamite, after him, and woo him with presents. Benthan to go away unmoved with the ven. hadal, the king of Syria, whose counsels
he had detected, rejoiceth to hear of his l. The seer of God descries more in Hazael, presence; and now, as having forgotten than he could see in himself; he fixes his that he had sent a whole host to besiege eyes, therefore, stedfastly in the Syrian's the prophet in Dothan, sends an honourable face, as one that in those lines read the messenger to him, laden with the burden of bloody story of his life. forty camels, to consult with this oracle Hazael blushes; Elisha weeps. The inconcerning his sickness and recovery. tention of those eyes did not so much amaze : This Syrian, belike, in his distress, dares Hazael, as the tears : as yet, he was not not trust to his own gods; but, having had guilty to himself of any wrong that might good proof of the power of the God of Is. strain out this juice of sorrow: “ Why rael, both in Naaman's cure, and in the weepeth my lord ?" miraculous defeats of his greatest forces, is The prophet fears not to foretell Hazael glad to send to that servant of God whom all the villanies which he should once do he had persecuted. Wicked men are not to Israel; how he should fire their forts, the same in health and in sickness: their and kill their young men, and rip the affliction is worthy of the thanks, if they be mothers, and dash their children. I marwell-minded, not themselves.
vel not now at the tears of those eyes, Doubtless the errand of Benhadad was which foresaw this miserable vastation of not only to inquire of the issue of his dis- the inheritance of God; the very mention ease, bui to require the prayers of the pro- whereof is abhorred of the future author: phet for a good issue. Even the worst “ What, is thy servant a dog, that I should man doch so love himself, that he can be do this great thing ?" They are savage cruelcontent to make a beneficial use of those ties whereof thou speakest: it were more instruments whose goodness he hateth. fit for me to weep, that thou shouldst re.
Hazael, the chief peer of Syria, is de- pute me so brutish : I should no less consigned to this message : the wealth of his demn myself for a beast, if I could suspect present strives with the humility of his car- | my own degeneration so far. Wicked men riage and speech: “ Thy son, Benhadad, are carried into those heights of impiety, king of Syria, hath sent me to thee, saying, which they could not, in their good mood, Shall I recove of this disease?" Not long have possibly believed : nature is subject since, Jehoram king of Israel, had said to to favourable opinions of herself, and will Elisha, “ My father, shall I smite them ?" rather mistrust a prophet of God, than her and now Benhadad, king of Syria, says, own good disposition. How many, from “ My father, shal. I recover?" Lo, how this honest beginnings, have risen to incredible poor Meholathite hath kings to his sons! | licentiousness! whose lives are now such, How great is the innour of God's prophets that it were as hard for a man to believe with pagans, with princes! Who can be they had ever been good, as to have per. but confounded to se evangelical prophets suaded them once they should prove so despised by the mearest Christians ? desperately ill.
It is more than a sngle answer that the To give some overture unto Hazael of prophet returns to ths message: one an. the opportunity of this ensuing mischief, swer he gives to Benhalad that sent it, an the prophet foretells him, from God, that other he gives to Hazae that brings it: that he shall be the king of Syria. to Benhadad is, “ Thou mayest surely re- ! He that shows the event, doth not apcover ;" that to Hazael, “ The Lord hath point the means. Far was it from the showed me that he shall strely die." What spirit of God's prophet to set or encourage shall we say then? Is there a lie, or an a treason : while he said, therefore, “ 'Thou equivocation in the holy muth of the pro. shalt be king of Syria,” he said not, Go phet? God forbid. It is one thing, what home and kill thy master. The wicked shall be the nature and issue of the disease; ambition of Hazael draws this damnable another thing, what may outwardly befall conclusion out of holy premises ; and now, the person of Benhadad : the question is having fed the hopes of his sovereign with moved of the former, wherete the answer the expectation of recovery, the next day is direct, The disease is not nortal ; but, he smothers his master. The impotent withal, an intimation is given to the bearer, desire of rule brooks no delay. Had not of an event beyond the reaca of his de- Hazael been gracelessly cruel, after he had mand, which he may know, lut either received this prediction of the seer, he need not, or may not return: “ the Lord should have patiently waited for the crown hath showed me that he shall surely die," of Syria, till lawful means had set it upon by another means, though not by the dis. his head: now he will, by a close execucase.
| tion, make way to the throne. A wet cloth