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forth of the ranges ; let her not be slain in the house of the Lord; and him, that followeth her, kill with the sword.
Had not this usurpation been palpable, Jehoiada would not have presumed to intermeddle; now, being both the priest of God and uncle and protector to the lawful king, he doth that, out of the necessity of the state, which his infant sovereign, if he could have been capable of those thoughts, would have desired.
Violent hands are laid upon Athaliah ; whom, no doubt, a proud and furious disdain of so quick a charge and of so rough a usage, made miserably impatient. Now she frowns, and calls, and shrieks, and commands, and threatens, and reviles, and entreats, in vain ; and dies with as much ill-will from herself, as she lived with the ill-will of her repining subjects.
I see not any one man, of all her late flatterers, that follows her, either for pity or rescue. Every man willingly gives her up to justice: not one sword is drawn in her defence: not one eye laments her. Such is the issue of a tyrannical misgovernment. That, which is obeyed not without secret hate, is lost not without public joy.
How like is Athaliah to her mother Jezebel; as in conditions and carriage, so even in death: both killed violently; both killed under their own walls; both slain with treason in their mouths ; both slain in the entrance of a changed government; one trod on by the horses, the other slain in the horse-gate! Both paid their own blood, for the innocent blood of others.
How suddenly, how easily, is Judah restored to itself, after so long and so fearful a depravation! The people scarce believe their own eyes, for the wonder of this happy change; neither know I, whether they be more joyed in the sight of their new king thus strangely preserved, or in the sight of Jehoiada that had preserved him.
No man can envy the protection of the young king unto him, by whose means he lives and reigns.
That holy man cares only, to improve his authority to the common good. He makes a covenant between the Lord, and the king, and the people ; and, after so long and dangerous a disjunction, reunites them to each other. Their revived zeal bestirs itself, and breaks down the temples, and altars, and images of Baal, and sacrifices his idolatrous priests. Shortly, both Ahab, and Baal, are destroyed out of Judah.
The sceptre of Judah is changed from a woman to a child ; but, a child, trained up and tutored by Jehoiada. This minority so guided was not inferior, to the mature age of many predecessors. Happy is that land, the non-age of whose princes falls into holy and just hands.
Yet even these holy and just hands came short of what they
might have done. The high places remained still. Those altars were erected to the true God, but in a wrong place. It is a marvel, if there be not some blemishes found in the best government. I doubt Jehoiada shall once buy it dear, that he did not his utmost.
But for the main, all was well with Judah, in all the days of Jehoiada ; even after that Joash was grown past his pupilage. He, that was the tutor to his infancy, was the counsellor of his ripe age ; and was equally happy in both.
How pleasing was it to that good high priest, to be commanded by that charge of his, in the business of God! The young king gives order to the priests, for the collection of large sums; to the repairing of the breaches of God's house. It becomes him well, to take care of that, which was the nursery
of his infancy. And now, after three-and-twenty years, he expostulates with his late guardian, Jehoiada, and the rest of his court, Why repair ye not the breaches?
Oh gracious and happy vicissitude! Jehoiada the priest had ruled the infancy of king Joash in matters of state, and now Joash the king commands aged Jehoiada the priest in matter of devotion. In the affairs of God, the action is the priest's; the oversight, and coaction, is the prince's: by the careful endeavour of both, God's house is repaired, his service flourisheth.
But alas ! that it may too well appear, that the ground of this devotion was not altogether inward, no sooner doth the life of Jehoiada cease, than the devotion of Joash begins to languish ; and, after some languor, dies. The benefit of a truly religious prelate or statesman, is not known till his loss.
Now some idolatrous peers of Judah have soon miscarried the king, from the house of the Lord God of their fathers, to serve groves and idols. Yea, whither go we wretched men, if we be left by our Maker? King Joash is turned, not idolater only, but persecutor ; yea, which is yet more horrible to consider, persecutor of the son of that Jehoiada, to whom he owes his own life. Zechariah his cousin-german, his foster-brother, the holy issue of those parents by whom Joash lives and reigns, for the conscionable rebuke of the idolatry of prince and people, is unjustly and cruelly murdered by that unthankful hand! How possible is it, for fair and saint-like beginnings, to shut up in monstrous impieties ! Let him, that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.
When did God ever put up so foul ingratitude to himself, to his servants? Oh Joash, what eyes can pity the fearful destruction of thee and thy Judah? If ye have forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada, your unkindness to Jehoiada shall not be forgotten. A small army of Syrians came up against Judah and Jerusalem, and destroyed all the princes of the people, and sent all the spoil of them to Damascus. Now Hazael revenges this quarrel of God and his anointed ; and plagues that people, which made themselves unworthy to be the Lord's inheritance.
And what becomes of Joash? He is left in great diseases, when his own servants conspired against him, for the blood of the sons of Jehoiada, and slew him on his bed, and he died ; and they buried him not in the sepulchre of the kings.
Dying Zechariah had said, in the bitterness of his departing soul, The Lord look upon it, and require it. I confess, I would rather to have heard him say, The Lord pass it over, and remit it ;" so said Stephen: such difference there is, between a martyr of the Law, and of the Gospel : although I will hope the zeal of justice, not the uncharitable heat of revenge, drew forth this word.
God hears it, and now gives an account of his notice. Thus doth the Lord require the
blood of Jehoiada's son, even by the like unthankful hand of the obliged servants of Joash. He, that was guilty of abominable idolatry, yet, as if God meant to wave that challenge, is called to reckoning, for his cruel unthankfulness to Jehoiada. This crime shall make him odious alive, and shall abandon him dead from the sepulchre of his fathers; as if this last royalty were too good for him, who had forgotten the law of humanity.
Some vices are such, as nature smiles upon, though frowned at by divine justice : others are such, as even nature itself abhors ; such is this of ingratitude, which therefore carries so much more detestation from God, as it is more odious even to them that have blotted out the image of God.
CONTEMPLATION V.-JOASH, WITH ELISHA
2 KINGS XIII.
The two kingdoms of Judah and Israel, however divided both in government and affection, yet loved to interchange the names of their kings.
Even Israel also had their Joash, no better than that of Judah. He was not more the father of a later Jeroboam, than, in respect of misworship, he was the son of the first Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. Those calves of Dan and Bethel, out of a politic misdevotion, besotted all the succession of the ten usurped tribes: yet even this idolatrous king of Israel comes down to visit the sick bed of Elisha, and weeps upon his face.
That holy prophet was never any flatterer of princes; neither spared he invectives against their most plausible sins : yet king Joash, that was beaten by his reproofs, washes that face with
the tears of love and sorrow, which had often frowned upon
How much difference there was, betwixt the Joash of Israel, and the Joash of Judah! That of Judah, having been preserved and nurtured by Jehoiada the priest, after all professions of dearness shuts up in the unkind murder of his son; and that merely for the just reproof of his own idolatry: this of Israel, having been estranged from the prophet Elisha, and sharply rebuked for the like offence, makes love to his dying reprover, and bedews his pale face with his tears. Both were bad enough; but this of Israel was, however vicious, yet good-natured : that of Judah, added to his wickedness, an ill disposition, a dogged humour. There are varieties even of evil men : some are worse at the root, others at the branch; some more civilly harmless, others fouler in morality. According to the exercise of the restraining grace, natural men do either rise or fall in their ill.
The longest day must have his evening. Good Elisha, that had lived some ninety years, a wonder of prophets, and had outworn many successions in the thrones of Israel and Judah, is now cast upon the bed of his sickness, yea, of his death. That very age might seem a disease ; which yet is seconded with a languishing distemper. It is not in the power of any holiness, to privilege us from infirmity of body, from final dissolution. He, that stretched himself upon his bed, over the dead carcass of the Shunamite's son, and revived it, must now stretch out
upon his sick bed, and die. He saw his master Elijah rapt up suddenly from the earth, and fetched by a fiery chariot from this vale of mortality; himself must leisurely wait for his last pangs, in a lingering passage to the same glory.
There is not one way appointed to us, by the Divine Providence, unto one common blessedness. One hath more pain ; another hath more speed: violence snatcheth away one; another, by an insensible pace, draws every day nearer to his term. The wisdom, and goodness, of God magnifies itself in both. Happy is he, that, after due preparation, is passed through the gates of death, ere he be aware. Happy is he, that, by the holy use of long sickness, is taught to see the gates of death afar off, and is addressed for a resolute passage : the one dies like Elijah; the other, like Elisha; both, blessedly.
The time was, when a great king sent to Elisha, to know if he should recover: now, the king of Israel, as knowing that Elisha shall not recover (so had his consumption spent him), comes to visit the dying prophet; and, when his tears would give him leave, breaks forth into a passionate exclamation, 0 my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!
Yet the calves of Dan and Bethel have left some goodness in Joash. As the best man hath something in him worthy of re
proof, so the faultiest hath something commendable. Had not the Spirit of God himself told us, that Joash did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, we had admired this piety, this reverent respect to the prophet. The holiest man could not have said more. It is possible for the clients of a false worship, to honour, out of another regard, the professors of truth. From the hand of Elisha, had Jehu, the grandfather of Joash, received his unction to the kingdom: this favour might not be forgotten.
Visitation of the sick is a duty required, both by the law of humanity and of religion : bodily infirmity is sad and comfortless; and therefore needs the presence and counsel of friends, to relieve it: although, when we draw the curtains of those that are eminently gracious, we do rather fetch, with Joash, than bring a blessing.
How sensible should we be of the loss of holy men, when a Joash spends his tears upon Elisha! If we be more affected, with the foregoing of a natural friend or kinsman, than of a noted and useful prophet, it argues more love to ourselves, than to the Church of God, than to God himself.
What use there was of chariots and horsemen in those wars of the ancient, all histories can tell us : all the strength of the battle stood in these : there could be neither defence nor offence, but by them. Such was Elisha unto Israel. The greatest safeguard to any nation is the sanctity, and faithfulness, of their prophets ; without which, the Church and state lies open to utter desolation.
The same words, that Elisha said of his master Elijah, when he saw him taken up from the earth, doth Joash now speak of Elisha, near his dissolution ; O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof!
The words were good; the tears were pious; but where are the actions ? O Joash, if the prophet were thy father, where was thy filial obedience? He cried down thy calves; thou upheldest them : he counselled thee to good; thou didst evil in the sight of the Lord. If the prophet were the chariots and horsemen of Israel, why didst thou fight against his holy doetrine ? If thou weepest for his loss, why didst thou not weep for those sins of thine, that procured it? Had thy hand answered thy tongue, Israel had been happy in Elisha ; Elisha had been happy in Israel, and thee. Words are no good trial of profession: the worst men may speak well: actions only have the power to descry hypocrites.
Yet even a Joash, thus complying, shall not go away unblessed. This outward kindness shall receive an outward retribution: these few drops of warm water shed upon the face of a prophet, shall not lose their reward.
The Spirit of Prophecy forsakes not the death-bed of Elisha.