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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE,
BARON OF WALTHAM,
MY BOUNTIFUL AND DEARLY HONOURED PATRON.
Right Honourable :- None can challenge so much right in these Meditations, as your Lordship; under whose happy shade they received their first conception. Under this juniper of yours, have I, not driven by force, but drawn by pleasure, slept thus long, sweetly, safely, and have received these angelical touches: how justly may your Lordship claim the fruits of your own favours? Your careful studies in the book of God are fit to be exemplary ; which have so enriched you, that your Teacher shall gain. In this reach of divine thoughts, you shall see Benhadad's insolence taken down by Ahab's victory; an humble, though idolatrous, Israelite, carrying it from an insulting Pagan: you shall see in Ahab, the impotent passions of greatness; in Naboth, bleeding honesty ; in Jezebel, bloody hypocrisy, cruel craft, plotting from hell, pretending from heaven. You shall see the woeful success of an unjust mercy; Ahab forfeiting what he gave; killed by him, whom he should have killed. You shall see resolute Micaiah opposing the mercenary synod of prophets, a beaten victor, an imprisoned freeman. You shall see A haziah falling through his grate; Elijah climbing up his mount, mounting up to his glory; fetching fire from heaven, fetched by a fiery chariot to heaven: Elisha, the heir of his mantle, of his spirit, no less marvellous in his beneficences, in his revenges. What do I foretell all ? Methinks I feel myself too like an Italian host, thus to meet your Lordship ou the way, and to promise beforehand your fare and entertainment: Let it please your Lordship rather to see and allow your cheer. Indeed, the feast is God's and not mine ; wherein store strives with delicacy. If my cookery hurt it not, it is enough. Through your hands, I commend it to the world; as I do your Lordship, and my honourable good Lady, to the gracious protection of the Almighty, justly vowing myself Your Lordship’s, in all faithful observance for ever to command,
CONTEMPLATION I.-AHAB AND BENHADAD.
I KINGS XX.
THERE is nothing more dangerous for any tate, than to call in foreign powers, for the suppressing of a homebred enemy. The
remedy hath oft, in this case, proved worse than the disease. Asa, king of Judah, implores the aid of Benhadad the Syrian, against Baasha king of Israel. That stranger hath good colour, to set his foot in some outskirt-towns of Israel ; and now these serve him but for the handsel of more. Such sweetness doth that Edomite find in the son of Israel, that his ambition will not take
with less than all. He, that entered as a friend, will proceed as a conqueror; and now aims at no less than Samaria itself, the heart, the head of the ten tribes. There was no cause to hope for better success, of so perfidious a league with an infidel.
Who can look for other than war, when he sees Ahab and Jezebel in the throne ; Israel in the groves and temples of Baalim? The ambition of Benhadad was not so much guilty of this war, as the idolatry of that wicked nation. How can they expect peace from earth, who do wilfully fight against heaven! Rather will the God of Hosts arm the brute, the senseless creatures against Israel, than he will suffer their defiance unrevenged.
Ahab and Benhadad are well matched ; an idolatrous Israelite, with a paganish Idumæan. Well may God plague each with other, who means vengeance to them both.
Ahab finds himself hard pressed with the siege ; and therefore is glad to enter into treaties of peace. Benhadad knows his own strength, and offers insolent conditions: Thy silver and thy gold is mine ; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. It is a fearful thing to be in the mercy of an enemy.
In case of hostility, might will carve for itself.
Ahab now, after the division of Judah, was but half a king ; Benhadad had two and thirty kings to attend him. What equality was in this opposition ? Wisely doth Ahab therefore, as a reed in a tempest, stoop to this violent charge of so potent an enemy; My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have. It is not for the overpowered, to capitulate. Weakness may not argue, but yield.
Tyranny is but drawn on by submission ; and, where it finds fear and dejection, insulteth. 'Benhadad, not content with the sovereignty of Ahab's goods, calls for the possession. Ahab had offered the dominion, with reservation of his subordinate interest: he will be a tributary, so he may be an owner: Benhadad imperiously, besides the command, calls for the propriety; and suffers not the king of Israel to enjoy those things at all, which he would enjoy but under the favour of that predominancy.
Over-strained subjection turns desperate. If conditions be imposed worse than death, there needs no long disputation of the remedy. The elders of Israel, whose share was proportionably in this danger, hearten Ahab to a denial ; 'which yet comes out so fearfully, as that it appears rather extorted by the peremp
tory indignation of the people, than proceeding out of any generosity of his spirit : neither doth he say, “I will not,” but, I
The proud Syrian, who would have taken it in foul scorn to be denied, though he had sent for all the heads of Israel, snuffs
the wind, like the wild ass in the wilderness, and brags, and threats and swears: The gods do so to me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me. Not the men, not the goods only of Samaria shall be carried away captive, but the very earth whereon it stands ; and this, with how much ease! No soldier shall need to be charged with more than a handful, to make a valley, where the mother city of Israel once stood.
O vain boaster! In whom I know not whether pride or folly be more eminent. Victory is to be achieved ; not to be sworn. Future events are no matter of an oath. Thy gods (if they had been) might have been called as witnesses of thy intentions ; not of that success, whereof thou wouldest be the author without them. Thy gods can do nothing to thee; nothing for thee : nothing for themselves. All thine Aramites shall not carry away one corn of sand out of Israel, except it be upon the soles of their feet, in their shameful flight : it is well, if they can carry back those skins that they brought thither. Let not him, thit girdeth on his harness, boast himself, as he that putteth it off. There is no cause to fear that man, that trusts in himself. Man may cast the dice of war, but the disposition of them is of the Lord.
Ahab was lewd, but Benhadad was insolent; if therefore Ahab shall be scourged with the rod of Benhadad's fear, Benhadad shall be smitten with the sword of Ahab's revenge.
Of all things, God will not endure a presumptuous and self-confident vaunter.
After Elijah's flight and complaint, yet a prophet is addressed to Ahab : Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou seen all this great multitude ? Behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord. Who can wonder enough at this unweariable mercy of God? After the fire and rain fetched miraculously from Heaven, Ahab had promised much, performed nothing ; yet again will God bless and solicit him with victory. One of those prophets, whom he persecuted to death, shall comfort his dejection, with the news of deliverance and triumph.
Had this great work been wrought without premonition, either chance, or Baal, or the golden calves, had carried away the thanks ; beforehand therefore, shall Ahab know, both the author and the means of his victory; God for the author, the two hundred thirty two young men of the princes for the means.
What are these for the vanguard, and seven thousand Israelites for the main battle, against the troops of three and thirty
kings, and as many centuries of Syrians as Israel had single soldiers ? An equality of number had taken away the wonder of the event; but now, the God of Hosts will be confessed in this issue, not the valour of men. How indifferent it is with thee, O Lord, to save by many, or by few ; to destroy many or few ! A world is no more to thee, than a man. How easy is it for thee, to enable us to be more than conquerors, over principalities and powers ; to subdue spiritual wickednesses to flesh and blood! Through thee, we can do great things ; yea, we can do all things, through thee that strengthenest us. Let not us want faith, we are sure there can be no want in thy power or mercy.
There was nothing in Benhadad's pavilions, but drink, and surfeit, and jollity; as if wine should make way for blood. Security is the certain usher of destruction. We never have so much cause to fear, as when we fear nothing.
This handful of Israel dares look out, upon the prophet's assurance, to the vast host of Benhadad.
It is enough for that proud pagan, to sit still and command amongst his cups. To defile their fingers with the blood of so few, seemed no mastery: that act would be inglorious, on the part of the victors. More easily might they bring in three heads of dead enemies, than one alive : imperiously enough, therefore, doth this boaster, out of his chair of state and ease, command: Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive ; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive. There needs no more, but, Take them : this field is won with a word. Oh the vain and ignorant presumptions of wretched men, that will be reckoning without, against, their Maker!
Every Israelite kills his man. The Syrians flee; and cannot run away from death. Benhadad and his kings are more beholding to their horses, than to their gods or themselves, for life and safety ; else they had been either taken or slain by those whom they commanded to be taken.
How easy is it for him, that made the heart, to fill it with terror and consternation, even where no fear is ! Those whom God hath destined to slaughter, he will smite; neither needs he any
other enemy or executioner, than what he finds in their own bosom. We are not the masters of our own courage or fears : both are put into us, by that over-ruling power that created us.
Stay now, Oh stay, thou great king of Syria ; and take with thee those forgotten handfuls of the dust of Israel. Thy gods will do so to thee, and more also, if thy followers return without their vowed burden. Learn now of the despised king of Israel, from henceforth not to sound the triumph before the battle; not to boast thyself, in the girding on of thy harness, as in the putting off.
I hear not of either the public thanksgiving, or amendment of Ahab. Neither danger nor victory can change him from himself.
Benhadad and he, though enemies, agree in unrepentance: the one is no more moved with mercy, than the other with judgment.
Neither is God'any changeling in his proceedings towards both. His judgment shall still follow the Syrian ; his mercy, Israel : mercy both in forewarning amd redelivering Ahab ; judgment, in overthrowing Benhadad.
The prophet of God comes again, and both foretells the intended rencounter of the Syrian, and advises the care and preparation of Israel : Go, strengthen thyself and mark, and see what thou doest ; for, at the return of the year, the king of Syria will come up against thee. God purposeth the deliverance of Israel ; yet may not they neglect their fortifications. The merciful intentions of God towards them may not make them careless. The industry and courage of the Israelites fall within the decree of their victory. Security is the bane of good success.
It is no contemning of a foiled enemy. The shame of a former disgrace and miscarriage whets his valour, and sharpens it to revenge.
No power is so dreadful, as that which is re-collected from an overthrow.
The hostility against the Israel of God may sleep, but will hardly die. If the Aramites sit still, it is but till they be fully ready for an assault : time will shew, that their cessation was only for their advantage. Neither is it otherwise with our spiritual adversaries ; sometimes their onsets are intermitted : they tempt not always; they always hate us : their forbearance is not out of favour, but attendance of opportunity. Happy are we, if, out of a suspicion of their silence, we can as busily prepare for their resistance, as they do for our impugnation.
As it is a shame to be beaten, so yet the shame is less, by how much the victor is greater. To mitigate the grief and indignation of Benhadad's foil, his parasites ascribe it to gods, not to men; a human power could no more have vanquished him, than a divine power could by him be resisted: Their gods are gods of the hills.
Ignorant Syrians, that name gods, and confine them; varying their deities, according to situations! They saw that Samaria, whence they were repelled, stood upon the hill of Shemer: they saw the temple of Jerusalem stood upon mount Sion : they knew it usual with the Israelites, to sacrifice in their high places; and perhaps they had heard of Elijah's altar upon mount Carmel : and now they sottishly measure the effects of the power, by the place of the worship; as if He, that was omnipotent on the hill, were impotent in the valley.
What doltish conceits, doth blind paganism frame to itself, of a godhead! As they have many gods, so finite. Every region, every hill, every dale, every stream hath its several gods; and each so knows his own bounds, that he dares not offer to encroach upon the other; or, if he do, buys it with loss. Who