Obrázky stránek

who are advanced above others, have so much more need of the guard, both of their own vigilancy and others' prayers.

Jehoshaphat had like to have paid dear for his love. He is pursued for him, in whose amity he offended. His cries deliver him: his cries, not to his pursuers, but to his God; whose

mercy takes not advantage of our infirmity, but rescues us from those evils, which we wilfully provoke. It is Ahab, against whom, not the Syrians only, but God himself intends this quarrel. The enemy is taken off from Jehoshaphat.

o the just and mighty hand of that Divine Providence, which directeth all our actions to his own ends; which takes order, where every shaft shall light ; and guides the arrow of the strong archer, into the joints of Ahab's harness! It was shot at a venture; falls by a destiny; and there falls, where it may carry death to a hidden debtor. In all actions, both voluntary and casual, thy will, O God, shall be done by us, with whatever intentions. Little did the Syrian know whom he had stricken ; no more than the arrow, wherewith he struck. An invisible hand disposed of both, to the punishment of Ahab, to the vindication of Micaiah. How worthily, O God, art thou to be adored, in thy justice and wisdom: to be feared, in thy judgments !

Too late, doth Ahab now think of the fair warnings of Micaiah, which he unwisely contemned ; of the painful flatteries of Zedekiah, which he stubbornly believed. That guilty blood of his runs down out of his wound, into the midst of his chariot, and pays Naboth his arrearages. O Ahab, what art thou the better for thine ivory house, while thou hast a black soul? What comfort hast thou now in those flattering prophets, which tickled thine ears and secured thee of victories? What joy is it to thee now, that thou wast great?

Who would not rather be Micaiah in the gaol, than Ahab in the chariot? Wicked men have the advantage of the way; godly men, of the end.

The chariot is washed in the pool of Samaria : the dogs come to claim their due ; they lick up the blood of the king of Israel. The tongues of those brute creatures shall make good the tongue of God's prophet. Micaiah is justified ; Naboth is revenged : the Baalites, confounded ; Ahab, judged : Righteous art thou, O God, in all thy ways, and holy in all thy works.

[ocr errors]



2 KINGS 1. AHAZIAH succeeded his father Ahab, both in his throne and in his sin. Who could look for better issue of those loins, of those examples ?

God follows him with a double judgment; of the revolt of Moab, and of his own sickness. All the reign of Ahab, had Moab been a quiet tributary; and furnished Israel with rich flocks and fleeces : now their subjection dies with that warlike king, and will not be inherited. This rebellion took advantage, as from the weaker spirits, so from the sickly body of Ahaziah ; whose disease was not natural, but casual. Walking in his palace of Samaria, some grate in the floor of his chamber breaks under him ; and gives way to that fall, whereby he is bruised and languisheth. The same hand, that guided Ahab's shaft, cracks Ahaziah's lattice. How infinite variety of plagues, hath the just God for obstinate sinners! Whether in the field or in the chamber, he knows to find them out. How fearlessly did Ahaziah walk on his wonted pavement! The Lord hath laid a trap for him, whereinto, while he thinks least, he falls irrecoverably. No place is safe for the man, that is at variance with God.

The body of Ahaziah was not more sick, than his soul was graceless. None but chance was his enemy; none but the god of Ekron must be his friend. He looks not up to the omnipotent hand of divine justice for the disease, or of mercy for the remedy: an idol is his refuge ; whether for cure, or intelligence.

We hear not till now of Baal-zebub. This new god of flies is, perhaps, of his making, who now is a suitor to his own erection. All these heathen deities were but a devil, with change of appellations: the influence of that evil spirit deluded those miserable clients; else, there was no fly so impotent, as that outside of the god of Ekron. Who would think, that any Israelite could so far doat upon a stock, a fiend?

Time gathered much credit to this idol ; insomuch as the Jews afterwards styled Beel-zebub, the prince of all the regions of darkness. Ahaziah is the first that brings his oracle in request, and pays him the tribute of his devotion. He sends messengers, and says, Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease.

The message was either idle or wicked : idle, if he sent it to a stock ; if to a devil, both idle and wicked. What can the most intelligent spirits know of future things, but what they see either in their causes, or in the light of participation? What a madness was it in Ahaziah, to seek to the postern, while the foregate stood open! Could those evil spirits truly foretel events no way pre-existent, yet they might not, without sin, be consulted. The evil of their nature debars all the benefits of their information. If not as intelligencers, much less may they be sought to, as gods. Who cannot blush, to hear and see, that even the very evangelical Israel should yield pilgrims to the shrines of darkness? How many, after this clear light of the Gospel, in their losses, in their sicknesses, send to these infernal oracles; and damn themselves wilfully, in a vain curiosity!

[ocr errors]


The message of the jealous God intercepts them, with a just disdain, as here by Elijah : Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron ? What can be a greater disparagement to the true God, than to be neglected ; than to stand aside, and see us make love to a hellish rival? Were there no God in Israel, in heaven, what could we do other? what worse?

This affront, of whatever kind, Ahaziah cannot escape without a revenge ; Therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed, on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. It is a high indignity to the true God, not to be sought to in our necessities ; but so to be cashiered from our devotions, as to have a false god thrust in his room, is such a scorn, as it is well if it can escape with one death.

Let now the famous god of Ekron take off that brand of feared mortality, which the living God hath set upon Ahaziah. Let Baal-zebub make good some better news to his distressed suppliant. Rather the king of Israel is himself, without his repentance, hasting to Beel-zebub.

This errand is soon done. The messengers are returned, ere they go. Not a little were they amazed, to hear their secret message from another's mouth; neither could chuse but think, “He, that can tell what Ahaziah said, what he thought, can foretel how he shall speed: we have met with a greater god, than we went to seek : what need we inquire for another answer ? With this conceit, with this report, they return to their sick lord ; and astonish him with so short, so sad a relation.

No marvel, if the king inquired curiously of the habit, and fashion of the man, that could know this; that durst say this. They describe him a man whether of a hairy skin, or of rough, coarse, careless attire ; thus drest, thus girded. Ahaziah readily apprehends it to be Elijah, the old friend of his father Ahab, of his mother Jezebel. More than once had he seen him, an unwelcome guest, in the court of Israel. The times had been such, that the prophet could not, at once, speak true and please. Nothing but reproofs and menaces sounded from the mouth of Elijah. Micaiah and he were still as welcome to the


of that guilty prince, as the Syrian arrow was into his flesh. Too well therefore had Ahaziah noted that querulous seer; and now is not a little troubled, to see himself, in succession, haunted with that bold and ill-boding spirit.

Behold the true son of Jezebel : the anguish of his disease, the expectation of death, cannot take off the edge of his persecution of Elijah. It is against his will, that his death-bed is not bloody. Had Ahaziah meant any other than a cruel violence to Elijah, he had sent a peaceable messenger, to call him to the court ; he had not sent a captain, with a band of soldiers, to fetch him. The instruments which he useth, carry revenge in their face.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


If he had not thought Elijah more than a man, what needed a band of fifty, to apprehend one ? and if he did think him such, why would he send to apprehend him by fifty ? Surely, Ahaziah knew of old, how miraculous a prophet Elijah was : what power that man had over all their base deities; what command of the elements, of the heavens; and yet he sends to attach him. It is a strange thing, to see how wilfully godless men striye against the stream of their own hearts; hating that, which they know good ; fighting against that, which they know divine.

What a gross disagreement is in the message of this Israelitish captain! Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. If he were a man of God, how hath he offended? And if he have justly offended the anointed of God, how is he a man of God? And if he be a man of God, and have not offended, why should he come down to punishment? Here is a kind confession, with a false heart, with bloody hands. The world is full of those windy courtesies, real cruelties. Deadly malice lurks under fair compliments; and, while it flatters, killeth.

The prophet hides not himself from the pursuit of Ahaziah : rather, he sits where he may be most conspicuous, on the top of a hill.

This band knows well where to find him ; and climbs up, in the sight of Elijah, for his arrest. The steepness of the ascent, when they drew near to the highest reach, yielded a convenience, both of respiration and parley: thence doth the captain imperiously call down the prophet.

Who would not tremble at the dreadful answer of Elijah ? If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. What shall we say ?

What shall we say? That a prophet is revengeful? that soldiers suffer, while a prophet strikes ? that a prince's command is answered with imprecation; words, with fire? that an unarmed seer should kill one and fifty, at a blow? There are few tracks of Elijah, that are ordinary, and fit for common feet. His actions are more for wonder, than for precedent. Not in his own defence, would the prophet have been the death of so many, if God had not, by a peculiar instinct, made him an instrument of this just vengeance. The divine justice finds it meet to do this, for the terror of Israel ; that he might teach them, what it was to contemn, to persecute a prophet ; that they might learn, to fear him whom they had forsaken, and confess that heaven was sensible of their insolencies and impieties.

If not as visibly, yet as certainly, doth God punish the violations of his ordinances, the affronts offered to his messengers, still and ever. Not ever with the same speed; sometimes, the punishment overtakes the act; sometimes, dogs it afar off, and seizeth upon the offender, when his crime is forgotten : here, no sooner is the word out of Elijah's mouth, than the fire is out of heaven.

Oh the wonderful power of a prophet! There sits Elijah in

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

his coarse mantle, on the top of the hill, and commands the hea-
vens, and they obey him ; Let fire fall down from heaven. Ile
needs no more,


what he would have done: the fire falls down, as before upon the sacrifice in Carmel, so now upon the soldiers of Ahaziah.

What is man in the hands of his Maker? One flash of lightning hath consumed this one and fifty. And if all the hosts of Israel, yea of the world, had been in their rooms, there had needed no other force. What madness is it, for him, whose breath is in his nostrils, to contend with the Almighty !

The time was, when two zealous disciples would fain have imitated this fiery revenge of Elijah, and were repelled with a check. The very place puts them in mind of the judgment: not far from Samaria was this done by Elijah, and wished to be done by his disciples. So churlish a rejection of a Saviour seemed no less heinous, than the endeavour of apprehending a prophet; Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, as Elias did? The world yielded but one Elias: that, which was zeal in him, might be fury in another: the least variation of circumstance may make an example dangerous: presently therefore do they hear, Ye know not of what spirit ye are. It is the calling that varies the spirit : Elijah was God's minister for the execution of so severe a judgment: they were but the servants of their own impotent anger. There was fire in their breasts, which God never kindled : far was it from the Saviour of men, to second their earthly fire, with his heavenly. He came, indeed, to send fire upon earth ; but to warm, not to burn; and if to burn, not the persons of men, but their corruptions. How much more safe is it for us, to follow the meek Prophet of the New Testament, than that fervent prophet of the Old! Let the matter of our prayers be the sweet dews of mercy, not the fires of vengeance.

Would not any man have thought Ahaziah sufficiently warned, by so terrible a judgment? Could he chuse but say, “It is no meddling with a man, that can speak lightning and death: what he hath said concerning me is too well approved, by what he hath done to my messengers: God's hand is with him; mine shall not be against him." Yet now, behold, the rage of Ahaziah is so much the more kindled, by this fire from heaven ; and a more resolute captain, with a second band, is sent to fetchElijah to death.

This man is in haste; and commands not only his descent, but his speed; Come down quickly. The charge implies a threat ! Elijah must look for force, if he yield not. There needs no other weapon for defence, for offence, than the same tongue, the same breath. God hath fire enough, for all the troops of Ahaziah. Immediately, doth a sudden flame break out of heaven, and consume this forward leader, and his bold followers. It is a just

« PředchozíPokračovat »