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son, so he had an obedient wife, else she had not wanted excuses to turn off both the journey and the disguise; against the disguise, she had pleaded the unbeseemingness of her person and state ; against the journey, the perils of so long and solitary a walk. Perhaps a lion might be in the way, the lion that tore the prophet in pieces ; perhaps robbers : or, if not they, perhaps her chastity might be in danger: an unguarded solitariness in the weaker sex might be a provocation to some forced uncleanness. She cast off all these shifting projections of fear; according to the will of her husband, she changes her raiment; she sets upon the journey, and overcomes it. What needed this disguise to an old prophet, whose dim eyes were set with age ? all clothes, all faces, were alike to a blind seer. The visions of Ahijah were inward, neither was his bodily sight more dusky than the eyes of his mind were clear and piercing. It was not the common light of men whereby he saw, but divine illumination ; things absent, things future, were no less obvious to those spiritual beams, than present things are to us. Ere the quick eyes of that great lady can discern him, he hath espied her; and, as soon as he hears the sound of her feet, she hears from him the sound of her name, “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam.” How God laughs in heaven at the frivolous fetches of crafty politicians, and when they think themselves most sure, shames them with a detection, with a defeat! What an idleness it is for foolish hypocrites to hope they can dance in a net, unseen of heaven!
Never before was this queen troubled to hear of herself; now she is; her very name strikes her with astonishment, and prepares her for the assured horror of following judgments, “I am sent to thee with heavy tidings; go tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel." Could this lady less wonder at the mercy of this style of God, than tremble at the sequel of his justice ? Lo! Israel hath forsaken God, yet God still owns Israel. Israel hath gone a whoring, yet God hath not divorced her. Oh the infinite goodness of our long-suffering God, whom our foulest sins cannot rob of his compassions !
By how much dearer Israel was to God, so much more odious is Jeroboam that hath married Israel. Terrible is that vengeance which God thunders against him by his prophet, whose passionate message upbraids him with his promotions, chargeth him with his sins, and lastly denounceth his judgments. No mouth was fitter to cast this royalty in the teeth of Jeroboam, than that by which it was first foretold, fore-promised : every circumstance of the advancement aggravates the sin. "I exalted thee;" thou couldst not rise to honour alone. “I exalted thee from among the people," not from the peers ; thy rank was but common before this rise ; “ I exalted thee from among the people to be a prince:” subordinate height was not enough for thee, no seat would serve thee but a throne; “yea to be a prince of my people Israel." No nation was for thee but my chosen one, none but my royal inheritance: neither did I raise thee into a vacant throne ; a forlorn and forsaken principality might be thankless ; but, “I rent the kingdom away from another for thy sake,” yea, from what other but the grandchild of David ? out of his hands did I wrest the sceptre to give it unto thine. Oh what high favours doth God sometimes cast away upon unworthy subjects! How do his abused bounties double both their sin and judgment!
The sins of this prince were no less eminent than his obligations, therefore his judgments shall be no less eminent than his sins. How bitterly doth God express
that which shall be more bitter in the execution; “Behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.” Oh, heavy load that this disguised princess must carry to her husband! But because these evils, though grievous, yet might be remote, therefore, for a present handsel of vengeance, she is dismissed with the sad tidings of the death of her son ; "When thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.” It is heavy news for a mother that she must lose her
son, but worse yet that she may not see him. In these cases of our final departures, our presence gives some mitigation to our grief. Might she but have closed the eyes, and received the last breath of her dying son, the loss had been more tolerable; I know not how our personal farewell eases our heart, even while it increases our passion ; but now she shall no more see, nor be seen of her Abijah. She shall no sooner be in the city, than he shall be out of the world. Yet more, to perfect her sorrow, she hears, that in him alone there is found some good, the rest of her issue are graceless: she must lose the good, and hold the graceless; he shall die to afflict her, they shall live to afflict her.
Yet what a mixture is here of severity and favour in one act! favour to the son, severity to the father; severity to the father, that he must lose such a son; favour to the son, that he shall be taken from such a father. Jeroboam is wicked, and therefore he shall not enjoy an Abijah ; Abijah hath some good things, therefore he shall be removed from the danger of the depravation of Jeroboam. Sometimes God strikes in favour, but more often forbears out of severity. The best are fittest for heaven, the earth is fittest for the worst; this is the region of sin and misery, that of immortality. It is no argument of disfavour to be taken early from a well-led life, as not of approbation to age in sin.
As the soul of Abijah is favoured in the removal, so is his body with a burial; he shall have alone both tears and tomb, all the rest of his brethren shall have no grave but dogs and fowls, no sorrow but for their life. Though the carcass be insensible of any position, yet honest sepulture is a blessing. It is fit that the body should be duly respected on earth, whose soul is glorious in heaven.
THE two houses of Judah and Israel grow up now together in an ambitious rivalry ; this splitted plant branches out so severally, as if it had forgotten that ever it was joined in the root. The throne of David oft changeth the possessors, and more complaineth of their iniquity than their remove. Abijam inherits the sins of his father Rehoboam no less than his crown; and so spends his three years, as if he had been no whit akin to his grandfather's virtues. It is no news that grace is not traduced, while vice is ; therefore is his reign short, because it was wicked It was a sad case, when both the kings of Judah and Israel, though enemies, yet conspired in sin. Rehoboam, like his father Solomon, began graciously, but fell to idolatry ; as he followed his father, so his son, so his people followed him. Oh what a face of a church was here, when Israel worshipped Jeroboam's calves, when Judah built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree! On both hands God is forsaken, his temple neglected, his worship adulterate ; and this, not for some short brunt, but during the succession of two kings : for, after the first three years, Rehoboam changed his father's religion, as his shields, from gold to brass; the rest of his seventeen years were led in impiety. His son Abijam trod in the same miry steps, and Judah with them both. If there were any (doubtless there were some) faithful
hearts yet remaining in both kingdoms, during these heavy times, what a corrosive it must needs have been to them, to see so deplored and miserable a depravation !
There was no visible church upon earth but here ; and this, what a one! O God, how low dost thou sometimes suffer thine own flock to be driven ! what woful wanes and eclipses hast thou ordained for this heavenly body! Yet, at last, an Asa shall arise from the loins, from the grave of Abijam ; he shall revive David, and reform Judah. The gloomy times of corruption shall not last always: the light of truth and peace shall at length break out, and bless the sad hearts of the righteous.
It is a wonder how Asa should be good, of the seed of Abijam, of the soil of Maachah, both wicked, both idolatrous. God would have us see that grace is from heaven, neither needs the helps of these earthly conveyances. Should not the children of good parents sometimes be evil, and the children of evil parents good, virtue would seem natural, and the giver would lose his thanks. Thus we have seen a fair flower spring out of dung, and a well fruited tree rise out of a sour stock: education hath no less power to corrupt than nature. It is therefore the just praise of Asa, that, being trained up under an idolatrous Maachah, he maintained his piety; as, contrarily, it is a shame for those that have been bred up in the precepts and examples of virtue and godliness, to fall off to lewd, ness or superstition. There are four principal monuments of Asa's virtue, as so many rich stones in his diadem ; he took away sodomy and idols out of Judah. Who cannot wonder more that he found them there, than that he removed them ? what a strange incongruity is this Sodom in Jerusalem! Idols in Judah ! Surely debauched profession proves desperate ; admit the idols, ye cannot doubt of the sodomy. If they have changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds,