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God of Hosts,” than, I was fearful of Jezebel. We are all willing to make the best of our own case ; but what he wants of his own accusation, he spends upon the complaint of Israel. Neither doth he more bemoan himself than exclaim against them, as apostates from God's covenant, violators of his altars, murderers of his prophets. It must needs be a desperate condition of Israel that drives Elijah to indict them before the throne of God. That tongue of his was used to plead for them, to sue for their pardon ; it could not but be a forcible wickedness that makes it their accuser.
Those idolatrous Israelites were well forward to reformation ; the fire and rain from heaven, at the
prayers of Elijah, had won them to a scorn of Baal ; only the violence of Jezebel turned the stream, and now they are re-settled in impiety, and persecute him for an enemy, whom they almost adored for a benefactor, otherwise Elijah had not complained of what they had been. Who would think it? Jezebel can do more than Elijah. No miracle is so prevalent with the vulgar, as the sway of authority, whether to good or evil.
Thou art deceived, 0 Elijah, thou art not left alone; neither is all Israel tainted. God hath children and prophets in Israel, though thou see them not : those clear eyes
of the seer discern not the secret store of God; they looked not into Obadiah's caves, they looked not into the closets of the religious Israelites. He that sees the heart can say, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” According to the fashion of the wealthy, God pleaseth himself in hidden treasures; it is enough that his own eyes behold his riches. Never did he, never will he leave himself unfurnished with holy clients, in the midst of the foulest depravations of his church. The sight of his faithful ones hath sometimes been lost, never the being: Do your worst, O ye gates of hell, God will have his own. He that
could have more, will have some: that foundation is sure,
“God knoweth who are his.” · It was a true cordial for Elijah's solitariness, that he had seven thousand invisible abettors ; neither is it a small comfort to our weakness, to have companions in good. For the wickedness of Israel God hath another receipt, the oil of royal and prophetical unction ; Elijah must anoint Hazael king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, Elisha for his successor. All these shall revenge the quarrels of God and him ; one shall begin, the other shall prosecute, the third shall perfect the vengeance upon Israel.
A prophet shall revenge the wrongs done to a prophet. Elisha is found, not in his study, but in the field ; not with a book in his hand, but a plough. His father Shaphat was a rich farmer in Abelmeholah ; himself was a good husband, not trained in the schools of the prophets, but in the thrifty trade of tillage ; and, behold, this is the man whom God will pick out of all Israel for a prophet; God seeth not as man seeth ; neither doth he choose men before they are fit, but therefore he fits them, because he hath chosen them ; his call is above all earthly, institution.
I hear not of aught that Elijah said ; only he casts his cloak upon Elisha in the passage : that mantle, that act was local. Together with this sign, God's instinct teacheth this amazed son of Shaphat, that he was designed to a higher work, to break up the fallow grounds of Israel by his prophetical function. He finds a strange virtue in that robe ; and, as if his heart were changed with that habit, forgets his team, and runs after Elijah ; and sues for the leave of a farewell to his parents, ere he had any but a dumb command to follow. The secret call of God offers an inward force to the heart, and insensibly draws us beyond the power of our resistance. Grace is no enemy to good nature: well may the respects to our earthly parents stand with our duties to our Father in heaven. I do not see Elisha wring his hands, and deplore his condition that he shall leave the world, and follow a prophet, but, for the joy of that change, he makes a feast; those oxen, those utensils of husbandry, whereon his former labours had been bestowed, shall now be gladly devoted to the celebration of that happy day, wherein he is honoured with so blessed an employment. If with desire, if with cheerfulness we do not enter into the works of our heavenly Master, they are not like to prosper in our hands. He is not worthy of this spiritual station, who holds not the service of God his highest, his richest preferment.
AHAB AND BENHADAD.
THERE is nothing more dangerous for any state, 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 soil of Israel, that his ambition will not take up 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 Israel with a paganish Idumean: 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 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
se than death, there needs no long disputation of the remedy. The elders of Israel, whose share was proportional in this danger, hearten Ahab to a denial;
which yet comes out so fearfully, as that it appears rather extorted by the peremptory indignation of the people, than
proceeding out of any generosity of his spirit; neither doth he say, I will not, but, I may not. 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 up 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 that 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