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should dote upon their idols, and hold no terms too high for their ambitious purchases. Faithful Micaiah scorns the motion ; he knows the price of the word, and contemns it; “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak.” Neither fears, nor favours, can tempt the holily resolute: they can trample upon dangers, or honours, with a careless foot; and, whether they be smiled or frowned on by the great, dare not either alter or conceal their errand.
The question is moved to Micaiah: he at first so yields, that he contradicts; yields in words, contradicts in pronunciation; the syllables are for them, the sound against them : ironies deny strongest in affirming. And now, being pressed home, he tells them, that God had showed him those sheep of Israel, should, ere long, by this means, want their shepherd. The very resemblance, to a good prince, had been effective : the sheep is a helpless creature, not able either to guard or guide itself; all the safety, all the direction of it, is from the keeper, without whom every cur chases and worries it, every track seduceth it; such shall Israel soon be, if Ahab be ruled by his prophets. The king of Israel doth not believe, but quarrel; not at himself
, who had deserved evil, but at the prophet, who foresignified it ; and is more careful that the king of Judah should mark how true he had foretold concerning the prophet, than how the prophet had foretold concerning him.
Bold Micaiah, as no whit discouraged with the unjust checks of greatness, doubles his prediction, and, by a second vision, particularizeth the means of this dangerous error. While the two kings sat majestically in their thrones, he tells them of a more glorious throne than theirs, whereon he saw the King of gods sitting : while they were compassed with some hundreds of prophets, and thousands of subjects and soldiers, he tells them of all the host of heaven attending that other throne ; while they were deliberating of a war, he tells them of a God of heaven justly decreeing the judgment of a deadly deception to Ahab. The decree of the Highest is not more plainly revealed, than expressed parabolically. The wise and holy God is represented, after the manner of men, consulting of that ruin which he intended to the wicked king of Israel. That uncreated and infinite Wisdom needs not the advice of any finite and created powers to direct him, needs not the assent and aid of any spirit for his execution, much less of an evil one; yet, here an evil spirit is brought in, by way of vision mixed with parable, proffering the service of his lie, accepted, employed, successful. These figures are not void of truth: the action and event are reduced to a decree; the decree is shadowed out by the resemblance of human proceedings. All evil motions and counsels are originally from that malignant spirit ; that evil spirit could have no power over men, but by the permission, by the decree of the Almighty. That Almighty, as he is no author of sins, so he ordains all evil to good: it is good that is just ; it is good that one sin should be punished by another: Satan is herein no other than the executioner of that God, who is as far from infusing evil, as from not revenging it. Now Ahab sees the ground of that applauded consent of his rabble of prophets; one evil spirit hath no less deceived them, than they their master; he is one, therefore he agrees with himself; he is evil, therefore both he and they agree in deceit.
Oh! the noble and undaunted spirit of Micaiah ! neither the thrones of the kings, nor the number of the prophets, could abate one word of his true, though displeasing message ; the king of Israel shall hear, that he is misled by liars, they by a devil
. Surely Jehoshaphat cannot but wonder at so unequal a contention, to see one silly prophet affronting four hundred; with whom, lest confidence should carry it, behold Zedekiah, more bold, more zealous: if Micaiah
have given him, with his fellows, the lie, he gives Micaiah the fist. Before these two great guardians of peace and justice, swaggering Zedekiah smites Micaiah on the face; and with the blow expostulates; “Which way went the spirit of the Lord from me, to speak unto thee?" For a prophet to smite a prophet in the face of two kings, was intolerably insolent: the act was much unbeseeming the person, more the presence ; prophets may reprove, they may not strike. It was enough for Ahab to punish with the hand; no weapon was for Zedekiah, but his tongue ; neither could this rude presumption have been well taken, if malice had not made magistracy insensible of this usurpation. Ahab was well content to see that hated mouth beaten by any hand. It is no new condition of God's faithful messengers to smart for saying truth. Falsehood doth not more bewray itself in any thing than in blows; truth suffers, while error persecutes. None are more ready to boast of the spirit of God, than those that have the least ; as in vessels, the full are silent.
Innocent Micaiah neither defends nor complains ; it would have well beseemed the religious king of Judah to have spoken in the cause of the dumb, to have checked insolent Zedekiah. He is content to give way to this tide of peremptory and general opposition: the helpless prophet stands alone, yet lays about him with his tongue ; “Behold, thou shalt see, in that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.” Now the proud Baalite showed himself too much, ere long he shall be glad to lurk unseen ;
his horns of iron cannot bear off his danger. The son of Ahab cannot choose, but, in the zeal of revenging his father's deadly seducement, call for that false head of Zedekiah; in vain shall that impostor seek to hide himself from justice; but, in the mean while, he goes away with honour, Micaiah with censure: “take Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's
son; and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction, and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.”
A hard doom of truth ; the jail for his lodging, coarse bread and water for his food, shall but reserve Micaiah for a further revenge: the return of Ahab shall be the bane of the prophet. Was not this he that advised Benhadad not to boast in the putting on his armour, as in the ungirding it; and doth he now promise himself peace and victory, before he buckle it on ? No warning will dissuade the wilful ; so assured doth Ahab make himself of success, that he threats ere he go, what he will do when he returns in peace. How justly doth God deride the misreckonings of proud and foolish men! If Ahab had no other sins, his very confidence shall defeat him, yet the prophet cannot be overcome in his resolution ; he knows his grounds cannot deceive him, and dare therefore cast the credit of his functions upon this issue: “If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me:” and he said, “Hearken, 0 people, every one of you." Let him never be called a prophet that dare not trust his God. This was no adventure therefore of reputation or life ; since he knew whom he believed, the event was no less sure than if it had been past. He is no god that is not constant to himself: hath he spoken, and shall he not perform ? what hold have we for our souls, but his eternal word ? The being of God is not more sure than his promises, than his sentences of judgment. Well may we appeal to the testimony of the world in both : if there be not plagues for the wicked, if there be not rewards for the righteous, God hath not spoken by us.
Not Ahab only, but good Jehoshaphat, is carried with the multitude; their forces are joined against Ramoth. The king of Israel doth not so trust his prophets, that he dares trust himself in his own clothes: thus shall he elude Micaiah's threat; doubtless the judgment of God, the Syrian shafts, cannot find him out in this unsuspected disguise. How fondly do vain men imagine to shift off the just revenges of the Almighty !
The king of Syria gives charge to his captains to fight against none but the king of Israel. Thus doth the unthankful infidel repay the mercy of his late victor ; ill was the snake saved, that requites the favour of his life with a sting: thus still the greatest are the fairest mark to envious eyes. By how much more eminent any man is in the Israel of God, so many more, and more dangerous enemies must he expect; both earth and hell conspire in their opposition to the worthiest. Those, 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. Oh 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
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 un