Page images

menting. Woful is the case of that man, whose public cares are aggravated with private guiltiness; and happy is he that can enjoy a little with the peace of an honest heart.



YET Hazael began his cruelty with loss. Ramothgilead is won from him ; Jehoram the son hath recovered that, which Ahab his father attempted in vain. That city was dear bought of Israel, it cost the life of Ahab, the blood of Jehoram ; those wounds were healed with victory; the king tends his health at Jezreel, while the captains were enjoying, and seconding their success at Ramoth.

Old Elisha hath neither cottage nor foot of land, yet sitting in an obscure corner, he gives order for kingdoms ; not by way of authority, (this usurpation had been no less proud than unjust) but by way of message from the God of kings ; even a mean herald may go on a great errand. The prophets of the gospel have nothing to do but with spiritual kingdoms; to beat down the kingdoms of sin and Satan, to translate souls to the kingdom of heaven.

He that renewed the life of the Shunammite's son, must stoop to age; that block lies in his way to Jehu; the aged prophet employs a speedier messenger, who must also gird up his loins for haste. No common pace

will serve us, when we go on God's message; the very loss of minutes may be unrecoverable. This great seer of God well saw a present concurrence of all opportunities. The captains of the host were then readily combined for this exploit; the army was on foot, Jehoram absent: a small delay might have troubled the work; the dispersion of the captains and host, or the presence of the king, might either

have defeated or slacked the despatch. He is prodigal of his success, that is slow in his execution.

The directions of Elisha to the young prophet are full and punctual, whither to go, what to carry, what to do, where to do it, what to say, what speed to make, in his act, in his return. In the businesses of God, it matters not how little is left to our discretion: there is no important business of the Almighty, wherein his precepts are not strict and express; look how much more speciality there is in the charge of God, so much more danger is in the violation.

The young prophet is curiously obedient, in his haste, in his observation and carriage; and finding Jehu, according to Elisha's prediction, set amongst the captains of the host, he singles him forth by a reverent compellation, “I have an errand to thee, o captain.” Might not the prophet have stayed till the table had risen, and then have followed Jehu to his lodging ? Surely the wisdom of God hath purposely pitched upon this season, that the public view of a sacred messenger, and the hasty evocation of so noted a person to such a secrecy, might prepare the hearts of those commanders of Israel to the expectation of some great design.

The inmost room is but close enough for this act; ere many hours, all Israel shall know that, which yet may not be trusted with one eye: the goodness of God makes wise provision for the safety of his messengers, and, while he employs their service, prevents their dangers.

But how is it that of all the kings of the ten tribes, none was ever anointed but Jehu? Is it for that the God, who would not countenance the erection of that usurped throne, would countenance the alteration ? or is it, that by this visible testimony of divine ordination, the courage of the Israelitish captains might be raised up to second the high and bold attempt of him whom they saw destined from heaven to rule?

Together with the oil of this unction, here was a



charge of revenge ; a revenge of the blood of the prophets upon Jezebel, of wickedness and idolatry upon Ahab: neither was the extirpation of this lewd family fore-prophesied only to Jehu, but enjoined.

Elijah foretold, and the world expected, some fearful account of the abominable cruelty and impiety of that accursed house : now it is called for when it seemed forgotten. Ahab shall have no posterity, Jezebel shall have no tomb but the dogs. This woful doom is committed to Jehu's execution.

Oh the sure, though patient, justice of the Almighty! Not only Ahab and Jezebel had been bloody and idolatrous, but Israel was drawn into the partnership of their crimes ; all these shall share in the judgment. Elijah's complaint in the cave now receives this late answer; Hazael shall plague Israel, Jehu shall plague the house of Ahab and Jezebel : Elisha's servant thus seconds Elisha's master. When wickedness is ripe in the field, God will not let it shed to grow again, and cuts it up by a just and seasonable vengeance. Ahab's drooping under the threat hath put off the judgment from his own days ; now it comes and sweeps away his wife, his issue, and falls heavy upon his subjects. Please yourselves, 0 ye vain sinners, in the slow pace of vengeance; it will be neither less certain, nor more easy, for the delay: rather it were to pay for that leisure in the extremity.

The prophet hath done his errand, and is gone. Jehu returns to his fellows, with his head not more wet with oil, than busied with thoughts: no doubt his face bewrayed some inward tumults and distractions of imagination, neither seemed he to return the same he went out. They ask therefore, “Is all well ? Wherefore came this mad fellow to thee ?" phets of God were to these idolatrous Israelites like comets, who were never seen without the portendment of a mischief. When the priests of their Baal were quietly sacrificing, all was well ; but now when a pro

The pro


phet of God comes in sight, their guiltiness asks, “Is all well?" All would be well but for their sins; they fear not these, they fear their reprover.

Israel was come to a good pass when the prophets of God went with them for madmen. Oh Baalitish ruffians, whither hath your impiety and profaneness carried you, that ye should thus blaspheme the servants of the living God? Ye that run on madding after vain idols, tax the sober guides of true worship for madness. Thus it becomes the godless enemies of truth, the heralds of our patience, to miscall our innocence, to revile our most holy profession. What wonder is it that God's messengers are madmen unto those to whom the wisdom of God is foolishness?

The message was not delivered to Jehu for a concealment, but for publication. Silence could not effect the word that was told him, common notice must. “Ye know the man, and his communication.” The habit shows you the man, the calling shows you his errand. Even prophets were distinguished by their clothes; their mantle was not the common wear: why should not this sacred vocation be known by a peculiar attire? These captains had not called him a madman, if they had not known him a prophet: by the man therefore they might guess at his message. Prophets do not use to appear but upon serious errands, whether of reproof, or of prediction.

Nice civilities of denials were not then known to the world: they said, “It is false, tell us now.' Amongst these captains no combat, no unkindness follows upon a word so rudely familiar.

Jehu needs not tell them that the man was a prophet; he tells them the prophecy of the man, what he had said, what he had done. Their

eyes had no sooner seen the oil, their ears had no sooner heard, “ Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel,” than they rise from their seats, as rapt with a tempest, and are hurled into arms: so do they haste to proclaim Jehu, that they scarce stay to snatch up their garments, which they had perhaps left behind them for speed, had they not meant, with these rich habiliments, to garnish a state for their new sovereign, to whom, having now erected an extemporal throne, they do, by the sound of trumpets, give the style of royalty, "Jehu is king.

So much credit hath that mad fellow with these gallants of Israel, that upon his word they will presently adventure their lives, and change the crown. God gives a secret authority to his despised servants, so as they which hate their person yet reverence their truth: even very scorners cannot but believe them. If, when the prophets of the Gospel tell us of a spiritual kingdom, they be distrusted of those which profess to observe them, how shameful is the disproportion ! How just shall their judgment be!

Yet I cannot say, whether mere obedience to the prophet, or personal dislikes of Jehoram, or partial respects to Jehu, drew the captains of Israel. The will of God may be done thanklessly, when fulfilling the substance, we fail of the intention, and err in circumstance.

Only Ramoth is conscious of this sudden inauguration: this new princedom yet reaches no further than the sound of the trumpet. Jehu is no less subtle than valiant; he knew that the notice of this unexpected change might work a busy and dangerous resistance: he therefore gives order, that no messenger of the news may prevent his personal execution, that so he might surprise Jehoram in his palace of Jezreel, whether tending his late wounds, or securely feasting his friends, and dreaming of nothing less than danger; and might be seen and felt at once. Secrecy is the safest guard of any design; disclosed projects are either frustrated, or made needlessly difficult.

Neither is Jehu more close than swift ; that very trumpet, with the same wind, sounds his march ; from

« PreviousContinue »