Page images


age, their untimely end. It is not for the justice of God to stand at the bar of our corrupted judgment. Except we include some grandchildren of Åhab within this number, none of these died before they were seasoned with horrible idolatry; or, if they had, they were in the loins of Ahab when he sold himself to work wickedness; and now it is just with God to punish Ahab's wickedness in this fruit of his loins. The holy severity of God, in the revenge of sin, sometimes goes so far, that our ignorance is ready to mistake it for cruelty.

The wonder and horror of those two heaps hath easily drawn together the people of Jezreel. Jehu meets them in that seat of public judgment; and, finding much amazedness and passionate confusion in their faces, he clears them, and sends them to the true original of these sudden and astonishing mas

However his own conspiracy, and the cowardly treachery of the princes of Israel had been, not without their heinous sin, the visible means of this judgment, yet he directs their eyes to a higher authority, the just decree of the Almighty, manifested by his servant Elijah, who, even by the willing sins of men, can most wisely, most hostilely fetch about his most righteous and blessed purposes.

If the peers of Samaria out of a base fear, if Jehu out of an ambition of reigning, shed the foul blood of Ahab's posterity, the sin is their own, but in the mean time, the act is no other than what the infinite justice of God would justly work by their misintentions. Let these Israelites but look up from earth to heaven, these tragical changes cannot trouble them; thither Jehu sends them, wiping off the envy of all this blood, by the warrant of the Divine preordination. In obedience whereunto, he sends after these heirs of Ahab all his kinsfolks, favourites, priests that remained in Jezreel; and now, having cleared these coasts, he hastens to Samaria : whom should he meet in the way, but the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, they are going to visit their cousins the sons of Ahab. This young troop was thinking of nothing but jollity, and courtly entertainment, when they meet with death. So suddenly, so secretly had Jehu despatched these bold executions, that these princes could imagine no cause of suspicion. How could they think it might be dangerous to be known for the brethren of Ahaziah, or friends to the brethren of Jehoram ? The just providence of the Almighty hath brought all this covey under one net. Jehu thinks it not safe to let go so many avengers of Ahaziah’s blood, so many cor-rivals of his sovereignty. The unhappy affinity of Jehoshaphat with Ahab is no less guilty of this slaughter than Jehu's ambition : this match, by the inoculation of one bud, hath tainted all the sap of the house of Judah. The two and forty brethren of Ahaziah are therefore sent after the seventy sons of Ahab, that they may overtake them in death, whom they came to visit ; God will much less brook idolatry from the loins of a Jehoshaphat. Our entireness with wicked men feoffs us both in their sins and judgments.

Doubtless, many Israelites, that were devoted to the family and allies of Ahab, looked (what they durst) awry at this common effusion of royal blood"; yet in the worst of the depravedness of Israel, there were some which both drooped under the deplored idolatry of the times, and congratulated to Jehu this severe vindication of God's inheritance : amongst the rest, Jonadab the son of Rechab was eminent. That man was by descent derived from Jethro, a Midianite by nation, but incorporated into Israel, a man whose piety and strict conversation did both teach and shame those twelve tribes to which he was joined. He was the author of an austere rule of civility to his posterity, to whom he debarred the use of wine, cities, possessions. This old and rough friend of Jehu, out of his moving habitations, meets him, and applauds his success. He that allowed not wine to his seed, allows the blood of Ahab's seed poured out by the hand of Jehu : he that shunned the city, is carried in Jehu's chariot to the palace of Samaria.

How easily might Jehu have been deceived! Many a one professes uprightness, who yet is all guile. Jonadab's carriage hath been such, that his word merits trust. It is a blessing upon the plain-hearted, that they can be believed. Honest Jonadab is admitted to the honour of Jehu's seat, and called, instead of many, to witness the zeal of the new anointed king of Israel.

While Jehu had to do with kings, his cunning and his courage held equal pace together ; but now, that he is to deal with idolatrous priests, his wile goes alone, and prevails; he calls the people together, and, dissembling his intentions, says, “Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu shall serve him much: now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests, let none be wanting; for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal: whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live."

What a dead paleness was there now in the faces of those few true-hearted Israelites, that looked for a happy restoration of the religion of God! How could they choose but think, Alas! how are we fallen from our hopes! Is this the change we looked for? Was it only ambition that hath set this edge upon the sword of Jehu? It was not the person of Ahab that we disliked, but the sins; if those must still succeed, what have we gained ? Woe be to us if only the author of our misery be changed, not the condition, not the cause of our misery.

On the other side, what insultations and triumphs sounded every where of the joyful Baalites! What glorying of the truth of the profession, because of the success; what scorns of their dejected opposites! What exprobations of the disappointed hopes and predictions of their adverse prophets! What promises to them


selves of a perpetuity of Baalism! How did the dispersed priests of Baal now flock together, and applaud each other's happiness, and magnify the devotions of their new sovereign! Never had that idol so glorious a day as this for the pomp of his service; before he was adored singly in corners, now solemn sacrifices shall be offered to him by all his clients, in the great temple of the mother city of Israel. I can commend the zeal of Jehu, I cannot commend the fraud of Jehu. We may come to our end, even by crooked ways. He that bade him to smite for him, did not bind him to lie for him. Falsehood, though it be but tentative, is neither needed nor approved by the God of truth. If policy have allowed officious untruths, religion never.

By this device the house of Baal is well furnished, well filled; not one of his Chemarim either might or would be absent: not one of those which were present might be unrobed. False gods have ever affected to imitate the true: even Baal hath temples, altars, priests, vestments: all religions have allotted peculiar habits to their highest devotions. Those vestments, which they miscalled sacred, are brought forth and put on, for the glory of this service.

Jehu and Jonadab are first careful that this separation be exact : they search and see that no servant of the Lord be crept into that throng. What should a religious Israelite do in the temple of Baal ? Were any such there, he had deserved their smart, who would partake with their worship; but if curiosity should have drawn any thither, the mercy of Jehu seeks his rescue. How much more favourable is the God of mercies, in not taking advantage of our infirmities!

Well might this search have bred suspicion, were it not, that in all those idolatrous sacrifices, the first care was to avoid the profane: even Baal would admit no mixture, how should the true God abide it?

Nothing wanted now but the sacrifice. No doubt whole herds and flocks were ready for a pretence of some royal hecatombs, whereof some had now already smoked on their altars. O Jehu, what means this dilation? If thou abhorrest Baal, why didst thou give way to this last sacrifice ? Why didst thou not cut off these idolaters, before this upshot of their wickedness? Was it that thou mightest be sure of their guiltiness ? Was it that their number, together with their sin, might be complete ? What acclamations were here to Baal! What joy in the freedom of their revived worship! When all on the sudden, those that had sacrificed, are sacrificed. The soldiers of Jehu, by his appointment, rush in with their swords drawn, and turn the temple into a slaughter-house. How is the tune now changed ! What shrieking was here! What outcries! What running from one sword to the edge of another! What scrambling up the walls and pillars ! What climbing into the windows! What vain endeavours to escape that death which would not be shunned! Whether running, or kneeling, or prostrate, they must die.

The first part of the sacrifice was Baal's, the latter is God's. The blood of beasts was offered in the one, of men in the other: the shedding of this was so much the more acceptable to God, by how much these men were more beasts than those they sacrificed. O happy obedience! God was pleased with a sacrifice from the house of Baal: the idolaters are slain, the idols burnt, the house of Baal turned to a draught, though even thus less unclean, less noisome than in the former perfumes: and, in one word, Baal is destroyed out of Israel.

Who that had seen all this zeal for God, would not have said, Jehu is a true Israelite. Yet he that rooted out Ahab, would not be rid of Jeroboam : he that destroyed Baal, maintained the two calves of Dan and Bethel. That idolatry was of a lower rank, as being a mis-worship of the true God; whereas the other was a worship of the false. Even the easier of both is

« PreviousContinue »