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his prophet, puts this motion into the hand of the king, which did not more willingly stay than necessarily obey the providence whereby it was stirred. Even while we have our freest choice, we fall upon those actions and circumstances, whereby the just and holy will of our God is brought about. Our very neglects, our ignorances, shall fulfil his eternal counsels.
Elisha dies and is buried ; his miracles do not cease with his life. Who can marvel that his living prayers raised the son of the Shunammite, when his dead bones raised the carcass that touched them ? God will be free in his works; he that must die himself, yet shall revive another: the same power might have continued life to him, that gave it by his bones. Israel shall well see that he lives, by whose virtue Elisha was both in life and death miraculous. While the prophet was alive, the impetration might seem to be his, though the power were God's. Now that he is dead, the bones can challenge nothing, but send the wandering Israelites to that Almighty agent, to whom it is all one to work by the quick or dead. Were not the men of Israel more dead than the carcass thus buried; how could they choose but see in this revived corpse, an emblem of their own condition? How could they choose but think, If we adhere to the God of Elisha, he shall raise our decayed estates, and restore our nation to the former glory?
The Sadducees had as yet no being in Israel. With what face could that heresy ever after look into the world, when before the birth of it, it was so palpably convinced with an example of the resurrection? Intermission of time and degrees of corruption, add nothing to the impossibility of our rising. The body that is once cold in death hath no more aptitude to a re-animation, than that which is mouldered into dust, only the divine power of the Maker must restore either, can restore both. When we are dead and buried in the grave of our sin, it is only the touch of God's prophets applying unto us the death and resurrection of the Son
of God that can put new life into us.
No less true, though spiritual, is the miracle of our rising up from an estate of inward corruption, to a life of grace.
Yet all this prevails not with Israel. No bones of Elisha could raise them from their wicked idolatry; and, notwithstanding their gross sins, Joash, their king, prospers. Whether it were for the sake of Jehu, whose grandchild he was, or for the sake of Elisha, whose face he wept upon, his hand is notably successful, not only against the son of Hazael king of Syria, whom he beats out of the cities of Israel, but against Amaziah king of Judah, whom he took prisoner, beating down the very walls of Jerusalem, and returning laden with the sacred and rich spoil, both of the temple and court, to his Samaria.
Oh the depth of the divine justice and wisdom, in these outward administrations! The best cause, the best man doth not ever fare best. Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, Joash evil; Amaziah follows David, though not with equal paces ; Joash follows Jeroboam ; yet is Amaziah shamefully foiled by Joash. Whether God yet meant to visit upon this king of Judah the still odious unthankfulness of his father to Jehoiada, or to plague Judah for their share in the blood of Zechariah, and their late revolt to idolatry; or whether Amaziah's too much confidence in his own strength, which moved his bold challenge to Joash, were thought fit to be thus taken down ; or whatever other secret ground of God's judgment there might be, it is not for our presumption to inquire. Whoso by the event shall judge of love or hatred, shall be sure to run upon that woe, which belongs to them that call good evil, and evil good.
What a savage piece of justice it is to put the right, whether of inheritance or honour, to the decision of the sword, when it is no news for the better to miscarry by the hand of the worse !
The race is not to the swift, the battle is not to the strong; no, not to the good. Perhaps God will correct his own by a foil; perhaps he will plague his enemy by a victory. They are only our spiritual combats, wherein our faithful courage is sure of a crown.
Even the throne of David passed many changes of good and evil. Good Jehoshaphat was followed with three successions of wicked princes, and those three were again succeeded with three others godly and virtuous. Amaziah for a long time shone fair, but, at the last, shut up in a cloud: the gods of the Edomites marred him. His rebellion against God stirred up his people's rebellion against him. The same hands that slew him, crowned his son Uzziah ; so as the young king might imagine, it was not their spite thať drew violence upon his father, but his own wickedness. Both early did this prince reign and late: he began at sixteen, and sat fifty-two years in the throne of Judah. They, that mutinied in the declining age of Amaziah, the father, are obsequious to the childhood of the son, as if they professed to adore sovereignty, while they hated lewdness. The unchanged govern. ment of good princes is the happiness no less of the subjects than of themselves. The hand knows best to guide those reins to which it hath been inured; and even mean hackneys go on cheerfully in their wonted road. Custom, as it makes evils more supportable, so, where it meets with constant minds, makes good things more pleasing and beneficial.
The wise and holy prophet Zechariah was a happy tutor to the minority of king Uzziah. That vessel can hardly miscarry where a skilful steersman sits at the helm. The first praise of a good prince is to be judicious and just, and pious in himself: the next is, to give ear and way to them that are such. While
Zechariah hath the visions of God, and Uzziah takes the counsels of Zechariah, it is hard to say whether the prophet, or the king, or the state, be happier.
God will be in no man's debt. So long as Uzziah sought the Lord, “God made him to prosper.” Even what we do out of duty, cannot want a reward. Godliness never disappointed any man's hopes, oft hath exceeded them. If Uzziah fight against the Philistines, if against the Arabians, and Mehunims; according to his names (Uzziah, Azariah,) the strength, the help of the Almighty is with him. The Ammonites come in with presents, and all the neighbour nations ring of the greatness, of the happiness of Uzziah : his bounty and care makes Jerusalem both strong and proud of her new towers; yea, the very desert must taste of his munificence.
The outward magnificence of princes cannot stand firm, unless it be built upon the foundations of providence and frugality. Uzziah had not been so great a king, if he had not been so great a husband; he had his flocks in the deserts, and his herds in the plains ; his ploughs in the fields, his vine-dressers upon the mountains, and in Carmel : neither was this more out of profit, than delight, for he loved husbandry. Who can contemn those callings for meanness, which have been the pleasures of princes ?
Hence was Uzziah so potent at home, so dreadful to his neighbours. His wars had better sinews than theirs. Which of his predecessors was able to maintain so settled an army, of more than three hundred and ten thousand trained soldiers, well furnished, well fitted for the most sudden occasion ? Thrift is the strongest prop of power.
The greatness of Uzziah, and the rare devices of his artificial engines for war, have not more raised his fame, than his heart; so he is swoln up with the admiration of his own strength and glory, that he breaks again. How easy it is for the best man to doat upon himself, and to be lifted up so high, as to lose the sight
both of the ground whence he rises, and of the hand that advanced him! How hard it is for him that hath invented strange engines for the battering his enemies, to find out any means to beat down his own proud thoughts! Wise Solomon knew what he did, when he prayed to be delivered from too much. “Lest, said he, “I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord ?" Upon this rock did the son of Solomon run and split himself. His full sails of prosperity carried him into presumption and ruin. What may he not do, what may he not be ? Because he found his power otherwise unlimited, over-ruling in the court, the cities, the fields, the deserts, the armies, and magazines, therefore he thinks he may do so in the temple too. As things royal, civil, husbandry, military, passed his hands; so, why should not, thinks he, sacred also ? It is a dangerous indiscretion for a man not to know the bounds of his own calling. What confusion doth not follow upon this breaking of the ranks!
Upon a solemn day, king Uzziah clothes himself in pontifical robes, and, in the view of that populous assembly, walks up in state into the temple of God, and, boldly approaching to the altar of incense, offers to burn sweet odours upon it to the God of heaven. Azariah the priest is sensible of so perilous an encroachment; he, therefore, attended with fourscore valiant assistants of that holy tribe, hastens after the king, and finding him with the censer in his hand, ready addressed to that sinful devotion, stays him with a free and grave expostulation. There is no place wherein I could be sorry to see thee, O king, but this where thou art; neither is there any act that we should grudge thee so much, as this which is the most sacred. Is it possible that so great an oversight should fall into such wisdom? Can a religious prince, trained up under a holy Zechariah, after so many years' zealous profession of piety, be either ignorant, or regardless of those limits, which God hath set to his own services?