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the top of the stairs, he steps down into his chariot. That man means to speed, who can be at once reserved in his own counsels, and resolute and quick in his performances.
Who could but pity the unhappy and unseasonable visitation of the grandchild of Jehoshaphat, were it not that he was degenerated into the family of Ahab? Ahaziah, king of Judah, is come to visit Jehoram, king of Israel; the knowledge of his late received wounds hath drawn thither this kind ill-matched ally. He, who was partner of the war, cannot but be a visitor of the wounds.
The two kings are in the height of their compliment and entertainments, when the watchman of the tower of Jezreel espies a troop afar off.
For aught was known, there was nothing but peace in all the land of Israel; and Judah was now so combined with it, that both their kings were feasting under one roof; yet in the midst of this supposed safety, the watch-tower is not unfurnished with heedy eyes. No security of peace can free wise governors from a careful suspicion of what may come, and a providence against the worst. Even while we know of no enemies, the watch-tower of due intelligence may not be empty.
In vain are dangers foreseen, if they be not premonished ; it is all one to have a blind and a mute watchman ; this speaks what he sees, “I see a company."
Doubtless Jehoram's head was now full of thoughts ; neither knew he what construction to put upon this approaching troop. Perhaps the Syrians, he thinks, may have recovered Ramoth, and chased the garrison of Israel ; neither can he imagine, whether these should be hostile victors, or vanquished subjects, or conspiring rebels. Every way this route was dreadful. Oh, Jehoram, thou beginnest thy fears too late : hadst thou been afraid to provoke the God of Israel, thine innocency had yielded no room to these terrors !
A horseman is despatched to discover the meaning
of this descried concourse. He meets them, and inquires of peace; but receives a short answer, “What hast thou to do with peace ? turn thee behind me." A second is addressed with the same success. Both attend the train of Jehu, instead of returning. Indeed, it is not for private persons to hope to rectify the public affairs, when they are grown to an height of disorder, and from thence to a ripeness of miscarriage. Sooner may a well-meaning man hurt himself, than redress the common danger. These messengers were now within the
of multitude ; had they but endeavoured to retire, they had perished as wilfully as vainly. Whosoever will be striving against the torrent of a just judgment, must needs be carried down in the stream. Sometimes there is as much wisdom in yielding as courage in resistance.
Had this troop been far off, the watchman could not have descried the arrival of the messengers, their turning behind, the manner of the march. Jehu was a noted captain ; his carriage and motion was observed more full of fire than his fellows: “The driving is like Jehu's, for he driveth furiously.” God makes choice of fit instruments, as of mercy, so of revenge. These spirits were needful for so tragical a scene as was now preparing in Israel.
Jehoram and Ahaziah, as nettled with this forced patience of expectation, can no longer keep their seats, but will needs hasten their chariots, and fetch that costly satisfaction which would not be sent, but given.
They are infatuated which shall perish, otherwise Jehoranı had been warned enough by the forcible retention of his messengers, to expect none but an enemy. A friend or a subject could not have been unwilling to be known, to be looked for. Now forgetting his wounds, he will go to fetch death.
Yet when he sees Jehu, whom he left a subject, hopes strive with his doubts, “Is it peace, Jehu ?” What may be the reason of this sudden journey ? is
foiled by the Syrians ? is Ramoth recovered ? or hath the flight of the enemy left thee no further work ? or is some other ill news guilty of thy haste? what means this unwished presence, and return ? There needs no stay for an answer ;
face of Jehu, and those sparkling eyes of his, spake fury and death to Jehoram, which yet his tongue angerly seconds: “What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel, and her witchcrafts are so many ?"
Wicked tyrant, what speakest thou of peace with men, when thou hast thus long waged war with the Almighty ? that cursed mother of thine hath nursed thee with blood, and trained thee up in abominable idolatries.
Thou art not more hers than her sin is thine ; thou art polluted with her spiritual whoredoms, and enchanted with her hellish witchcrafts : now that just God, whom thou and thy parents have so heinously despited, sends thee by me this last message of his vengeance: which, while he spake, his hand is drawing up that deadly arrow, which shall cure the former wounds with a worse.
Too late now doth wretched Jehoram turn his chariot and flee, and cry, Treason, 0 Ahaziah! There was treason before, O Jehoram! thy treason against the majesty of God is now revenged by the treason of Jehu against thee.
That fatal shaft, notwithstanding the swift pace of both the chariots, is directed to the heart of Jehoram ; there is no erring of those feathers which are guided by the hand of destiny,
How just are the judgments of God! it was in the field of Naboth wherein Jehoram met with Jehu ; that very ground called to him for blood. And now this new avenger remembers that prophecy which he heard out of the mouth of Elijah, in that very place, following the heels of Ahab, and is careful to perform it. Little did Jehu think, when he heard that message of Elijah, that his hands should act it. Now, as zealous of accomplishing the word of a prophet, he gives charge to Bidkar, his captain, that the bleeding carcass of Jehoram should be cast upon that very plat of Naboth. Oh Naboth's blood well paid for! Ahab's blood is licked by dogs, in the very place where those dogs licked Naboth's; Jehoram's blood shall manure that ground which was wrung from Naboth, and Jezebel shall add to this compost. Oh garden of herbs dearly bought, royally dunged !
What a resemblance there is betwixt the death of the father and the son, Ahab and Jehoram! both are slain in their chariot, both with an arrow, both repay their blood to Naboth: and how perfect is this retaliation ! not only Naboth miscarried in that cruel injustice, but his sons also; else the inheritance of the vineyard had descended to his heirs, notwithstanding his pretended offence. And now, not only Ahab forfeits his blood to this field, but his son Jehoram also. Face doth not more answer to face than punishment to sin.
It was time for Ahaziah, king of Judah, to flee. Nay, it had been time long before to have fled from the sins, yea from the house of Ahab. That brand is fearful which God sets upon him ; “ He did evil in the sight of the Lord, as did the house of Ahab,” for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. Affinity is too often guilty of corruption: the son of good Jehoshaphat is lost in Ahab's daughter.
Now he pays for his kind alliance, accompanying the son of Ahab in his death, whom he consorted with in his idolatry. Young Ahaziah was scarce warm in his throne, when the mis-matched blood of Athaliah is required from him. Nothing is more dangerous than to be imped in a wicked family; this relation too often draws in a share both of sin and punishment.
Who would not have looked that Jezebel, hearing of this bloody end of her son, and pursuit of her ally, and the fearful proceedings of this prosperous conspiracy, should have put herself into sackcloth and
ashes ; and now finding no means either of defence or escape should have cast herself into such a posture of humiliation, as might have moved the compassion of Jehu ? Her proud heart could not suddenly learn to stoop; rather she recollects her high spirits, and, instead of humbling her soul by repentance, and addressing herself for an imminent death, she pranks up her old carcass, and paints her wrinkled face, and, as one that vainly hopes to daunt the courage of an usurper, by the sudden beams of majesty, she looks out, and thinks to fright him with the challenge of a traitor, whose either mercy or justice could not be avoided. Extremity finds us such as our peace leaves
Our last thoughts are spent upon that we care most for. Those that have regarded their face more than their soul, in their latter end are more taken up with desire of seeming fair, than being happy. It is no marvel, if a heart obdured with a custom of sin, shut up gracelessly. Counterfeit beauty agrees well with inward uncleanness.
Jehu's resolution was too strongly settled to be removed with a painted face, or an opprobrious tongue. He looks up to the window and says, “Who is on my side, who?" There want not those every where which will be ready to observe prevailing greatness. Two or three eunuchs look out; he hids them “throw her down;" they instantly lay hold on their lately adored mistress, and, notwithstanding all her shrieks and prayers, cast her down headlong into the street.
What heed is to be taken of the deep professed services of hollow-hearted followers ! all this while they have humbly, with smiles and officious devotions, fawned upon their great queen; now, upon the call of a prosperous enemy, they forget their respects, her royalty, and cast her down, as willing executioners, into the jaws of a fearful death. It is hard for greatness to know them whom it may trust : perhaps the fairest semblance is from the falsest heart. It was a just plague of God upon wicked Jezebel, that she was