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to age; that block lies in his way to Jehu; the aged prophet employs a speedier messenger, who must also gird up bis 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 dispatch. He is prodigal of his success, that is slow in bis 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 bis 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, ( 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 cominanders 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 woeful doom is committed to Jehu's execution.
O'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 inaster. When wickedness is ripe in the field, God will not let it shed to grow again, but 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, O 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?” The prophets 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 prophet 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 the reprover.
Israel was come to a good pass, when the prophets of God went with them for madmen. () ye Baalitish ruffians, wbither
hath your impiety and profaneness carried you, that ye 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
The habit shows you the man, the calling shows you bis 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 or 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 abulziements, 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 subtile 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 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 degenerate 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 illmatched ally. He, who was partner of the war, cannot but be a visiter 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 ought 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 their 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 be imagine, whether these should be hostile victors, or vanquished subjects, or conspiring rebels. Every way this rout was dreadful. O 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.
An borseman is dispatched 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 mercy of a 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 watchmen 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. j 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.