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They are infatuated which shall perish, otherwise Jehoram 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, hope strives with his doubts, " Is it peace, Jehu ?” What may be the reason of this sudden journey? is the army 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 ; the very face of Jehu, and those sparkling eyes of his, speak fury and death to Jeboram, 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 despised, 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, O 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 mes
sage 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. O 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. Ö garden of berbs 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 beirs, notwithstanding his pretended offence. And now, not only Ahab forfeits bis 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 Abab," for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab. Affinity is too often guilty of corruption : the son of good Jea hoshaphat 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 mismatched 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 bigh 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 us. Our last thoughts are spent upon that we most care 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 an heart, obdured with the 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 bids them “throw her down:” They instantly lay hold on their lately adored inistress, 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 whoin 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 inwardly hated of her own. He, whose servants she persecuted, raised up enemies to her from her own elbow,
Thus must pride fall; insolent, idolatrous, cruel Jezebel besprinkles the walls and pavement with her blood; and now those brains, that devised mischief against the servants of God, are strewed upon the stones ; and she, that insulted upon the prophets, is trainpled upon by the horses' heels : “The wicked is kept for the day of destruction, and shall be brought forth to the day of wrath."
Death puts an end commonly to the highest displeasure. He, that was severe in the execution of the living, is merciful in the sepulture of the dead; “Go see now this cursed woman, and bury her, for she is a king's daughter.” She,
that upbraided Jehu with the name of Zimri, shall be interred by Jehu as Omri's daughter-in-law, as a Sidonian princess ; somewhat must be yielded to bumanity, somewhat to state.
The dogs have prevented Jehu in this purpose, and have given her a living tomb, more ignoble than the worst of the earth; only the scull, hands and feet of that vanished carcass yet remain; the scull, which was the roof of all her wicked devices, the hands and feet, which were the executioners, these shall remain as the monuments of those shameful exequies ; that future times, seeing these fragments of a body, might say, The dogs were worthy of the rest; thus Jezebel is turned to dung and dog's meat ; Elijah is verified, Naboth is revenged, Jezreel is purged, Jehu is zealous, and, in all, God is just.
CONTEMPLATION III. Jehu killing the Sons of Ahab, and the Priests of Baal.
THERE were two prime cities of the ten tribes, which were the set courts of the kingdom of Israel, Samaria and Jezreel ; the chief palace of the kingdom was Jezreel, the mother city of the kingdom was Samaria ; Jehu is possessed of the one, without any sword drawn against him: Jezreel willingly changes the master, yielding itself to the victor of two kings, to the avenger of Jezebel; the next care is Samaria ; either policy or force shall fetch in that head of the tribes.
The plentiful issue of princes is no small assurance to the people; Ahab had sons enough to furnish the thrones of all the neighbour nations, to maintain the hopes of succession to all times. How secure did he think the perpetuation of his posterity, when he saw seventy sons from his own loins ! Neither was this royal issue trusted either to weak walls or to one roof; but to the strong bulwarks of Samaria, and therein to the several guards of the chief peers: it was the wise care of their parents not to have them obnoxious to the danger of a common miscarriage, or of those emulations wbich wait upon the cloyedness of an undivided conversation, but to order their separation so as one may rescue other from the peril of assault, as one may respect other out of a familiar strangeness. Had Ahab and Jezebel been as wise for their souls, as they were for their seed, both had prospered.
Jehu is yet but in his first act; if all the sons of Ahab bleed not, the prophecy is unanswered; there shall be no need of his sword, his pen shall work all this slaughter. He writes a challenge to Samaria, and therein to the guardians of the sons of Ahab, daring them, out of the confidence in their defenced city, in their chariots and horses, in their associates and arms, to set up the best of their master's sons on his father's throne, and to fight for his succession.
All the governors of Ahab's children conspire in one common fear; no doubt there wanted not in that numerous brood of kings, some great spirits, that, if at least they attained to the notice of this design, longed for a revenge, and suggested counsels of resolution to their cowardly guardians. Shall an audacious usurper run thus away with the crown of Israel? Shall the blood of Jezebel be thus traitorously spilt, thus wilfully forgotten? O Israelites, can you be so base, as to be ruled by my father's servant? Where are the merits of Ahab and Jehoram? What is become of the loyal courage of Israel? Doubtless ye shall not want able seconds to your valour; do ye think the royal and potent alliances of our mother Jezebel, and the remaining heirs of Judah, can draw back their hands from your aid ? will they endure to swallow so cruel an indignity? Stir up your astonished fortitude, O ye nobles of Israel! redeem your bleeding honour, revenge this treacherous conspirator, and establish the right of the undoubted heirs of your sovereign. But as warm clothes to a dead man, so are the motions of valour to a fearful heart. “Behold, two kings stood not before him, how then shall we stand?"
Fear affrights itself rather than it will want bugs of terror. It is true two kings fell before Jehu, but two kings unarmed, unguarded. Had not the surprisal of Jehu taken advantage of the unsuspicious nakedness of these two princes, his victory had not been thus successful, thus easy. One of those two kings, upon advertisement and preparation, had abated the fury of that hot leader. It is the fashion of fear to represent unto us always the worst, in every event, not looking at the inequality of the advantages, but the misery of the success : as, contrarily, it is the guise of faith and valour, by the good issue of one enterprise, to raise up the heart to an expectation and assurance of more.
These men's hearts are dead with their king's, neither dare