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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JAMES, LORD HAYE,
BARON OF SALEY, VISCOUNT DONCASTER, EARL OF CARLISLE,
ONE OF THE LORDS OF HIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE
Right Honourable,-I cannot but thus gratulate to you your happy return, from your many and noble employments; which have made you some years a stranger at home; and so renowned abroad, that all the better parts of Europe know and honour your name, no less than if you had been born theirs: neither is any of them so savage, as not to say, when they hear mention of your worth, that "Virtue is a thousand escutcheons."
If now your short breathing-time may allow your Lordship the freedom of quiet and holy thoughts, cast your eyes upon Israel and Judah; upon the kings and prophets of both, in such beneficial variety, as profane history shall promise in vain. Your Lordship shall see Rehoboam following Solomon, in nothing but his seat and his fall; as much more wilful than his father, as less wise; all head, no heart; losing those ten tribes with a churlish breath, whom he would, and might not, recover with blood: Jeroboam as crafty, as wicked; plotting a revolt; creating a religion to his state; marring Israelites to make subjects; branded in his name; smitten in his hand, in his loins. You shall see a faithful messenger of God, after miraculous proof of his courage, fidelity, power, good-nature, paying dear for a little circuinstance of credulous disobedience; the lion is sent to call for his blood, as the price of his forbidden harbour. You shall see the blind prophet descrying the disguise of a queen, the judgment of the king, the removal of a prince too good for Jeroboam's heir. You shall see the right stock of royal succession flourishing in Asa, while that true heir of David, though not without some blemishes of infirmity, inherits a perfect heart; purges his kingdom of sodomy, of idolatry; not balking sin, even where he honoured nature. You shall see the wonder of prophets, Elijah, opening and shutting heaven, as his private chest; catered for by the ravens, nor less miraculously catering for the Sareptan; contesting with Ahab; confronting the Baalites; speaking both fire and water, from heaven, in one evening; meekly lacqueying his sovereign; weakly flying from Jezebel; fed supernaturally by angels; hid in the rock of Horeb; confirmed by those dreadful apparitions, that had confounded some other; casting his mantle upon his homely successor, and, by the touch of that garment, turning him from a ploughman to a prophet. But what do I withhold your Lordship in the bare heads of this ensuing discourse? In all these, your piercing eyes shall easily see beyond mine; and make my thoughts but a station for a further discovery. Your lordship's observation hath studied men, more than books; here it shall study God, more than men that of books, hath made you full; that of men, judicious; this of God, shall make you holy and happy: hitherto shall ever tend the wishes and endeavours of
Your Lordship's humbly devoted in all faithful observance,
1 KINGS XII. ; 2 CHRONICLES X.
WHO would not but have looked, that seven hundred wives, and three hundred concubines, should have furnished Solomon's palace with choice of heirs, and have peopled Israel with royal issue? And now behold, Solomon hath by all these but one son, and him by an Ammonitess. Many a poor man hath a house full of children, by one wife; while this great king hath but one son, by many housefuls of wives. Fertility is not from the means, but from the author. It was for Solomon, that David sung of old; Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. How oft doth God deny this heritage of heirs, where he gives the largest heritage of lands; and gives most of these living possessions, where he gives least of the dead: that his blessings may be acknowledged free unto both: entailed, upon neither!
As the greatest persons cannot give themselves children, so the wisest cannot give their children wisdom. Was it not of Rehoboam that Solomon said, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me; and who knoweth, whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet he shall rule over all my labour, wherein I have laboured, and shewed myself wise under the sun. All Israel found that Solomon's wit was not propagated. Many a fool hath had a wiser son, than this wisest father. Amongst many sons, it is no news to find some one defective: Solomon hath but one son, and he no miracle of wisdom. God gives purposely so eminent an instance, to teach men to look up to heaven, both for heirs and graces.
Solomon was both the king of Israel and the father of Rehoboam, when he was scarce out of his childhood; Rehoboam enters into the kingdom at a ripe age; yet Solomon was the man, and Rehoboam the child. Age is no just measure of wisdom. There are beardless sages, and grey-headed children. Not the ancient are wise, but the wise is ancient.
Israel wanted not for thousands, that were wiser than Rehoboam; yet, because they knew him to be the son of Solomon, no man makes question of his government. In the case of succession into kingdoms, we may not look into the qualities of the person, but into the right.
So secure is Solomon of the people's fidelity to David's seed, that he follows not his father's example, in setting his son by him, in his own throne: here was no danger of a rivalry, to enforce it; no eminency in the son, to merit it: it sufficeth him, to know that no bond can be surer, than the natural allegiance of subjects.
I do not find, that the following kings stood upon the confirmation of their people; but, as those that knew the way to their throne, ascended their steps without aid. As yet the sovereignty of David's house was green and unsettled; Israel therefore doth not now come to attend Rehoboam, but Rehoboam goes up to meet Israel.
They come not to his Jerusalem, but he goes to their Shechem : To Shechem were all Israel come to make him king. If loyalty drew them together, why not rather to Jerusalem? there, the majesty of his father's temple, the magnificence of his palace, the very stones in those walls, besides the strength of his guard, had pleaded strongly for their subjection. Shechem had been, many ways, fatal; was, every way, incommodious. It is an infinite help or disadvantage, that arises from circumstances. The very place puts Israel in mind of a rebellion. There, Abimelech had raised up his treacherous usurpation, over and against his brethren there, Gaal against Abimelech there, was Joseph sold by his brethren as if the very soil had been stained with perfidiousness. The time is no less ill chosen. Rehoboam had ill counsel, ere he bewrayed it; for had he speedily called up Israel, before Jeroboam could have been sent for out of Egypt, he had found the way clear. A little delay may lose a great deal of opportunity. What shall we say of both, but that misery is led in by infatuation?
Had not Israel been somewhat predisposed to a mutiny, they had never sent into Egypt, for such a spokesman as Jeroboam; a fugitive, a traitor to Solomon. Long had that crafty conspirator lurked in a foreign court. The alliances of princes are not ever necessary bonds of friendship. The brother-in-law of Solomon harbours this snake in his bosom, and gives that heat, which is repaid with a sting, to the posterity of so near an ally. And now Solomon's death calls him back to his native soil. That Israel would entertain a rebel, it was an ill sign; worse yet, that they will countenance him; worst of all, that they would employ him. Nothing doth more bewray evil intentions, than the choice of vicious agents. Those, that mean well, will not hazard, either the success or credit of their actions upon offensive instruments. None but the sluttish will wipe their faces with foul clothes. Upright hearts would have said, as David did to God, so to his anointed; Do not I hate them, that hate thee? Yea, I hate them, with a perfect hatred. Jeroboam's head had been a fit present, to have been tendered unto their new king, and now, instead thereof, they tender themselves to Jeroboam, as the head of their faction.
Had not Rehoboam wanted spirits, he had first, after Solomon's example, done justice to his father's traitor, and then have treated of mercy towards his subjects.
The people soon found the weakness of their new sovereign;