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TO THE HIGH AND MIGHTY MONARCH,
BY THE GRACE OF GOD KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH; &c.
MY DREAD SOVEREIGN LORD AND MASTER.
May it please your Majesty,-Now at last, thanks be to my good God, I have finished the long task of my Meditations, upon the historical part of the Old Testament; a work, that I foresaw must be the issue, both of time and thoughts. It presumed to entitle itself at first, to your gracious name, in succession to your immortal brother's, and now, it brings to your royal hands a due account of a happy dispatch.
Besides mine own public engagement, the encouragements of many worthy divines, both at home and abroad, drew me on, in this pleasing though busy labour; and made me believe the service would not be of more pain, than use.
I humbly present it to your Majesty; not fearing to say, that, in regard of the subject, it is not so fit for any eyes as princely: for what doth it else, but comment upon that, which God hath thought good to say of Kings; what they have done, what they should have done; how they sped in good, in evil? Certainly, there can be none such mirror of princes under heaven, as this, which God hath made for the faces of his deputies on earth. Neither can the eyes of sovereign greatness be better taken up, than with this sacred reflection. If my defects have not been notorious, the matter shall enough commend the work; which, together with the unworthy Author, humbly casts itself at the feet of your Majesty, with the best vows of fidelity and observance, from him, that prides himself in nothing more, than in the style of
Your Majesty's most faithfully devoted servant,
CONTEMPLATION I-THE SHUNAMITE SUING TO
2 KINGS VIII.
How royally hath Elisha paid the Shunamite for his lodging! To him already she owes the life of her son, both given and restored; and now again, after so many years as might well have worn out the memory of so small a courtesy, herself, her son, her family owe their lives, to so thankful a guest. That table, and bed, and stool, and candlestick was well bestowed: that candlestick repaid her the light of her future life and condition; that table, the means of maintenance; that stool, a seat of safe abode; that bed, a quiet rest from the common calamities of her nation. He is a niggard to himself, that scants his beneficence to a prophet; whose very cold water shall not go unre
Elijah preserved the Sareptan from famine; Elisha, the Shunamite: he, by provision of oil and meal; this, by premonition; Arise, and go, thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn. The Sareptan was poor, and driven to extremes; therefore the prophet provides for her, from hand to mouth: the Shunamite was wealthy, and therefore the prophet sends her to provide for herself. The same goodness, that relieves our necessity, leaves our competency to the hand of our own counsel: in the one, he will make use of his own power; in the other, of our providence.
The very prophet advises this holy client, to leave the bounds of the Church; and to seek life, where she should not find religion. Extremity is, for the time, a just dispensation with some common rules of our outward demeanour and motions, even from better to worse. All Israel and Judah shall be affamished: the body can be preserved nowhere, but where the soul shall want. Sometimes the conveniences of the soul must yield to bodily ne cessities. Wantonness and curiosity can find no advantage from that, which is done out of the power of need.
It is a long famine, that shall afflict Israel. He, upon whom the spirit of Elijah was doubled, doubled the judgment inflicted
by his master. Three years and a half, did Israel gasp under the drought of Elijah: seven years' dearth shall it suffer, under Elisha. The trials of God are, many times, not more grievous for their sharpness, than for their continuance.
This scarcity shall not come alone. God shall call for it: whatever be the second cause, he is the first. The executioners of the Almighty (such are his judgments) stand ready waiting upon his just throne; and do no sooner receive the watchword, than they fly upon the world, and plague it for sin. Only the cry of our sins moves God, to call for vengeance; and if God once call, it must come. How oft, how earnestly, are we called to repentance, and stir not! The messengers of God's wrath fly forth, at the least beck; and fulfil the will of his revenge upon those, whose obedience would not fulfil the will of his command.
After so many proofs of fidelity, the Shunamite cannot distrust the prophet; not staying therefore to be convicted by the event, she removes her family into the land of the Philistines. No nation was more opposite to Israel, none more worthily odious; yet there doth the Shunamite seek and find shelter. Even the shade of those trees that are unwholesome, may keep us from a storm. Everywhere will God find room for his own.
The fields of Philistines flourish, while the soil of Israel yields nothing but weeds and barrenness: not that Israel was more sinful, but that the sin of Israel was more intolerable. The offers of grace are so many aggravations of wickedness. In equal offences, those do justly smart more, who are more obliged. No pestilence is so contagious, as that which hath taken the purest air.
These Philistine neighbours would never have endured themselves to be pestered with foreigners, especially Israelites; whom they hated, besides religion, for their usurpation. Neither were they, in all likelihood, pressed with multitude. The rest of Israel were led on with hopes; presuming upon the amends of the next harvest, till their want grew desperate and irremediable. Only the forewarned Shunamite prevents the mischief. Now she finds what it is, to have a prophet her friend. Happy are those souls, that, upon all occasions, consult with God's seers: they shall be freed from the plagues, wherein the secure blindness of others is heedlessly overtaken.
Seven years, had this Shunamite sojourned in Palestine: now she returns to her own; and is excluded. She, that found harbour among Philistines, finds oppression and violence among Israelites: those of her kindred, taking advantage of her absence, had shared her possessions. How oft doth it fall out, that the worst enemies of a man are those of his own house!
All went by contraries, with this Shunamite. In the famine, she had enough; in the common plenty, she was scanted: Phi