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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 fed 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 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 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 a 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 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 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 everywhere, 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 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 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 trampled 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 daughterin-law, as a Sidonian princess. Somewhat must be yielded to humanity; somewhat, to state.
The dogs have prevented Jehu in his 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 dogs' 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.
2 KINGS X. 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 which 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
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, 0 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. Half 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 kings; neither dare entertain the hope of a safe and prosperous resistance, but basely return, We are thy servants, and will do all that thou shalt bid us; we will not make any king ; do thou that which is good in thine eyes.
Well may Jehu think, “ These men, which are thus disloyal to their charge, cannot be faithful to me. It is their fear, that draws them to this observation. Were they not cowards, they would not be traitors to their princes, subjects to me. I may use their hands, but I will not trust them. It is a thankless obedience, that is grounded upon fear. There can be no true fidelity, without love and reverence.”
Neither is it other, betwixt God and us. If out of a dread of hell we be officious, who shall thank us, for these respects to ourselves?
As one that had tasted already the sweetness of a resolute expedition, Jehu writes back instantly, If ye be mine, and if ye will hearken unto my voice, take ye the heads of the men your master's sons, and come to me to Jezreel to-morrow this time. Valiant Jehu was so well acquainted with the nature of fear, that he well knew, this passion, once grown desperate, would be ready to swallow all conditions ; so far therefore doth his wisdom improve it, as to make these peers his executioners ; who, presently, tipon the receipt of his charge, turn cruel ; and, by a joint consent, fetch off the seventy heads of those princes, whom they undertook to guard, whom they had flattered with the hopes of greater honour.
No doubt, but amongst so many sons of Ahab, some had so demeaned themselves, that they had won zealous professions of love from their guardians. Except perhaps death stole upon them in sleep, what tears, what entreaties, what conjurations must here needs have been ! " What have we done, O ye peers of Israel, that might deserve this bloody measure? We are the sons of Ahab; therefore have ye hitherto professed to observe
What change is this? Why should that, which hath hitherto kept you loyal, now make you cruel? Is this the reward of the long peaceable government of our father? Are these the trophies of Ahab's victories against Benhadad; Jehoram's, against Hazael? If we may not reign, yet, at least, let us live: or, if we must die, why will your hands be imbrued in that blood, which ye had wont to term royal and sacred? Why will ye, of tutors, turn murderers ?”
All pleas are in vain to them, that are deafened with their own fears. Perhaps, these expostulations might have fetched some dews of pity from the eyes, and kisses from the lips, of these unfaithful tutors, but cannot prevent the stroke of death. These crocodiles weep upon those, whom they must kill; and, if their own sons had been in the place of Ahab's, doubtless they had been sacrificed to the will of a usurper, to the parents' safety.
It is ill relying upon timorous natures : upon every occasion, those crazy reeds will break, and run into our hands.
How worthy were Ahab and Jezebel of such friends! They had been ever false to God : how should men be true to them! They had sold themselves to work wickedness, and now they aro requited with a mercenary fidelity: for a few lines, have these men sold all the heads of Alab's posterity. Could ever the policy of Jezebel have reached so far, as to suspect the possibility of the extirpation of so ample an issue in one night, by the hands of her trustiest subjects?
Now she, that, by her letter sent to the elders of Jezreel, shed the blood of Naboth and his sons, hath the blood of all her sons shed, by a letter sent from Jezreel to the elders of Samaria. At last, God will be sure to come out of the debt of wicked sinners ; and will pay them with that coin, which is both most proper and least looked for.
Early in the morning, in that gate of Jezreel where Ahab had passed many an unjust sentence, is presented unto Jehu the fearful pledge of his sovereignty, seventy ghastly heads of the sons of Ahab.
Some carnal eye, that had seen so many young and smooth faces besmeared with blood, would have melted into compassion; bemoaning their harmless age, their untimely end. It is not for the justice of God, to stand at the bar of our corrupted judgment. Except we include some grandchildren of Ahab within this number, none of these died before they were seasoned with horrible idolatry; or if they had, they were in the loins of Ahah when he sold himself to work wickedness; and now it is just with God, to punish Ahab's wickedness in this fruit of his loins. The holy severity of God in the revenge of sin sometimes goes so far, that our ignorance is ready to mistake it for cruelty.
The wonder, and horror, of those two heaps hath easily drawn together the people of Jezreel. Jehu meets thein, in that scat of public judgment; and, finding much amazedness and passionate confusion in their faces, he clears them, and sends them to the true original of these sudden and astonishing massacres. However his own conspiracy, and the cowardly treachery of tho princes of Israel, had been (not without their heinous sin) the