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visible means of this judgment, yet he directs their eyes to a higher authority; the just decree of the Almighty, manifested by his servant Elijah ; who, even by the willing sins of men, can most wisely, most hostilely, fetch about his most righteous and blessed purposes. If the peers of Samaria, out of a base fear, if Jehu, out of an ambition of reigning, shed the foul blood of Ahab's posterity, the sin is their own; but, in the mean time, the act is no other, than what the infinite justice of God would justly work by their misintentions.
Let these Israelites but look up from earth to heaven, these tragical changes cannot trouble them. Thither Jehu sends them : wiping off the envy of all this blood by the warrant of the divine preordination : in obedience whereunto, he sends after these heirs of Ahab, all his kinsfolks, favourites, priests, that remained in Jezreel.
And now, having cleared these coasts, he hastes to Samaria. Whom should he meet with in the way, but the brethren of Ahaziah, king of Judah? They are going to visit their cousins, the sons of Ahab. This young troop was thinking of nothing but jollity and courtly entertainment, when they meet with death. So suddenly, so secretly had Jehu despatched these bold executions, that these princes could imagine no cause of suspicion. How could they think it might be dangerous to be known for the brethren of Ahaziah, or friends to the brethren of Jehoram? The just Providence of the Almighty hath brought all this
covey under one net. Jehu thinks it not safe, to let go so many avengers of Ahaziah's blood, so many co-rivals of his sovereignty.
The unhappy affinity of Jehoshaphat with Ahab is no less guilty of this slaughter, than Jehu's ambition ; this match, by the inoculation of one bud, hath tainted all the sap of the house of Judah. The two-and-forty brethren of Ahaziah are therefore sent after the seventy sons of Ahab; that they may overtake them in death, whom they came to visit. God will much less brook idolatry from the loins of a Jehoshaphat.
Our entireness with wicked men feoffs us, both in their sins and judgments.
Doubtless, many Israelites, that were devoted to the family and allies of Ahab, looked (what they durst) awry at this common effusion of royal blood; yet in the worst of the depravedness of Israel, there were some, which both drooped under the deplored idolatry of the times, and congratulated to Jehu this severe vindication of God's inheritance.
Amongst the rest, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, was most eminent. That man was by descent derived from Jethro; a Midianite by nation, but incorporated into Israel; a man, whose piety and strict conversation did both teach and shame those twelve tribes, to which he was joined. He was the author of an
austere rule of civility to his posterity; to whom he debarred the use of wine, cities, possessions. This old and rough friend of Jehu, (out of his moving habitations,) meets him, and applauds his success. He, that allowed not wine to his seed, allows the blood of Ahab's seed poured out, by the hand of Jehu. He, that shunned the city, is carried in Jehu's chariot, to the palace of Samaria.
How easily might Jehu have been deceived! Many a one professes uprightness, who yet is all guile. Jonadab's carriage hath been such, that his word merits trust. It is a blessing upon the plain-hearted, that they can be believed. Honest Jonadab is admitted to the honour of Jehu's seat ; and called, instead of many, to witness the zeal of the new anointed king of Israel.
While Jehu had to do with kings, his cunning and his courage held equal pace together; but now that he is to deal with idolatrous priests, his will goes alone, and prevails. He calls the people together; and, dissembling his intentions, says, Ahab served Baal a little ; but Jehu shall serve him much : now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests ; let none be wanting : for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live.
What a dead paleness was there now in the faces of those few true-hearted Israelites, that looked for a happy restoration of the religion of God! How could they choose but think; “ Alas, how are we fallen from our hopes! Is this the change we looked for? Was it only ambition, that hath set this edge upon the sword of Jehu ? It was not the person of Ahab that we disliked, but the sins : if those must still succeed, what have we gained? Woe be to us, if only the author of our misery be changed, not the condition, not the cause of our misery!"
On the other side, what insultations and triumphs sounded every where, of the joyful Baalites! what glorying of the truth of their profession, because of the success! what scorns of their dejected opposites ! what exprobrations of the disappointed hopes and predictions of their adverse prophets ! what promises to themselves, of a perpetuity to Baalism! How did the dispersed priests of Baal now flock together, and applaud each others' happiness, and magnify the devotions of their new sovereign! Never had that idol so glorious a day as this, for the pomp of his service ; before, he was adored singly in corners; now, solemn sacrifices shall be offered to him by all his clients, in the great temple of the mother city of Israel.
I can commend the zeal of Jehu ; I cannot commend the fraud of Jehu : we may come to our end, even by crooked ways. He, that bad him to smite for him, did not bid him to lie for him. Falsehood, though it be but tentative, is neither needed
nor approved by the God of truth : if policy have allowed officious untruths ; religion, never.
By this device the house of Baal is well furnished, well filled. Not one of his Chemarim either might or would be absent : not one of those which were present might be unrobed. False gods have ever affected to imitate the true. Even Baal hath temples, altars, priests, vestments. All religions have allotted peculiar habits to their highest devotions. Those vestments, which they miscalled sacred, are brought forth and put on, for the glory of this service.
Jehu and Jonadab are first careful, that this separation be exact. They search and see, that no servant of the Lord be crept into that throng. What should a religious Israelite do in the temple of Baal? Were any such there, he had deserved their smart, who would partake with their worship; but if curiosity should have drawn any thither, the mercy of Jehu seeks his rescue. How much more favourable is the God of Mercies, in not taking advantage of our infirmities!
Well might this search have bred suspicion, were it not that in all those idolatrous sacrifices, the first care was to avoid the profane. Even Baal would admit no mixture; how should the true God abide it!
Nothing wanted now, but the sacrifice: no doubt, whole herds and flocks were ready, for a pretence of some royal hecatombs; whereof some had now already smoked on their altars.
0 Jehu, what means this dilation? If thou abhorrest Baal, why didst thou give way to this last sacrifice? Why didst thou not cut off these idolaters, before this upshot of their wickedness? Was it, that thou mightest be sure of their guiltiness? Was it, that their number, together with their sin, might be complete?
What acclamations were here to Baal ; what joy, in the freedom of their revived worship! When all on the sudden, those, that had sacrificed, are sacrificed. The soldiers of Jehu, by his appointment, rush in, with their swords drawn, and turn the temple into a slaughter-house.
How is the tune now changed! What shricking was here! what outeries! what running from one sword to the edge of another! what scrambling up the walls and pillars ! what climb ing into the windows ! what vain endeavours to escape that death, which would not be shunned ! Whether running, or kneeling, or prostrato, they must die.
The first part of the sacrifice was Baal's; the latter is God's. The blood of beasts was offered in the one; of men, in the other: the shedding of this was so much more acceptable to God, by how much these men were more beasts, than those they sacrificed.
Oh happy obedience! God was pleased with a sacrifice from the house of Baal ; the idolaters are slain; the idols burnt; the house of Baal turned to a draught; (though even thus less unclean, less noisome, than in the former perfumes ;) and, in one word, Baal is destroyed out of Israel.
Who, that had seen all this zeal for God, would not have said, “ Jehu is a true Israelite?" Yet, he, that rooted out Ahab, would not be rid of Jeroboam: he, that destroyed Baal, maintained the two calves of Dan and Bethel. That idolatry was of a lower rank, as being a misworship of the true God; whereas the other was a worship of the false. Even the easier of both is heinous ; and shall rob Jehu of the praise of his uprightness. A false heart may laudably quit itself of some one gross sin, and, in the mean time, hug some lesser evil that may condemn it; as a man recovered of a fever may die of a jaundice or a dropsy. We lose the thank of all, if we wilfully fault in one.
It is an entire goodness, that God cares for. Perhaps, such is the bounty of our God, a partial obedience may be rewarded, with a temporal blessing; as Jehu's severity to Ahab shall carry the crown to his seed, for four generations : but we can never have
any comfortable assurance of an eternal retribution, if our hearts and ways be not perfect with God. Woe be to us, O God, if we be not all thine. We cannot but everlastingly depart from thee, if we depart not from every sin. Thou hast purged our hearts from the Baal of our gross idolatries, 0 clear us from the golden calves of our petty corruptions also; that thou mayest take pleasure in our uprightness, and we may reap the sweet comforts of thy glorious remuneration.
CONTEMPLATION IV.-ATHALIAH AND JOASH.
2 KINGS XI., XII. ; 2 CHRONICLES XXII., XXIII., XXIV. Ou the woeful ruins of the house of good Jehoshaphat! Jehu hath slain two-and-forty of his issue ; Athaliah hopes to root out the rest. This daughter of Ahab was not like to be other than fatal to that holy line. One drop of that wicked blood was enough, both to impure and spill all the rest, which affinity had mixed with it.
It is not, unlike, that Ahaziah, betaking himself to the society of Jehoram's wars, committed the sway of his sceptre to his mother Athaliah. The daughter of Jezebel cannot but be plotting. When she hears of the death of Ahaziah and his brethren, inflicted by the heavy hand of Jehu, she straight casts for the kingdom of Judah. The true heirs are infants, their minority gives her both colour of rule, and opportunity of an easy
extirpation. Perhaps, her ambition was not more guilty, than her zeal of Baalism : she saw Jehu, out of a detestation of idolatry, trampling on the blood of Jehoram, Jezebel, Ahaziah, the sons of Ahab, the brethren of Ahaziah, the priests and prophets of Baal, and, in one word, triumphing in the destruction both of Ahab and his gods, out of Israel ; and now she thinks,
Why should not destroy Jehoshaphat and his God, out of Judah ?"
Who ever saw an idolater, that was not cruel? Athaliah must needs let out some of her own blood, out of the throat of Ahaziah's sons; yet she spares not to shed it, out of a thirst of sovereignty
O God, how worthy of wonder are thy just and merciful dispensations ; in that, thou sufferest the seed of good Jehoshaphat to be destroyed by her hand, in whose affinity he offended, and yet savest one branch of this stock of Jehoshaphat, for the sake of so faithful a progenitor!
Wicked Athaliah, couldst thou think God would so far forget his servant David, though no other of those loins had seconded his virtues, as to suffer all his seed to be rooted out of the earth? This vengeance was not for thy father Ahab. The man according to God's own heart shall have a lineal heir, to succeed in his throne, when thou and thy father's house shall have vanished into forgetfulness.
For this purpose, hath the wise Providence of God ordained a Jehosheba, and matched her in the priestly tribe. Such reverence did Jehoram, king of Judah, though degenerated into the idolatry of his father-in-law, Ahab, bear to this sacred function, that he marries his daughter to Jehoiada, the priest. Even princesses did not then scorn the bed of those that served at God's altar. Why should the Gospel pour contempt upon that, which the Law honoured ?
That good lady had too much of Jehoshaphat in her, to suffer the utter extirpation of that royal seed. She could not, doubtless, without the extreme danger of her own life, save the life of her nephew Joash. With what a loving boldness doth she adventure to steal him, from amongst those bleeding carcasses, in the chamber of death! Her match gave her opportunity to effect that, which both nature and religion moved her to attempt. Neither know I, whether more to wonder at the cunning of the device, or the courage of the enterprise, or the secrecy of the concealment, or the happiness of the success.
Certainly, Athaliah was too cruelly careful, to forget this so late born son of Ahaziah : of all the rest, his age would not suffer him to be out of her eye: in all likelihood therefore, she must needs have missed so noted a corpse, had there not been a substitution of some other dead child in his room. In that age, the favour is not so distinguishable ; especially of a dead