Page images

of God's favour and protection, to his faithful predecessor. Moses came to see God in the bush of Horeb: God came to find Elijah in the cave of Horeb; What doest thou here, Elijah?

The place was directed by a providence, not by a command. He is hid sure enough from Jezebel; he cannot be hid from the all-seeing eye of God. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I fly from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the utmost parts of the sea, even there shall thine hand find me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

Twice hath God propounded the same question to Elijah: once in the heart, once in the mouth of the cave: twice doth the prophet answer, in the same words. Had the first answer satisfied, the question had not been redemanded. Now, that sullen answer, which Elijah gave in the darkness of the cave, is challenged into the light, not without an awful preface.

The Lord first passeth by him, with the terrible demonstrations of his power; A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake the rocks in pieces. The tearing blast was from God; God was not in it so was he in it, as in his other extraordinary works; not so in it, as by it to impart himself to Elijah. It was the usher, not the carriage, of God.

After the wind, came an earthquake; more fearful than it. That did but move the air; this, the earth: that beat upon some prominences of earth; this shook it from the centre.

After the earthquake, came a fire; more fearful than either. The other affected the ear, the feeling; but this lets in horror into the soul, by the eye, the quickest and most apprehensive of the senses. Elijah shall see God's mighty power in the earth, air, fire, before he hear him in the soft voice.

All these are but boisterous harbingers of a meek and still word. In that, God was. Behold, in that gentle and mild breath, there was omnipotency; there was but powerfulness, in those fierce representations. There is not always the greatest efficacy, where is the greatest noise. God loves to make way for himself, by terror; but he conveys himself to us, in sweetness. It is happy for us, if, after the gusts and flashes of the law, we have heard the soft voice of evangelical mercy.

In this very mount, with the same horror, God had delivered his law to Moses and Israel. It is no marvel, if Elijah wrapt his face in his mantle. His obedience draws him forth, to the mouth of the cave; his fear still hides his head. Had there not been much courage in the prophet's faith, he had not stood out these affrightful forerunners of the divine presence, though with his face covered. The very angels do no less, before that all-glorious Majesty, than vail themselves with their wings far be it

from us, once to think of that infinite and omnipotent Deity, without an humble awfulness.

He hath not

Fear changes not the tenor of Elijah's answer. left one word behind him in the cave: I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

I hear not a direct answer from the prophet, to the demand of God: then he had said, "I run away from the threats of Jezebel; and here I hide my head from her malicious pursuit." His guiltiness would not let him speak out all. He would rather say, I have been jealous for the Lord God of Hosts, than, "I was fearful of Jezebel." We are all willing, to make the best of our own case. But what he wants of his own accusation, he spends upon the complaint of Israel. Neither doth he more bemoan himself, than exclaim against them, as apostates from God's covenant, violaters of his altars, murderers of his prophets. It must needs be a desperate condition of Israel, that drives Elijah to indict them before the throne of God. That tongue of his was used to plead for them, to sue for their pardon; it could not be but a forcible wickedness, that makes it their accuser.

Those idolatrous Israelites were well forward to reformation. The fire and rain from heaven, at the prayers of Elijah, had won them to a scorn of Baal: only the violence of Jezebel turned the stream; and now, they are resettled in impiety, and persecute him for an enemy, whom they almost adored for a benefactor; otherwise, Elijah had not complained of what they had been. Who would think it? Jezebel can do more than Elijah! No miracle is so prevalent with the vulgar, as the sway of authority, whether to good or evil.

Thou art deceived, O Elijah. Thou art not left alone; neither is all Israel tainted. God hath children and prophets in Israel, though thou see them not. Those clear eyes of the seer discern not the secret story of God. They looked not into Obadiah's caves; they looked not into the closets of the religious Israelites. He, that sees the heart, can say, I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. According to the fashion of the wealthy, God pleaseth himself in hidden treasures. It is enough, that his own eyes behold his riches. Never did he, never will he leave himself unfurnished with holy clients, in the midst of the foulest depravations of his Church. The sight of his faithful ones hath sometimes been lost; never the being. worst, O ye gates of hell, God will have his own. He, that could have more, will have some. That foundation is sure, God knoweth who are his.

Do your

It was a true cordial for Elijah's solitariness, that he had seven thousand invisible abettors; neither is it a small comfort to our weakness, to have companions in good.

For the wickedness of Israel, God hath another receipt; the oil of royal and prophetical unction. Elijah must anoint Hazael All king of Syria, Jehu king of Israel, Elisha for his successor. these shall revenge the quarrels of God and him: one shall begin, the other shall prosecute, the third shall perfect, the vengeance upon Israel.

A prophet shall avenge the wrongs done to a prophet. Elisha is found, not in his study, but in the field; not with a book in his hand, but a plough. His father Shaphat was a rich farmer, in Abel-Meholah: himself was a good husband: not trained in the schools of the prophets, but in the thrifty trade of tillage: and behold, this was the man, whom God will pick out of all Israel, for a prophet. God seeth not as man seeth; neither doth he choose men before they are fit, but therefore he fits them, because he hath chosen them: his call is above all earthly institution.

I hear not of ought that Elijah said: only he casts his cloke upon Elisha, in the passage. That mantle, that act was vocal. Together with this sign, God's instinct teacheth this amazed son of Shaphat, that he was designed to a higher work, to break up the fallow grounds of Israel, by his prophetical function. He finds a strange virtue in that robe; and, as if his heart were changed with that habit, forgets his team, and runs after Elijah; and sues for the leave of a farewell to his parents, ere he had any but a dumb command to follow. The secret call of God offers an inward force to the heart, and insensibly draws us beyond the power of our resistance. Grace is no enemy to good-nature. Well may the respects to our earthly parents, stand with our duties to our Father in Heaven.

I do not see Elisha wring his hands and deplore his condition, that he shall leave the world and follow a prophet, but, for the joy of that change, he makes a feast. Those oxen, those utensils of husbandry, whereon his former labours had been bestowed, shall now be gladly devoted to the celebration of that happy day, wherein he is honoured with so blessed an employment. If with desire, if with cheerfulness, we do not enter into the works of our heavenly Master, they are not like to prosper in our hands. He is not worthy of this spiritual station, who holds not the service of God his highest, his richest preferment.








Right Honourable:-None can challenge so much right in these Meditations, as your Lordship; under whose happy shade they received their first conception. Under this juniper of yours, have I, not driven by force, but drawn by pleasure, slept thus long, sweetly, safely; and have received these angelical touches: how justly may your Lordship claim the fruits of your own favours? Your careful studies in the book of God are fit to be exemplary; which have so enriched you, that your Teacher shall gain. In this reach of divine thoughts, you shall see Benhadad's insolence taken down by Ahab's victory; an humble, though idolatrous, Israelite, carrying it from an insulting Pagan: you shall see in Ahab, the impotent passions of greatness; in Naboth, bleeding honesty; in Jezebel, bloody hypocrisy, cruel craft, plotting from hell, pretending from heaven. You shall see the woeful success of an unjust mercy; Ahab forfeiting what he gave; killed by him, whom he should have killed. You shall see resolute Micaiah opposing the mercenary synod of prophets, a beaten victor, an imprisoned freeman. You shall see Ahaziah falling through his grate; Elijah climbing up his mount, mounting up to his glory; fetching fire from heaven, fetched by a fiery chariot to heaven: Elisha, the heir of his mantle, of his spirit, no less marvellous in his beneficences, in his revenges. What do I foretell all? Methinks I feel myself too like an Italian host, thus to meet your Lordship on the way, and to promise beforehand your fare and entertainment: Let it please your Lordship rather to see and allow your cheer. Indeed, the feast is God's and not mine; wherein store strives with delicacy. If my cookery hurt it not, it is enough. Through your hands, I commend it to the world; as I do your Lordship, and my honourable good Lady, to the gracious protection of the Almighty, justly vowing myself

Your Lordship's, in all faithful observance for ever to command,



THERE is nothing more dangerous for any tate, than to call în foreign powers, for the suppressing of a homebred enemy. The

remedy hath oft, in this case, proved worse than the disease. Asa, king of Judah, implores the aid of Benhadad the Syrian, against Baasha king of Israel. That stranger hath good colour, to set his foot in some outskirt-towns of Israel; and now these serve him but for the handsel of more. Such sweetness doth that Edomite find in the son of Israel, that his ambition will not take up with less than all. He, that entered as a friend, will proceed as a conqueror; and now aims at no less than Samaria itself, the heart, the head of the ten tribes. There was no cause to hope for better success, of so perfidious a league with an infidel.

Who can look for other than war, when he sees Ahab and Jezebel in the throne; Israel in the groves and temples of Baalim? The ambition of Benhadad was not so much guilty of this war, as the idolatry of that wicked nation. How can they expect peace from earth, who do wilfully fight against heaven! Rather will the God of Hosts arm the brute, the senseless creatures against Israel, than he will suffer their defiance unrevenged.

Ahab and Benhadad are well matched; an idolatrous Israelite, with a paganish Idumæan. Well may God plague each with other, who means vengeance to them both.

Ahab finds himself hard pressed with the siege; and therefore is glad to enter into treaties of peace. Benhadad knows his own strength, and offers insolent conditions: Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. It is a fearful thing to be in the mercy of an enemy. In case of hostility, might will carve for itself.

Ahab now, after the division of Judah, was but half a king; Benhadad had two and thirty kings to attend him. What equality was in this opposition? Wisely doth Ahab therefore, as a reed in a tempest, stoop to this violent charge of so potent an enemy; My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have. It is not for the overpowered, to capitulate. Weakness may not argue, but yield.

Tyranny is but drawn on by submission; and, where it finds fear and dejection, insulteth. Benhadad, not content with the Sovereignty of Ahab's goods, calls for the possession. Ahab had offered the dominion, with reservation of his subordinate interest: he will be a tributary, so he may be an owner: Benhadad imperiously, besides the command, calls for the propriety; and suffers not the king of Israel to enjoy those things at all, which he would enjoy but under the favour of that predominancy.

Over-strained subjection turns desperate. If conditions be imposed worse than death, there needs no long disputation of the remedy. The elders of Israel, whose share was proportionably in this danger, hearten Ahab to a denial; which yet comes out so fearfully, as that it appears rather extorted by the peremp

« PreviousContinue »