Contemplations VPON THE HISTORICALL Part of the Old Testament.

THE EIGHTH and LAST VOLVME.

In two Bookes.

By I. H. Deane of Worcester.

LONDON Printed by M. Flesher for Nath. Butter.

1626.

TO THE HIGH AND MIGHTY MONARCH CHARLES, BY The Grace of God KING of Great Britaine, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c.

My dread Soueraigne Lord and Master.
May it please your Maiesty:

NOw at last (thankes be to my good God) I haue finished the long-taske of my Me­ditations vpon the historicall part of the Old Testament: A Worke that I foresaw must be the issue both of time, and thoughts; It [Page] presumed to intitle it selfe at first, to your Gracious name, in succession to your immortall Brothers; and now, it brings to your Royall hands, a due ac­count of an happy dispatch.

Besides my owne publique ingage­ment, the incouragements of many worthy Diuines, both at home, and abroad, drew me on, in this pleasing, though busie, labour; and made mee beleeue the seruice would not be of more paine, then vse.

I humbly present it to your Maie­stie; not fearing to say, that in regard of the subiect, it is not so fit for any eies as Princely; For what doth it else but comment vpon that, which God hath thought good to say of Kings; what they haue done, what they should haue done; how they sped in good, in euill? Certainly there can be none such miroir [Page] of Princes vnder heauen, as this, which God hath made for the faces of his Deputies on earth. Neither can the eyes of Soueraigne Greatnesse be better taken vp then with this sacred reflection. If my defects haue not been notorious, the matter shall enough commend the worke; which together with the vnworthy Author, humbly casts it selfe at the feet of your Maie­sty; with the best vowes of fidelity and obseruance, from him, that prides him­selfe in nothing more, then in the style of

Your Maiesties most faithfully deuoted seruant, IOS: HALL.
Contemplations.The 2 …

Contemplations.
The 20th Booke.

  • 1 The Shunamite suing to Iehoram: Elisha conferring with Hazael.
  • 2 Iehu with Iehoram and Iezebel.
  • 3 Iehu killing the sonnes of Abab, and the Priests of Baal.
  • 4 Athaliah and Ioash.
  • 5 Ioash with Elisha dying.
  • 6 Vzziah leprous.
  • 7 Ahaz with his new Altar.
  • 8 The vtter destruction of the King­dome of Israel.
  • 9 Hezekiah and Senacherib.
  • 10 Hezekiah sicke, recouered, visited.
  • 11 Manasseh.
  • 12 Iosiahs reformation.
  • 13 Iosiahs death, with the desolation of the Temple and Ierusalem.

Contemplations.

The SHVNAMITE suing to IEHORAM; ELISHA con­ferring with HAZAEL.

HOw royally hath E­lisha 2 Kings 8. paid the Shu­namite for his lod­ging! To him al­ready she owes the life of her sonne, both giuen, and restored; and now againe (after so many yeares, as might well haue worne out the memory of [Page 2] so small a courtesie) her selfe, her sonne, her family owe their liues to so thankfull a guest. That ta­ble, and bed, and stoole, and can­dlesticke was well bestowed: That candlesticke repaid her the light of her future life and condi­tion, that table the meanes of maintenance, that stoole a seat of safe abode, that bed a quiet rest from the common calamities of her nation: Hee is a niggard to himselfe, that scants his benefi­cence to a Prophet, whose very cold water shall not go vnrewar­ded. Elijah preserued the Sareptan from famine; Elisha the Shuna­mite; he, by prouision of oyle and meale; this, by premonition: A­rise, and goe, thou and thine houshold, and soiourne wheresoeuer thou canst [Page 3] soiourne. The Sareptan was poore, and driuen to extremes, therefore the Prophet prouides for her, from hand to mouth: The Shu­namite was wealthy, and therfore the Prophet sends her to prouide for her selfe: The same goodnes that relieues our necessity, leaues our competency to the hand of our owne counsell; in the one, he will make vse of his owne pow­er, in the other, of our proui­dence.

The very Prophet aduises this holy Client to leaue the bounds of the Church: and to seeke life, where she should not finde reli­gion: Extremity is for the time a iust dispensation with some com­mon rules of our outward de­meanure, and motions, euen from [Page 4] better to worse. All Israel and Iu­dah shall be affamished; The bo­dy can be preserued no where, but where the soule shall want; Som­times the conueniences of the soule must yeeld to bodily neces­sities. Wantonnesse and curiosity can finde no aduantage from that which is done out of the power of need.

It is a long famine that shall af­flict Israel; Hee vpon whom the spirit of Elijah was doubled, dou­bled the iudgement inflicted by his Master; Three yeares and an halfe did Israel gaspe vnder the drought of Elijah; seauen yeares dearth shall it suffer vnder Elisha: The tryals of God are many times not more grieuous for their sharp­nesse, then for their continuance.

[Page 5] This scarcity shall not come a­lone; God shall call for it: what euer be the second cause, he is the first. The executioners of the Al­mighty (such are his iudgments) stand ready waiting vpon his iust Throne; and doe no sooner re­ceiue the watch-word, then they flye vpon the world, and plague it for sinne; Onely the cry of our sinnes moues 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 Gods wrath flye forth at the least becke; and fulfill the will of his reuenge vpon those, whose obe­dience would not fulfill the will of his command.

After so many proofes of fide­litie [Page 6] the Shunamite cannot distrust the Prophet; not staying therfore to be conuicted by the euent, she remoues her family into the Land of the Philistims: No nation was more opposite to Israel, none more worthily odious; yet, there doth the Shunamite seeke, & finde shelter; Euen the shade of those trees that are vnwholsome, may keepe vs from a storme; Euery where will God finde roome for his owne. The fields of Phili­stins flourish, whiles the soyle of Israel yeelds nothing but weeds and barrennesse: Not that Israel was more sinfull, but that the sin of Israel is more intolerable. The offers of grace are so many aggra­uations of wickednesse: In equall offences those doe iustly smart [Page 7] more, who are more obliged. No pestilence is so contagious as that which hath taken the purest ayre.

These Philistine neighbours would neuer haue endured them­selues to be pestered with forrai­ners; especially Israelites, whom they hated (besides religion) for their vsurpation: neyther were they in all likelihood pressed with multitude: The rest of Israel were led on with hopes; presuming vpon the amends of the next har­uest, till their want grew despe­rate, and irremediable; onely the forwarned Shunamite preuents the mischiefe; now she findes what it is to haue a Prophet her friend: Happy are those soules that vpon all occasions consult with Gods Seers; they shall be freed from the [Page 8] plagues, wherein the secure blind­nesse of others is heedlesly ouer­taken.

Seauen yeares had this Shuna­mite soiourned in Palestine, now she returnes to her owne; and is excluded: She that found harbour among Philistines, findes oppres­sion and violence among Israe­lites: Those of her kinred, taking aduantage of her absence, had shared her possessions. How oft doth it fall out that the worst ene­mies of a man are those of his owne, house? All went by con­traries with this Shunamite; In the famine she had enough, in the common plenty she was scanted; Philistines were kinde to her, Israe­lites cruell: Both our feares, and our hopes doe not seldome dis­appoint [Page 9] vs; It is safe trusting to that stay which can neuer faile vs; who can easily prouide vs both of friendship in Palestine, and of iustice in Israel. Wee may not iudge of the religion by particular actions; A very Philistine may be mercifull, when an Israelite is vn­iust; The person may be faulty, when the profession is holy.

It was not long since the Pro­phet made that friendly offer to the Shunamite, out of the desire of a thankfull requitall; VVhat is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spo­ken for to the King, or to the Captaine of the Host? and she answered; I dwell among my brethren. Little did she then thinke of this iniurious measure; else she might haue said; I dwell amongst mine enemies, I [Page 10] dwell amongst robbers. It is like they were then friendly, who were now cruell, and oppressiue; There is no trust to be reposed in flesh and blood: How should their fauors be constant, who are in their nature, and disposition, variable? It is the furest way to relye on him, who is euer like himselfe; the measure of whose loue is eternitie.

Whither should the Shunamite goe to complaine of her wrong, but to the Court? There is no o­ther refuge of the oppressed, but publike authoritie: All Iustice is deriued from Soueraignty: Kings are not called Gods for nothing; They doe both sentence and exe­cute for the Almighty.

Doubtlesse, now the poore [Page 11] Shunamite thought of the courte­ous profer of Elisha; and missing a friend at the Court, is glad to be the presenter of her owne peti­tion.

How happily doth God con­triue all euents for the good of his! This suppliant shall fall vp­on that instant for her suit, when the King shall bee talking with Gehezi; when Gehezi shall bee talking of her, to the King; The words of Gehezi, the thoughts of the King, the desires of the Shu­namite shall be all drawne toge­ther by the wise prouidence of God into the center of one mo­ment, that his oppressed seruant might receiue a speedy iustice. Oh the infinite wisedome, power, mercy of our God, that insensi­bly [Page 12] orders all our wayes, as to his owne holy purposes, so to our best aduantage.

What doth Iehoram the King talking with Gehezi the Leper? That very presence was an eye­sore.

But if the cohabitation with the infectious were forbidden, yet not the conference. Certainly, I begin to thinke of some good­nesse in both these: Had there not beene some goodnesse in Ie­horam, he had not taken pleasure to heare, euen from a leprous mouth, the miraculous acts and praises of Gods Prophet; Had there not beene some goodnesse in Gehezi, he had not after so fear­full an infliction of iudgment, thus ingenuously recounted the [Page 13] praises of his seuere Master; Hee that told that deare-bought lye to the Prophet, tells now all truths of the Prophet, to the King: Per­haps his leprosie had made him cleane; If so: Happy was it for him that his forhead was white with the disease, if his soule be­came hereupon white with re­pentance. But wee may well know that the desire, or report of historicall Truths, doth not alwayes argue grace. Still Iehoram, after the inquiry of the Prophets miracles, continues his Idolatry. He that was curious to harken af­ter the wonders of Elisha, is not carefull to follow his doctrine; Therefore are Gehezi and the Shu­namite met before him, that hee may be conuicted, who will not [Page 14] be reformed: Why was it els that the presence of the persons should thus inexpectedly make good the relation, if God had not meant the inexcusablenesse of Iehoram; whiles he must needs say within himselfe; Thus potent is the Pro­phet of that God, whom I obey not; Were not Elishaes, the true God, how could hee worke such wonders? And if he be the true God, why is he not mine? But what? Shall I change Ahabs God for Iehosaphats? No; I cannot de­ny the miracles, I will not admit of the author: Let Elisha be pow­erfull, I will be constant. O wret­ched Iehoram; how much better had it been for thee neuer to haue seene the face of Gehezi, and the son of the Shunamite; then to goe [Page 15] away vnmoued with the ven­geance of leprosie in the one, with the mercifull resuscitation of the other? Therfore is thy iudgment fearfully aggrauated, because thou wouldst not yeeld to what thou couldst not oppose. Had not A­habs obduratenesse beene propa­gated to his sonne, so powerfull demonstrations of diuine power could not haue been vneffectuall. Wicked hearts are so much worse by how much God is better; This anvile is the harder by being con­tinually beaten vpon, whether with iudgments, or mercy.

Yet this good vse will God haue made of this report, and this presence, that the poore Shunamite shall haue iustice; That sonne, whose life was restored, shall [Page 16] haue his inheritance reuiued; His estate shall fare the better for E­lishaes miracle: How much more will our mercifull God second his owne blessings, when the fa­uors of vniust men are therefore drawne to vs, because wee haue beene the subiects of diuine bene­ficence.

It was a large, and full award, that this occurrence drew from the King; Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field, since the day that she left the land, euen vntill now. Not the present possession onely is giuen her, but the are­rages.

Nothing hinders, but that outward iustice may stand with grosse Idolatry. The Widow may thanke Elisha for this; His miracle [Page 17] wrought still; and put this new life into her dead estate; His ab­sence did that for the preseruation of life, which his presence did for the restoring it from death. Shee that was so ready to expostulate with the man of God, vpon the losse of her sonne, might perhaps haue beene as ready to impute the losse of her estate to his aduice; Now, that for his sake shee is en­riched with her owne; how doth shee blesse God for so happy a guest? When we haue forgotten our owne good turnes, God re­members and crownes them: Let vs do good to all whiles we haue time, but especially to the hous­hold of faith.

Could Israel haue beene sensi­ble of their owne condition, it [Page 18] was no small vnhappinesse to lose the presence of Elisha: Whether, for the Idolatries, or for the fa­mine of Israel, the Prophet is gone into Syria; No doubt Naaman welcomd him thither; and now would force vpon him those thankes for his cure, which the man of God would not receiue at home.

How famous is he now grown that was taken from the Teame? His name is not confined to his owne Nation; Forraine countries take notice of it; and Kings are glad to listen after him, and wooe him vvith presents: Benhadad the King of Syria, whose counsells he had detected, reioyeeth to heare of his presence; and now, as ha­uing forgotten that he had sent a [Page 19] vvhole host, to besiege the Pro­phet in Dothan, sends an honora­ble messenger to him, laden with the burden of fourty Camels, to consult with this Oracle, concer­ning his sicknesse, and recouery.

This Syrian belike in his di­stresse dares not trust to his owne gods; but hauing had good proofe of the power of the God of Israel, both in Naamans cure, and in the miraculous defeats of his greatest forces, is glad to send to that ser­uant of God, whom he had perse­cuted. Wicked men are not the same in health and in sicknesse: their affliction is worthy of the thankes, if they be well-minded; not themselues.

Doubtlesse the errand of Ben­hadad was not onely to inquire of [Page 20] the issue of his disease, but to re­quire the prayers of the Prophet for a good issue: Euen the worst man doth so loue himselfe, that hee can be content to make a be­neficiall vse of those instruments, whose goodnesse he hateth.

Hazael, the chiefe Peere of Sy­ria is designed to this message; The wealth of his present striues with the humility of his cariage, and speech: Thy sonne Benhadad King of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recouer of this disease? Not long since, Iehoram King of Is­rael had said to Elisha, My father, shall I smite them; and now Benha­dad King of Syria, sayes, My father, shall I recouer: Lo how this poore Meholathite hath Kings to his sons: How great is the honor of Gods [Page 21] Prophets with Pagans, with Princes? Who can bee but con­founded to see Euangelicall Pro­phets despised by the meanest Christians?

It is more then a single answer that the Prophet returnes to this message: One answer he giues to Benhadad, that sent it; another hee giues to Hazael, that brings it: That to Benhadad, is, Thou maiest surely recouer; That to Hazael, The Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely dye: What shall we say then? Is there a lye, or an equiuocation in the holy mouth of the Pro­phet? God forbid: It is one thing what shall be the nature, and is­sue of the disease; Another thing what may outwardly befall the person of Benhadad: The questi­on [Page 22] is moued of the former; wher­to the answer is direct; The dis­ease is not mortall; But withall an intimation is giuen to the bea­rer, of an euent beyond the reach of his demand; which hee may know, but eyther needs not, or may not returne: The Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely dye; by another meanes, though not by the disease.

The Seer of God descries more in Hazael, then hee could see in himselfe; hee fixes his eyes there­fore stedfastly in the Syrians face, as one that in those lines read the bloody story of his life.

Hazael blushes, Elisha weepes; The intention of those eyes did not so much amaze Hazael, as the teares; As yet he vvas not guilty to [Page 23] himselfe of any wrong that might straine out this iuyce of sorrow: Why weepeth my Lord?

The Prophet feares not to fore­tell Hazael all the villanies which he should once do to Israel; How he should fire their forts, and kill their yong men, and rip the mo­thers, and dash the children. I maruell not now at the teares of those eies which foresaw this mi­serable vastation of the inheri­tance of God; The very mention whereof is abhorred of the fu­ture author: What is thy seruant a dog, that I should doe this great thing? They are sauage cruelties where­of thou speakest; It were more fit for mee to weepe that thou shouldest repute mee so brutish; I should no lesse condemne my [Page 24] selfe for a beast, if I could suspect my owne degeneration so farre. Wicked men are caryed into those heights of impiety, which they could not in their good mood haue possibly beleeued; Nature is subiect to fauourable opinions of it selfe; and will rather mistrust a Prophet of God, then her owne good disposition: How many from honest beginnings, haue ri­sen to incredible licentiousnesse, whose liues are now such, that it were as hard for a man to be­leeue they had euer beene good, as to haue perswaded them once they should proue so desperate­ly ill.

To giue some ouerture vnto Hazael of the oportunitie of this ensuing mischiefe; the Prophet [Page 25] foretells him from God, that hee shall be the King of Syria.

He that shewes the euent, doth not appoint the meanes; Far was it from the spirit of Gods Pro­phet to set, or encourage a trea­son: whiles hee said therefore, Thou shalt be King of Syria; he said not, Goe home, and kill thy ma­ster: The wicked ambition of Hazael drawes this damnable conclusion out of holy premises; and now hauing fed the hopes of his Soueraigne with the expecta­tion of recouery; the next day he smothers his Master. The impo­tent desire of rule brookes no de­lay: Had not Hazael been grace­lesly cruell, after hee had receiued this prediction of the Seer, hee should haue patiently awaited for [Page 26] the crowne of Syria, till lawfull meanes had set it vpon his head; now, he will by a close execution make way to the throne; A wet cloth hath stopt the mouth of his sicke Soueraigne; No noyse is heard; the carcasse is faire; Who can complaine of any thing but the disease?

O Hazael, thou shalt not thus easily stop the mouth of thine owne conscience; that shall call thee Traytor, euen in thy chaire of state; and shall checke all thy royall triumphs, with, Thou hast founded thy throne in blood. I am de­ceiued if this wet cloth shall not wipe thy lips in thy iollyest feasts, and make thy best morsells vnsa­vory: Soueraignty is painfull vp­on the fairest termes; but vpon [Page 27] trechery, and murder, tormen­ting: Wofull is the case of that man whose publike cares are ag­grauated with priuate guiltinesse; and happy is he, that can in­ioy a little with the peace of an honest heart.

IEHV with IEHORAM and IEZEBEL.

YEt Hazael began his 2 Kings 9. cruelty with losse: Ramoth Gilead is won from him; Ie­horam the son hath recouered that, which Ahab his father attempted in vaine; That City was dear-bought of Israel; it cost the life of Ahab, the blood of Iehoram; Those wounds were healed with victory; The King tends his health at Iezreel, whiles the Captaines were enioying, and seconding their successe at Ra­moth.

[Page 29] Old Elisha hath neither cotage, nor foot of land, yet sitting in an obscure corner, he giues order for Kingdomes; Not by way of au­thority (this vsurpation had been no lesse proud, then vniust) but by way of message, from the God of kings; Euen a meane Herald may goe on a great errand: The Prophets of the Gospell haue no­thing to doe but with spirituall Kingdoms; To beate downe the kingdomes of sinne and Satan; to translate soules to the Kingdome of heauen.

Hee that renued the life of the Shunamites sonne, must stoope to age; That blocke lies in his way to Iehu; The aged Prophet im­ployes a speedier messenger, who must also gird vp his loynes, for [Page 30] hast: No common pace will serue vs when we goe on Gods message; The very losse of mi­nutes may be vnrecouerable. This great Seer of God wel saw a pre­sent concurrence of all oportuni­ties: The Captaines of the Host were then readily combined for this exploit: the Army was on foot; Iehoram absent; a small de­lay might haue troubled the work; the dispersion of the Cap­taines, and Host, or the presence of the King, might eyther haue defeated, or slacked the dispatch: He is prodigall of his successe, that is slow in his execution.

The directions of Elisha to the young Prophet, are full, and pun­ctuall: whither to goe; what to cary; what to doe; where to doe [Page 31] it; what to say, what speed to make, in his act, in his returne: In the businesses of God it matters not how little is left to our dis­cretion; There is no important businesse of the Almighty, wher­in his precepts are not strict, and expresse; Looke how much more specialty there is in the charge of God, so much more danger is in the violation.

The young Prophet is curious­ly obedient; in his haste; in his obseruation and cariage: and fin­ding Iehu, according to Elishaes prediction, set amongst the Cap­taines of the Host, he singles him forth, by a reuerent compellation; I haue an errand to thee, O Captaine; Might not the Prophet haue stay­ed till the table had risen, and then [Page 32] haue followed Iehu to his lodg­ing? Surely, the wisdome of God hath purposely pitcht vpon this season, that the publike view of a sacred messenger, and the hasty euocation of so noted a person, to such a secrecy, might prepare the hearts of those Commanders of Israel, to the expectation of some great designe.

The inmost roome is but close enough for this act; Ere many houres, all Israel shall know that, which yet may not bee trusted with one eye; The goodnesse of God makes wise prouision for the safety of his messengers, and whiles he imployes their seruice, preuents their dangers.

But how is it that of all the Kings of the Ten tribes, none [Page 33] was euer anointed but Iehu? Is it for that the God, who would not countenance the erection of that vsurped throne, would coun­tenance the alteration? Or is it, that by this visible testimony of diuine ordination, the courage of the Israelitish Captaines might be raised vp to second the high and bold attempt of him, whom they saw destin'd from heauen to rule?

Together with the oyle of this vnction, here was a charge of re­uenge; A reuenge of the blood of the Prophets, vpon Iezebel; of wickednesse and Idolatry, vpon Ahab: neither was the extirpation of this leud family fore-prophe­sied onely to Iehu, but inioyned.

Elijah foretold, and the world [Page 34] expected some fearfull account of the abhominable cruelty, and im­piety of that accursed house; Now it is called for, when it seemed forgotten: Ahab shall haue no posterity, Iezebel shall haue no toomb, but the doggs. This wo­ful doome is committed to Iehues execution.

Oh the sure, though patient, iu­stice of the Almighty: Not only Ahab and Iezebel had beene bloo­dy, and idolatrous, but Israel was drawne into the partnership of their crimes; All these shall share in the iudgment: Elijahs com­plaint in the caue now receiues this late answer; Hazael shall plague Israel; Iehu shall plague the house of Ahab and Iezebel; Elishaes seruant thus seconds Elishaes ma­ster: [Page 35] When wickednes is ripe in the field, God will not let it sheed to grow againe, but cuts it vp by a iust, and seasonable vengeance: Ahabs drouping vnder the threat hath put off the iudgment from his owne dayes; now it comes, and sweepes away his wife, his issue; and falls heauy vpon his subiects. Please your selues, ô ye vaine sinners, in the slow pace of vengeance; it will be neither lesse certaine, nor more easie for the delay; rather it will pay for that leasure in the extremitie.

The Prophet hath done his er­rand, and is gone. Iehu returnes to his fellowes, with his head not more wet with oyle, then busied with thoughts: no doubt, his face bewrayed some inward tu­mults, [Page 36] and distractions of imagi­nation; neyther seem'd hee to re­turne the same he went out. They aske therefore, Is all well? Where­fore came this mad fellow to thee? The Prophets of God were to these idolatrous Israelites, like comets; who were neuer seene without the portendement of a mischiefe: When the priests of their Baal were quietly sacrificing, all was well; but now when a Prophet of God comes in sight, their guil­tinesse askes, Is all well? All would be well but for their sinnes; they feare not these, they feare their re­prouer.

Israel was comne to a good passe, when the Prophets of God went with them for mad men: Oh ye Baalitish Ruffians, whither [Page 37] hath your impiety and profane­nesse caryed you, that ye should thus blaspheme the seruants of the liuing God? Ye that run on mad­ding after vaine Idols, taxe the so­ber guides of true worship, for madnesse. Thus it becomes the godlesse enemies of truth, the he­ralds of our patience, to mis-call our innocence, to reuile our most holy profession: What wonder is it that Gods messengers are mad men vnto those, to whom the wisedome of God is foolishnes?

The message was not deliue­red to Iehu for a concealment, but for publication: Silence could not effect the word that was told him; common notice must; Yee know the man, and his communication: The habit showes you the man; [Page 38] the calling showes you his errād: Euen Prophets were distinguish­ed by their clothes; Their mantle was not the common weare; why should not this sacred voca­tion be knowne by a peculiar at­tyre? These Captaines had not calld him a mad-man, if they had not knowne him a Prophet: By the man therefore they might guesse at his message; Prophets doe not vse to appeare, but vpon serious errands; whether of re­proofe, or of prediction.

Nice ciuilities of denialls were not then knowne to the world; They said, It is false, tell vs now: Amongst these Captains no com­bat, no vnkindnesse followes vp­on a word so rudely familiar.

Iehu needs not tell them, that [Page 39] the man was a Prophet; hee tels them the prophesie of the man; what he had said, what hee had done.

Their eies had no sooner seene the oyle; their eares had no sooner heard, Thus saith the Lord, I haue anointed thee King ouer Israel, then they rise from their seates, as rapt with a tempest, and are hurled in­to armes; So doe they hast to proclaime Iehu, that they scarce stay to snatch vp their garments, which they had perhaps left be­hind them for speed, had they not meant with these rich abiliments to garnish a state for their new Soueraigne; To whom hauing now erected an extemporall Throne, they doe by the sound of Trumpets giue the style of [Page 40] Royalty, Iehu is King.

So much credit hath that mad fellow with these gallants of Is­rael, that vpon his word they will presently aduenture their liues, & change the Crowne. God giues a secret authority to his despised seruants; so as they which hate their person, yet reuerence their truth: Euen very scorners cannot but beleeue them; If when the Prophets of the Gospell tell vs of a spirituall Kingdome, they be dis­trusted of those which professe to obserue them, how shamefull is the disproportion? how iust shall their iudgment be?

Yet I cannot say whether meer obedience to the Prophet, or per­sonall dislikes of Iehoram, or parti­all respects to Iehu, drew the Cap­taines [Page 41] of Israel; The will of God may be done thanklesly, when fulfilling the substance, we faile of the intention, and erre in cir­cumstance.

Onely Ramoth is conscious of this sudden Inauguration; This new prince-dome yet reaches no further then the sound of the trumpet: Iehu is no lesse subtile, then valiant; he knew that the no­tice of this inexpected change might worke a busie, and dange­rous resistance; he therfore giues order that no messenger of the newes may preuent his personall execution, that so he might sur­prise Iehoram in his palace of Iz­reel, whether tending his late wounds, or securely feasting his friends, and dreaming of nothing [Page 42] lesse then danger; and might be seene, and felt at once. Secresie is the safest gard of any designe; dis­closed proiects are either frustra­ted, or made needlesly difficult.

Neither is Iehu more close, then swift; That very trumpet with the same wind sounds his march; from the toppe of the staires, he steps downe into his charet; That man meanes to speed, who can bee at once reserued in his coun­sels, and resolute and quicke in his performances.

Who could but pity the vnhap­py and vnseasonable visitation of the grand-childe of Iehosaphat, were it not that hee was degene­rate into the family of Abab? A­haziah King of Iudah is comne to visit Iehoram King of Israel; the [Page 43] knowledge of his late receiued wounds hath drawn thither this kind ill-matched allie: He who was partner of the warre, cannot but be a visitor of the wounds.

The two Kings are in the height of their complement, and entertainments, when the watch­man of the Tower of Izreel espies a troupe, a farre off. For ought was knowne, there was nothing but peace in all the Land of Israel; and Iudah was now so combined with it, that both their Kings were feasting vnder one roofe; yet, in the midst of this supposed safety, the watch-tower is not vn­furnished with heedy eyes: No securitie of peace can free wise Gouernors from a carefull suspi­tion of what may come, and a [Page 44] prouidence against the worst. E­uen whiles we know of no ene­mies, the watch-tower of due in­telligence may not be empty.

In vaine are dangers fore-seen, if they be not premonished; It is all one to haue a blind and a mute watch-man; This speakes what he sees; I see a company.

Doubtlesse Iehorams head was now full of thoughts; neither knew hee what construction to put vpon this approching troupe; Perhaps, the Syrians (hee thinkes) may haue recouered Ramoth; and chased the garison of Israel; nei­ther can hee imagine whether these should be hostile victors, or vanquished subiects, or conspi­ring rebells. Euery way this rout was dreadfull. Oh Iehoram, thou [Page 45] beginst thy feares too late; Hadst thou beene afraid to prouoke the God of Israel, thine innocency had yeelded no roome to these terrors.

An horseman is dispatcht to discouer the meaning of this de­scryed concourse: Hee meets them, and inquires of peace; but receiues a short answer, What hast thou to doe with peace? turne thee behind mee? A second is ad­dressed; with the same successe: Both attend the traine of Iehu in stead of returning; Indeed, it is not for priuate persons to hope to rectifie the publike affaires, when they are growne to an height of disorder, and from thence to a ripenesse of mis-cariage: Sooner may a well-meaning man hurt [Page 46] himselfe, then redresse the com­mon danger.

These messengers were now within the mercy of a multitude, had they but indeuored to retire, they had perished as wilfully, as vainly: Whosoeuer will be stri­uing against the torrent of a iust iudgment, must needs bee caried downe in the streame: Some­times there is as much wisdome in yeelding, as courage in resi­stance.

Had this troupe beene farre off, the watchman could not haue descryed the arriuall of the mes­sengers, their turning behind, the manner of the march; Iehu was a noted Captaine, his cariage and motion was obserued more full of fire, then his fellowes; The [Page 47] driuing is like Iehues, for hee driueth furiously: God makes choyce of fit instruments, as of mercy, so of reuenge; These spirits were needfull for so tragicall a scene, as was now preparing in Israel.

Iehoram and Abaziah, as netled with this forced patience of ex­pectation, can no longer keepe their seates; but will needs hasten their charets; and fetch that costly satisfaction, which would not be sent, but giuen.

They are infatuated, which shall perish; otherwise Iehoram had beene warned enough by the forceable retention of his messen­gers, to expect none but an ene­my. A friend, or a subiect could not haue beene vnwilling to bee knowne, to be lookt for; Now; [Page 48] forgetting his wounds, he will go to fetch death.

Yet when he sees Iehu, whom he left a subiect, hopes striue with his doubts, Is it peace, Iehu? what may be the reason of this sudden iourney? Is the army foyled by the Syrians? Is Ramoth recouered? or hath the flight of the enemy left thee no further worke? or is some other ill newes guilty of thy hast? What meanes this vnwi­shed presence, and returne?

There needs no stay for an an­swer; The very face of Iehu, and those sparkling eyes of his spake fury, and death to Iehoram; which yet his tongue angerly seconds: What peace, so long as the whordomes of thy mother Iezebel, and her witch­crafts are so many?

[Page 49] Wicked Tyran, what speak'st thou of peace with men, when thou hast thus long waged warre with the Almightie? That cur­sed mother of thine hath nursed thee with blood, and trained thee vp in abominable Idolatries.

Thou art not more hers, then her sinne is thine; thou art pollu­ted with her spirituall whore­domes, and inchanted with her hellish witchcrafts: Now that iust God whom thou, and thy parents haue so hainously despi­ted, sends thee by me this last mes­sage of his vengeance; which whiles hee spake, his hand is drawing vp that deadly arrow, which shall cure the former wounds with a worse.

Too late now doth wretched [Page 50] Iehoram turne his charet, and flee; and cry Treason, ô Ahaziah; There was treason before, ô Iehoram; thy treason against the Maiesty of God, is now reuenged by the treason of Iehu against thee.

That fatall shaft, notwithstan­ding the swift pace of both the charets, is directed to the heart of Iehoram; there is no erring of those feathers which are guided by the hand of destinie.

How iust are the iudgments of God! It was in the field of Na­both, wherein Iehoram met with Iehu; That very ground called to him for blood; And now this new auenger remembers that prophesie which he heard from the mouth of Elijah, in that very place, following the heeles of A­hab; [Page 51] and is carefull to performe it. Little did Iehu thinke, when he heard that message of Elijah, that his hands should act it; now, as zealous of accomplishing the word of a Prophet; hee giues charge to Bidkar his Captaine, that the bleeding carkasse of Ieho­ram should be cast vpon that ve­ry platt of Naboth: Oh Naboths blood well paid for! Ahabs blood is licked by dogs, in the very place where those dogs lickt Naboths; Iehorams blood shall manure that ground, which was wrung from Naboth; and Iezebel shall adde to this compost. Oh garden of hearbes dearly bought, royally dunged.

What a resemblance there is betwixt the death of the father, [Page 52] and the sonne; Ahab and Iehoram? Both are slaine in their charet; Both with an arrow; Both repay their blood to Naboth; and how perfit is this retaliation? Not on­ly Naboth miscaried in that cruell iniustice, but his sonnes also; else the inheritance of the vineyard had descended to his heires, not­withstanding his pretended of­fence; and now not onely Ahab forfaits his blood to this field; but his sonne Iehoram also: Face doth not more answer to face, then pu­nishment to sinne.

It was time for Ahaziah King of Iuda, to flee: Nay it had beene time long before to haue fled from the sins, yea from the house of Ahab; That brand is fearfull which God sets vpon him; Hee [Page 53] did euill in the sight of the Lord as did the house of Ahab; for he was the 2 Kings 27 sonne in law of the house of A­hab; Affinity is too often guilty of corruption; The son of good Iehosaphat is lost in Ahabs daugh­ter.

Now hee payes for his kinde alliance; accompanying the son of Ahab in his death, whom hee consorted with in his Idolatry: Yong Ahaziah was scarce warme in his throne, when the mis-mat­ched blood of Athaliah is requi­red from him; Nothing is more dangerous then to be imped in a wicked family; this relation too often drawes in a share both of sin, and punishment.

Who would not haue lookt that Iezebel hearing of this bloody [Page 54] end of her son; and pursuit of her allye; and the fearfull proceedings of this prosperous conspiracy, should haue put her selfe into sack-cloth and ashes; and now finding no meanes either of de­fence, or escape, should haue cast her selfe into such a posture of humiliation, as might haue mo­ued the compassion of Iehu; Her proud heart could not suddenly learne to stoope: rather she re­collects her high spirits; and in stead of humbling her soule by repentance, and addressing her selfe for an imminent death; she pranks vp her old carkasse, and paints her wrinkled face, and as one that vainly hopes to daunt the courage of an vsurper, by the sudden beames of Maiesty; she [Page 55] lookes out, and thinks to fright him with the challenge of a trai­tor, whose either mercy, or iustice could not be auoided: Extremi­tie findes vs such as our peace leaues vs; Our last thoughts are spent vpon that wee care most for; those that haue regarded their face more then their soule, in their latter end are more taken vp with desire of seeming faire, then being happy: It is no mar­uell if an heart obdured with the custome of sinne shut vp grace­lesly. Counterfait beauty agrees well with inward vncleannesse.

Iebues resolution was too strongly setled to bee remoued with a painted face, or an oppro­brious tongue; He lookes vp to the window, and sayes, Who is on [Page 56] my side, who? There want not those euery where, which will be ready to obserue preuailing greatnesse: Two or three Eu­nuchs looke out; He bids them, Throw her downe: They instantly lay hold on their lately adored Mistris, and notwithstanding all her shrieks and prayers, cast her downe headlong into the street.

What heed is to be taken of the deepe professed seruices of hol­low harted followers; All this while they haue with humble smiles, and officious deuotions fawned vpon their great Queene; now vpon the call of a prospe­rous enemy, they forget their re­spects, her royalty; and cast her downe, as willing executioners, into the iawes of a fearfull death: [Page 57] It is hard for greatnesse to know them whom it may trust: Per­haps the fairest semblance is from the falsest heart; It was a iust plague of God vpon wicked Ie­zebel, that shee was inwardly ha­ted of her owne; He whose ser­uants she persecuted, raised vp e­nemies to her from her owne elbow.

Thus must pride fall; Insolent, idolatrous, cruell Iezebel besprin­kles the walls, and pauement with her blood; and now those braines that deuised mischiefe a­gainst the seruants of God, are strawed vpon the stones; and she that insulted vpon the Pro­phets, is trampled vpon by the horses heeles: The wicked is kept Iob 21. for the day of destruction, and shall be [Page 58] brought forth to the day of wrath.

Death puts an end common­ly to the hyest displeasure. He that was seuere in the execution of the liuing, is mercifull in the sepulture of the dead; Goe see now this cur­sed woman, and bury her, for she is a Kings daughter; She that vpbray­ded Iehu with the name of Zimri, shall be interred by Iehu as Omries daughter in law, as a Sydonian Princesse; Somewhat must bee yeelded to humanity; somewhat to State.

The dogs haue preuented Iehu in this purpose, and haue giuen her a liuing toomb more ignoble, then the worst of the earth; Onely the scull, hands, and feet of that vanished carkasse yet remaine; The scull which was the roofe of [Page 59] all her wicked deuices, the hands and feet which were the executi­oners; these shall remaine as the monuments of those shamefull exequies: that future times seeing these fragments of a body, might say, The dogges were worthy of the rest; Thus Iezebel is turned to dung, and dogs-meat; Elijah is verified, Naboth is reuenged; Iz­reel is purged, Iehu is zealous, and in all, God is iust.

IEHV killing the sonnes of AHAB, and the Priests of BAAL.

THere were two 2 Kings 10. prime Cities of the Ten Tribes, which were the set Courts of the Kingdome of Israel; Samaria and Iezreel; The chiefe palace of the King was Iezreel, the mother Ci­ty of the Kingdome, was Samaria; Iehu is possessed of the one, with­out any sword drawne against him; Iezreel willingly changes the master, yeelding it selfe to the [Page 61] victor of two Kings, to the a­uenger of Iezebel; the next care is Samaria; Either policy, or force shall fetch in that head of the Tribes.

The plentifull issue of Princes is no small assurance to the peo­ple; Ahab had sonnes enough to furnish the Thrones of all the neighbour nations, to maintaine the hopes of succession, to all times; How secure did he think the perpetuation of his posterity, when he saw seuenty sons from his owne loynes? Neither was this Royall issue trusted, either to weake walls, or to one roofe; but to the strong bulwarkes of Samaria, and therein to the seue­rall guards of the chiefe Peeres; It was the wise care of their parents [Page 62] not to haue them obnoxious to the danger of a common mis-ca­riage, or, of those emulations which wait vpon the cloyednesse of an vndiuided conuersation; but, to order their separation so, as one may rescue other from the perill of assault, as one may re­spect other out of a familiar strangenesse. Had Ahab and Ieze­bel beene as wise for their soules, as they were for their seed, both had prospered.

Iehu is yet but in his first act; If all the sonnes of Ahab bleed not, the prophesie is vnanswered; There shall be no need of his sword, his penne shall worke all this slaughter. He writes a Chal­lenge to Samaria, and therein to the guardians of the sons of Ahab; [Page 63] daring them, out of the confi­dence in their defenced City, in their charets, and horses, in their associats and armes, to set vp the best of their masters sonnes, on his fathers throne, and to fight for his succession.

All the Gouernours of Ahabs children conspire in one com­mon feare; 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 designe, longed for a reuenge, and suggested counsels of resolution to their cowardly guardians; Shall an audacious v­surper runne thus away with the Crowne of Israel? Shall the blood of Iezebel be thus traiterously spilt, thus wilfully forgotten? O Israe­lites, [Page 64] can ye be so base, as to be ru­led by my fathers seruant? Where are the merits of Ahab, and Ieho­ram? What is becomne of the loyall courage of Israel? Doubt­lesse, ye shal not wāt able seconds to your valour; Do ye thinke the royall and potent alliances of our mother Iezebel; and the remay­ning heyres of Iudah, can draw back their hands from your aide? will they indure to swallow so cruell an indignity? Stir vp your astonished fortitude, ô ye Nobles of Israel; redeeme your bleeding honour, reuenge this trecherous conspirator, and establish the right of the vndoubted heires of your Soueraignes; But as warm clothes to a dead man, so are the motions of valour to a fearfull [Page 65] heart: Behold two Kings stood not before him, how then shall we stand?

Feare affrights it selfe rather then it will want bugs of terror: It is true: Two Kings fell before Iehu; but, two Kings vnarmed, vnguarded; Had not the surpri­zall of Iehu taken aduantage of the vnsuspitious nakednesse of these two Princes, his victory had not beene thus successfull, thus easie. Halfe one of those two Kings, vpon aduertisement and prepara­tion, had abated the fury of that hot Leader. It is the fashion of feare to represent vnto vs alwaies the vvorst, in euery euent: not looking at the inequality of the aduantages, but the misery of the successe: as contrarily, it is the guise of faith, and valour, by the [Page 66] good issue of one enterprise to raise vp the heart to an expectation and assurance of more.

These mens hearts are dead with their Kings, neither dare en­tertaine the hope of a safe and pro­sperous resistance, but basely re­turne, We are thy seruants, and will doe all that thou shalt bid vs, we will not make any King; doe thou that which is good in thine eyes.

Well may Iehu think, these men which are thus disloyall to their charge, cannot be faithfull to me; It is their feare that drawes them to this obseruation: Were they not cowards, they would not be traitors to their Princes, subiects to me: I may vse their hands, but I will not trust them: It is a thank­lesse obedience that is grounded [Page 67] vpon feare; there can be no true fidelity without loue, & reuerēce. Neyther is it other betwixt God and vs; if out of a dread of hel we be officious, who shall thanke vs for these respects to our selues?

As one that had tasted already the sweetnesse of a resolute expe­dition, Iehu writes backe instant­ly, If ye be mine, and if ye will harken vnto my voyce; take ye the heads of the men your Masters sonnes, and come to me to Iezreel by to morrow this time. Valiant Iehu was so well acquain­ted with the nature of feare, that he well knew this passion once growne desperate, would be rea­dy to swallow all conditions: so far therefore doth his wisedome improue it, as to make these Peers his executioners; who presently [Page 68] vpon the receit of his charge turne cruell, & by a ioynt consent fetch off the seauenty heads of those Princes, whom they vndertooke to guard, vvhom they had flatte­red vvith the hopes of greater ho­nour.

No doubt, but amongst so ma­ny sonnes of Ahab, some had so demeaned themselues, that they had wonne zealous professions of loue from their guardians: Ex­cept perhaps death stole vpon them in sleepe, what teares, what intreaties, what cōiurations must here needs haue beene?

What haue wee done, ô yee Peeres of Israel, that might deserue this bloody measure? We are the sonnes of Ahab, therefore haue ye hitherto professed to obserue vs; [Page 69] what change is this? vvhy should that which hath hitherto kept you loyall, now make you cruell? Is this the reward of the long peaceable gouernment of our fa­ther? are these the Trophees of A­habs victories against Benhadad, Iehorams against Hazael? If wee may not raigne, yet at least, let vs liue: Or if vve must dye; why will your hands bee imbrued in that blood, vvhich ye had vvont to terme royall, and sacred? vvhy will ye of Tutors turne murthe­rers? All pleas are in vaine to them that are deafned with their owne feares. Perhaps these expostulati­ons might haue fetched some dewes of pity from the eyes, and kisses from the lips of these vn­faithfull Tutors, but cannot pre­uent [Page 70] the stroke of death; These Crocodiles vveepe vpon those, vvhom they must kill: & if their owne sonnes had beene in the place of Ahabs, doubtlesse they had beene sacrificed to the vvill of an vsurper, to the paients safety: It is ill relying vpon timerous natures; vpon euery occasion those crazie reeds vvill breake, and runne into our hands. How vvorthy were Ahab and Iezebel of such friends? They had been euer false to God, how should men be true to thē? They had sold themselues to vvorke wickednes, and now they are requited with a mercenary fi­delity: for a few lines haue these men sold all the heads of Ahabs posterity: Could euer the policy of Iezebel haue reacht so farre, as [Page 71] to suspect the possibility of the ex­tirpation of so ample an issue in one night, by the hands of her trustiest subiects?

Now she that by her letter sent to the Elders of Iezreel, shed the blood of Naboth and his sonnes, hath the blood of all her sonnes shed by a letter sent from Iezreel, to the Elders of Samaria. At last, God will be sure to come out of the debt of vvicked sinners, and will pay them with that coyne, which is both most proper, and least lookt for.

Early in the morning, in that gate of Iezreel where Ahab had passed many an vniust sentence, is presented vnto Iehu, the fearfull pledge of his soueraignty, seuenty gastly heads of the sons of Ahab.

[Page 72] Some carnall eye that had seene so many young and smooth faces besmeared vvith blood, would haue melted into compassion, be­moning their harmlesse age, their vntimely end: It is not for the iu­stice of God to stand at the barre of our corrupted iudgment. Ex­cept we include some grandchil­dren of Ahab within this number, none of these dyed before they vvere seasoned vvith horrible I­dolatry; or if they had; they were in the loynes of Ahab when hee sold himselfe to worke wicked­nesse; & now it is iust vvith God to punish Ahabs vvickednesse in this fruit of his loynes. The holy seuerity of God in the reuenge of sinne sometimes goes so farre that our ignorance is ready to mis­take [Page 73] it for cruelty.

The vvonder and horror of those two heapes hath easily drawne together the people of Iezreel: Iehu meets them in that seat of publique iudgment; and finding much amazednes & pas­sionate confusion in their faces; he cleares them, and sends them to the true originall of these sud­den and astonishing massacres.

Howeuer his owne conspira­cy, and the cowardly trechery of the Princes of Israel had been (not vvithout their hainous sinne) the visible meanes of this iudgment, yet he directs their eyes to an hyer authoritie; the iust decree of the Almighty, manifested by his ser­uant Elijah; vvho euen by the vvilling sinnes of men can most [Page 74] wisely, most hostilely fetch about his most righteous and blessed purposes.

If the Peers of Samaria out of a base feare, if Iehu out of an ambi­tion of raigning shed the foule blood of Ahabs posterity; the sin is their owne, but in the meane time the act is no other then what the infinite iustice of God would iustly worke by their mis-inten­tions. Let these Israelites but looke vp from earth to heauen, these tra­gicall changes cannot trouble thē; thither Iehu sends them; wiping off the enuy of all this blood, by the warrant of the diuine preor­dination: In obedience where­unto he sends after these heyres of Ahab, all his kinsfolkes, fauourites, priests that remained in Iezreel: [Page 75] and now hauing cleared these coasts, he hasts to Samaria: whom should he meet with, in the way, but the brethren of Ahaziah King of Iudah; they are going to visit their cozens the sonnes of Ahab: This young troupe was thinking of nothing but iollity, and courtly intertainment, when they meet with death: So suddenly, so se­cretly had Iehu dispatched these bold executions, that these Prin­ces could imagine no cause of sus­pition: How could they thinke it might be dāgerous to be knowne for the brethren of Ahaziah, or friends to the brethren of Iehoram? The iust prouidence of the Al­mightie hath brought all this co­vie vnder one net; Iehu thinkes it not safe to let goe so many auen­gers [Page 76] of Ahaziahs blood; so many corriuals of his Soueraignty. The vnhappy affinitie of Iehosaphat with Ahab is no lesse guilty of this slaughter, then Iehues ambition; This match by the inoculation of one bud, hath tainted all the sap of the house of Iudah. The two & fourtie brethren of Ahaziah are therefore sent after the seuentie sonnes of Ahab; that they may o­uertake them in death, whom they came to visit; God will much lesse brooke Idolatry from the loines of a Iehosaphat: Our in­tirenesse with wicked men feoffs vs both in their sinnes and iudg­ments.

Doubtlesse, many Israelites that were deuoted to the family and allies of Ahab, lookt (what they [Page 77] durst) awry at this cōmon effusi­on of royal blood; yet in the worst of the deprauednes of Israel, there were some which both drouped vnder the deplored Idolatry of the times, and congratulated to Iehu this seuere vindication of Gods inheritance: Amongst the rest, Io­nadab the son of Rechab was most eminent. That man was by de­scent deriued from Iethro; a Midi­anite by nation, but incorporated into Israel; a man, whose piety, and strict conuersation did both teach, and shame those twelue Tribes to which he was ioyned; He was the author of an austere rule of ciuility to his posterity; to whom he debarred the vse of wine, cities, possessions: This old and rough friend of Iehu, (out of [Page 78] his mouing habitations) meets him, and applauds his successe; He that allowed not wine to his seed, allowes the blood of Ahabs seed poured out, by the hand of Iehu; He that shun'd the city, is caryed in Iehues charet, to the palace of Sa­maria.

How easily might Iehu haue beene deceiued? Many a one pro­fesses vprightnesse, who yet is all guile: Ionadabs cariage hath been such, that his word merits trust: It is a blessing vpon the plaine­hearted, that they can be beleeued: Honest Ionadab is admitted to the honor of Iehues seat; and called (in stead of many) to witnesse the zeale of the new-anointed King of Israel.

Whiles Iehu had to doe with [Page 79] Kings, his cunning and his cou­rage held equal pace together; but now that he is to deale with ido­latrous priests, his wile goes a­lone, and preuailes: He calls the people together, and dissembling his intentions, sayes, Ahad serued Baal a little, but Iehu shall serue him much: Now therefore call vnto me all the Prophets of Baal, all his seruants, and all his priests, let none be wanting: for I haue a great sacrifice to doe to Baal: whosoeuer shall be wanting, he shall not liue.

What a dead palenesse was there now in the faces of those few true-harted Israelites, that loo­ked for an happy restauration of the religion of God? How could they choose but think; Alas, how are we fallen from our hopes? Is [Page 80] this the change we lookt for? was it only ambition that hath set this edge vpon the sword of Iehu? It was not the person of Ahab that we disliked but the sins: If those must still succeed, what haue we gained? Woe be to vs, if onely 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 euery where of the ioyfull Baa­lites? What glorying of the truth of their profession, because of the successe? what scornes of their de­iected opposites? what exprobra­tions of the disappointed hopes, and predictions of their aduerse Prophets? what promises to thē ­selues of a perpetuity of Baalisme? [Page 81] How did the dispersed priests of Baal now flock together, and ap­plaud each others happinesse, and magnifie the deuotions of their new Soueraigne? Neuer had that Idoll so glorious a day as this for the pompe of his seruice; Before, he was adored singlely in corners, now solemne sacrifices shall bee offered to him by all his clients, in the great Temple of the mother Citie of Israel. I can commend the zeale of Iehu, I cannot commend the fraud of Iehu; We may come to our end euen by crooked wayes: He that bad him to smite for him, did not bid him to lie for him: Falshood, though it be but tentatiue, is neither needed, nor approued by the God of truth: If policy haue allowed offici­ous [Page 82] vntruths, Religion neuer.

By this deuice, the house of Baal is well furnished, well filled; not one of his Chemarim eyther might, or would be absent: not one of those which were present, might be vnrobed: False Gods haue euer affected to imitate the true. Euen Baal hath Temples, Altars, Priests, vestments: All religions haue allotted peculiar habits to their hyest deuotions. Those Vestments which they mis-called sacred are brought forth, and put on for the glory of this seruice.

Iehu and Ionadab are first carefull that this separation be exact; they search, and see that no seruant of the Lord be crept into that thrōg: What should a religious Israelite [Page 83] doe in the Temple of Baal? Were any such there, hee had deserued their smart, who would partake with their worship; but if curio­sity should haue drawne any thi­ther, the mercy of Iehu seekes his rescue: How much more fauou­rable is the God of mercies in not taking aduantage of our infirmi­ties.

Well might this search haue bred suspition, were it not that in all those Idolatrous sacrifices, the first care was to auoid the pro­fane: Euen Baal would admit no mixture, how should the true God abide it?

Nothing wanted now, but the sacrifice: No doubt whole heards and flockes were ready for a pre­tence of some royall hecatombs; [Page 84] whereof some had now already smoked on their Altars. O Iehu what meanes this dilation? If thou abhorrest Baal, why didst thou giue way to this last sacrifice? why didst thou not cut off these Idolaters before this vpshot of their wickednesse? Was it that thou mightst be sure of their guil­tinesse? was it that their number, together with their sinne, might be complete? What acclamations were here to Baal, what ioy in the freedome of their reuiued worship: when all on the sud­den, those that had sacrificed, are sacrificed; The Souldiers of Iehu by his appointment rush in with their swords drawne, and turne the temple into a slaughter-house. How is the tune now changed? [Page 85] What shrieking was here? what out-cries? what running from one sword, to the edge of another? what scrambling vp the walls and pillars? what climbing into the windowes? what vaine ende­uors to escape that death which would not be shunned? whether running, or kneeling, or prostrate, they must dye.

The first part of the sacrifice was Baals, the latter is Gods: 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, then those they sacrificed. Oh happy obedience; God was pleased with a sacrifice from the house of Baal; The Idolaters are [Page 86] slaine, the Idols burnt, the house of Baal turn'd to a draught (tho euen thus lesse vncleane, lesse noy­some, then in the former per­fumes;) and in one word, Baal is destroyed out of Israel.

Who that had seene all this zeale for God, would not haue said; Iehu is a true Israelite. Yet, he that roo­ted out Ahab, would not be rid of Ieroboam: He that destroyed Baal, maintained the two Calues of Dan and Bethel. That Idolatry was of a lower ranke; as being a mis-worship of the true God, whereas the other was a worship of the false: Euen the easier of both is haynous; and shall robb Iehu of the praise of his vpright­nesse.

A false heart may laudably quit [Page 87] it selfe of some one gross sin, & in the meane time hugg some lesser euill that may condemne it: As a man recouered of a Feuer, may dye of a Iaundis, or a Dropsie. We lose the thanke of all, if wee wilfully fault in one.

It is an intire goodnes that God cares for: Perhaps (such is the bounty of our God) a partiall o­bedience may be rewarded with a temporall blessing; (as Iehues se­uerity to Ahab shal cary the crown to his seed for foure generations) but we can neuer haue any com­fortable assurance of an eternall retribution, if our hearts & wayes be not perfit with God. Woe be to vs, ô God, if wee bee not all thine: wee cannot but euerlast­ingly depart from thee, if wee [Page 88] depart not from euery sinne: Thou hast purged our hearts from the Baal of our grosse Idola­tries, oh cleare vs from the golden Calues of our pety-corruptions also; that thou maist take pleasure in our vprightnesse; and wee may reape the sweet com­forts of thy gracious re­muneration.

ATHALIAH and IOASH.

OH the wofull ruines 2 Kings 11, & 12. And 2 Chron. 23. & 24. of the house of good Iehosaphat: Iehu hath slain two and fourty of his is­sue; Athaliah hopes to root out the rest: This daughter of Ahab was not like to be other then fa­tall 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 vnlike that Ahaziah be­taking himselfe to the society of [Page 90] Iehorams warres, committed the sway of his Scepter to his mother Athaliah. The daughter of Iezebel cannot but be plotting: when she heares of the death of Ahaziah, and his brethren, inflicted by the heauy hand of Iehu, shee straight casts for the Kingdome of Iudah: The true heires are infants, their minority giues her both colour of rule, and oportunity of an easie extirpation. Perhaps, her ambition was not more guilty then her zeale of Baalisme: she saw Iehu out of a detestation of Idolatry, tram­pling on the blood of Iehoram, Ie­zebel, Ahaziah, the sonnes 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 [Page 91] out of Israel: and now she thinks, Why should not I destroy Iehosa­phat, and his God out of Iudah?

Who euer saw an Idolater that was not cruell? Athaliah must needs let out some of her owne blood, out of the throat of Aha­ziahs sonnes; yet she spares not to shed it out of a thirst of soue­raignty. O God how worthy of wonder are thy iust and mercifull dispensations? In that thou suffe­rest the seed of good Iehosaphat to bee destroyed by her hand, in whose affinity he offended, and yet sauest one branch of this stock of Iehosaphat, for the sake of so faithfull a progenitor.

Wicked Athaliah, couldst thou thinke God would so farre for­get his Seruant Dauid (though no [Page 92] other of those loynes had secon­ded his vertues) as to suffer all his seed to be rooted out of the earth? This vengeance was for thy fa­ther Ahab; The man according to Gods owne heart shall haue a lineall heyre to succeed in his Throne, when thou and thy fa­thers house shall haue vanished into forgetfulnesse.

For this purpose hath the wise prouidence of God ordained a Ie­hosheba, and matcht her in the priestly Tribe: Such reuerence did Iehoram, King of Iudah (though degenerated into the Idolatry of his father in law Ahab) beare to this sacred function, that he mar­ries his daughter to Iehoiada the Priest. Euen Princesses did not then scorne the bed of those that [Page 93] serued at Gods Altar: Why should the Gospel poure contempt vpon that which the Law honoured?

That good Lady had too much of Iehosaphat in her, to suffer the vtter extirpation of that royall seed; She could not doubtlesse, without the extreme danger of her owne life, saue the life of her nephew Ioash; With what a lo­uing boldnesse doth she aduen­ture to steale him from amongst those bleeding carkasses, in the chamber of death? Her match gaue her oportunity to effect that, which both nature, and religion moued her to attempt: neyther know I, whether more to won­der at the cunning of the deuice, or the courage of the enterprise, or the secresie of the concealment, or [Page 94] the happinesse of the successe: Certainly, Athaliah was too cru­elly-carefull to forget this so late borne sonne of Ahaziah; of all the rest, his age would not suffer him to be out of her eye: In all likeli­hood therefore, shee must needs haue missed so noted a corps, had there not beene a substitution of some other dead chyld in his roome: In that age, the fauour is not so distinguishable; especially of a dead face. Without some pi­ous deceit this worke could ne­uer haue beene effected; Else, had the chyld beene secretly subduced, and missed by his bloody grand­mother, her perpetuall iealousie had both expected a suruiuing heyre, and continued a curious, and vnauoydable search: both [Page 95] which were now shunned at once, whilst Athaliah reckons him for dead, whom Iehosheba hath preserued. Mischiefe sometimes failes of those appointments, wherein it thinkes to haue made the surest worke; God laughes in heauen at the plots of Tyrans; and befooles them in their deepest proiects. He had said to Dauid, Of the fruit of thy body will I set vpon thy seate; In vaine shall earth and hell conspire to frustrate it.

Sixe yeares hath Ioash, and his nurse beene hid in a close cell of the Temple: Those roomes were destin'd onely to the holy Tribe; yet now reioyce to harbour such a guest; The rigour of the ordi­nary Law must yeeld to cases of so important necessity.

[Page 96] All this could not possibly be done and continued without the priuity of many faithfull Priests & Leuites; who were as carefull to keepe this counsell, as hopefull of the issue of it: It is not hard for many honest hearts to agree in a religious secresie; Needs must those lips bee shut, which God hath sealed vp.

Iudah had not been vsed to such a yoke; long had it groned vnder the tyranny not of a woman one­ly, but an Idolatrous Sydonian: If any of that sexe might haue clai­med that Scepter, none had so much right to it, as Iehosheba her selfe; But good Iehoiada the Priest, who had rather to bee a loyall guardian to the King, then an hus­band to a Queene, now findes [Page 97] time to set on foot the iust title of Ioash; and to put him into the mis­vsurped throne of his father Aha­ziah.

In the seuenth yeare, therefore, he sends for the Captaines, and the Gard; and hauing sworne them secrecy; by vndoubted wit­nesses makes faith vnto them of the truth of their natiue Prince, thus happily rescued from the bloody knife of his mercilesse Grandmother; marshals the great businesse of his Inauguration; giues euery one his charge; sets euery one his station; and so dis­poses of his holy forces, as was most needfull for the safety of the King, the reuenge of the Vsurper, the preuention of tumults, the establishment of the Crowne [Page 98] vpon the owners head in Peace and Ioy.

There was none of all these agents who did not hold the bu­sinesse to bee his owne; Euery true subiect of Iudah was feeling­ly interessed in this seruice; nei­ther was there any of them, who was not secretly heart-burned all this while, with the hatefull go­uernment of this Idolatrous Ty­rannesse: And now this inward fire is glad to find a vent; How gladly do they address themselues to this welcome imployment? The greatest part of this secret band were Leuites, who might therefore both meet together with least suspition, and be more securely trusted by Iehoiada, vnder whom they serued; Euen that [Page 99] holy Priest of God in stead of tea­ching the Law, sets the gard, or­ders the Captaines, ranges the troupes of Iudah; and in stead of a Censer, brings forth the Speares and Shields of Dauid; the Tem­ple is for the present, a Field, or an Artillery-yard; and the Ephods are turned into harnesse. That house, in the rearing whereof not the noyse of an hammer might be heard, now admits of the clash­ing of armour, and the secret murmurs of some military atchieuement: No circumstan­ces either of place, or calling, are so punctuall, as that publique ne­cessity may not dispense with their alteration.

All things are now ready for this solemnity: Each man reioy­ces [Page 100] to fixe vpon his owne foot­ing; and longs to see the face of their long-concealed Soueraigne; and vowes his blood to the vin­dication of the common liberty, to the punishment of a cruell in­truder: Now Iehoiada brings forth vnto them the Kings Son, and presents him to the Peeres, and people; Hardly can the mul­titude containe it selfe from shou­ting out too soone: One sees in his countenance the features of his Father, Ahaziah; another of his Grandfather, Iehoram; a third professes to discerne in him some lines, and fashion of his great­grandfather Iehosaphat; all find in his face the naturall impressions of Maiesty; and reade in it the hopes, yea the prophesies of their [Page 101] future happinesse. Not with more ioy, then speed, doth Iehoia­da accomplish all the rites of the Coronation. Before that young King could know what was done to him, hee is anointed, crowned, presented with the booke of the Law: Those cere­monies were instructiue; and, no doubt, Iehoiada failed not to com­ment vpon them in due time, to that royall Pupill.

The Oyle, wherewith he was anointed, signified his designa­tion to that high seruice; and those indowments from heauen that might inable him to so great a function.

The Crowne, wherewith he was adorned, signified that glo­rie and maiesty which should [Page 102] both incourage, and attend his Princely cares.

The booke of the Testimony signified the diuine rules and di­rections, whereto he must frame his heart and actions, in the weil­ding of that Crowne, in the im­prouement of that oile.

These three, the oile, the Crown the Testimonie, that is, inward powers, outward magnificence, true pietie and iustice make vp a perfect Prince; None of these may be wanting; If there be not a due calling of God, and abilities meet for that greatnesse, the oile faileth: If there be not a Maiesticke grace and royaltie, that may command reuerence, the Crowne is missing; If there be not a carefull respect to the law of God, as the absolute [Page 103] guide of all counsells, and deter­minations, the Testimonie is neglected; all of them concur­ring, make both King and peo­ple happy.

Now, it is time for the people to clap their hands, and by their lowd acclamations to witnesse their ioy; which must needs break forth with so much more force, by how much it was longer, vp­on feares and policy, suppressed.

The Court and the Temple were neere together; Howeuer it was with Athaliah, and the late re­uolted Princes of Iudah, according to the common word, the neerer to the Church, the further from God; their religious predecessors held it the greatest commodity of their house, that it neighboured [Page 104] vpon the house of God; From her palace might Athaliah easily heare the ioyfull shouts of the multitude, the lowd noise of the Trumpets; and as astonished with this new tumult of publike gratulations, she comes running into the Temple: Neuer had her foot trod vpon that holy paue­ment, till now that she came to fetch a iust reuenge from that God whose worship shee had contemned.

It fell out well, that her sud­den amazednesse called her forth, without the attendance of any strong guard; whose side-taking might haue made that quarrell mutually bloody: Shee soone heares, and sees what shee likes not; her eare meets with, God [Page 105] saue the King; her eye meets with the vnlooked for heyre of the Kingdome, sitting on his throne, crowned, and robed, in the royall fashion; guarded with the Cap­taines and souldiers, proclaimed by the Trumpeters, acclamed & applauded by the people.

Who can say whether this sight draue her more neer to frenzie, or death? How could it bee other­wise, when those great spirits of hers, that had beene long vsed to an vncontrolled soueraigntie, find themselues so inexpectedly sup­pressed.

Shee now rends her cloathes, and cryes, Treason, treason, as if that voice of hers could still com­mand all hearts, all hands; as if one breath of hers were power­full [Page 106] enough to blow away all these new designes: Oh Athaliah, to whom dost thou complaine thy selfe? they are thy iust execu­tioners wherewith thou art in­compassed; If it be treason to set vp the true heire of Ahaziah, thou appealest to thy Traitors. The treason was thine, theirs is iustice; The time is now come of thy reckoning for all the royall blood of Iudah, which thine ambition shed; wonder rather at the pati­ence of this long forbearance, then the rigor of this execution.

There needs no formall seat of Iustice in so apparent offence, Iehoiada passes the sentence of death vpon her; Haue her forth of the ranges; Let her not be slaine in the house of the Lord; and him that fol­loweth [Page 107] her, kill with the sword.

Had not this vsurpation beene palpable, Iehoiada would not haue presumed to intermedle; Now being both the Priest of God, and Vnckle and Protector to the law­full King, he doth that, out of the necessity of the state, which his infant Soueraigne (if hee could haue beene capable of those thoughts) would haue desired.

Violent hands are layd vpon A­thaliah, whom no doubt a proud and furious disdaine of so quicke a charge, and of so rough an vsage made miserably impatient; Now she frownes, and cals, and shrieks and commands, and threatens, and reuiles, and intreats in vaine; and dyes with as much ill will from her selfe, as she liued with [Page 108] the ill will of her repining sub­iects.

I see not any one man of all her late flatterers, that followes her, either for pitty, or rescue; Euery man willingly giues her vp to iustice; Not one sword is drawn in her defence; Not one eye la­ments her. Such is the issue of a tyrannicall mis-gouernment; that which is obeyed not without se­cret hate, is lost not without pub­lique ioy.

How like is Athaliah to her mother Iezebel, as in conditions and carriage, so euen in death: Both killed violently, both killed vnder their owne walls; both slaine with Treason in their mouthes; both slaine in the en­trance of a changed gouernment: [Page 109] One trod on by the horses, the other slaine in the horse-gate. Both paid their owne blood for the innocent blood of others.

How suddenly, how easily is Iudah restored to it selfe, after so long, and so fearfull a deprauati­on; The people scarce beleeue their owne eyes, for the wonder of this happy change; neither know I whether they bee more ioyed in the sight of their new King, thus strangely preserued, or in the sight of Iehoiada, that had preserued him.

No man can enuy the pro­tection of the young King vnto him, by whose meanes hee liues and raignes: That holy man cares onely to improue his authority, to the common good: He makes a [Page 110] couenant betweene the Lord, and the King, and the people: and after so long & dangerous a disjunction, reunites them to each other. Their reuiued zeale bestirs it selfe, and breakes downe the Temples, and altars, and images of Baal, and sacrifices his idolatrous Priest; Shortly, both Ahab, and Baal is destroyed out of Iudah.

The Scepter of Iudah is chan­ged from a woman, to a child; but, a Child trained vp, and tu­tored by Iehoiada; This minority so guided was not inferiour to the mature age of many predecessors. Happy is that land, the non-age of whose Princes falls into holy and iust hands. Yet euen these holy and iust hands came short of what they might haue done; The [Page 111] high places remained still: Those altars were erected to the true God, but in a wrong place: It is maruell if there be not some ble­mishes found in the best gouern­ment: I doubt Iehoiada shall once abuy it deare that hee did not his vtmost.

But for the mayne, all was wel with Iudah, in all the dayes of Iehoiada; euen after that Ioash was growne past his pupillage: Hee that was the Tutor to his infan­cie, was the councellor of his ripe age; and was equally happy in both: How pleasing was it to that good High Priest, to be com­manded by that charge of his in the businesse of God? The yong King giues order to the Priests, for the collection of large summs, [Page 112] to the repayring of the breaches of Gods House. It becomes him well to take care of that, which was the nursery of his infancy: And now, after three and twen­tie yeares he expostulates with his late Guardian, Iehoiada, and the rest of his coate, Why repayre ye not the breaches?

Oh gracious and happy vicis­situde; Iehoiada the Priest had ru­led the infancy of King Ioash in matters of state; and now Ioash the King commands aged Iehoia­da the Priest in matter of deuoti­on. In the affaires of God, the action is the Priests, the ouersight and coaction is the Princes: By the carefull indeuor of both, Gods house is repayred, his seruice flou­risheth.

[Page 113] But alas, that it may too well appeare, that the ground of this motion was not altogether in­ward, no sooner doth the life of Iehoiada cease, then the deuotion of Ioash begins to languish: and after some languor, dyes.

The benefit of a truly religious Prelate, or States-man, is not knowne till his losse.

Now some idolatrous Peeres of Iudah haue soone mis-carryed the King from the House of the Lord God of their Fathers, to serue Groues, and Idols. Yea, whither goe we wretched men, if we be left by our Maker? King Ioash is turned, not idolater onely, but persecutor; yea, (which is yet more horrible to consider) perse­cutor of the sonne of that Iehoiada [Page 114] to whom he owes his owne life. Zechariah his Cosen german, his foster-brother, the holy issue of those parents, by whom Ioash liues, and raignes, for the conscio­nable rebuke of the idolatry of Prince, and people, is vniustly, and cruelly murthered by that vnthankfull hand: How pos­sible is it for faire and Saint-like beginnings to shut vp in mon­strous impieties? Let him that thinkes hee stands, take heed lest he fall. When did God euer put vp so foule ingratitude to him­selfe, to his seruants? O Ioash, what eye can pitty the fearfull de­struction of thee, and thy Iudah?

If ye haue forgotten the kind­nesse of Iehoiada, your vnkindness to Iehoiada shall not be forgotten: [Page 115] A small army of Syrians came vp a­gainst Iudah and Ierusalem, and de­stroyed all the Princes of the people, and sent all the spoyle of them to Da­mascus. Now Hazael reuenges this quarrell of God, and his anointed; and plagues that peo­ple which made themselues vn­worthy to bee the Lords inheri­tance.

And what becomes of Ioash? Hee is left in great diseases, when his owne seruants conspired a­gainst him for the blood of the sonnes of Iehoiada, and slew him on his bed, and he dyed; and they buryed him not in the Sepulcher of the Kings. Dying Zechariah had sayd in the bitter­nesse of his departing soule, The Lord looke vpon it, and require it: I confesse I had rather to haue [Page 116] heard him say, The Lord passe it ouer, and remit it; so said Steuen; such difference there is betweene a Martyr of the Law, and of the Gospell: although I will hope the zeale of iustice, not the vn­charitable heate of reuenge drew forth this word: God heares it, and now giues an account of his notice; Thus doth the Lord re­quire the blood of Iehoiadaes son; euen by the like vnthankfull hand of the obliged seruants of Ioash. He that was guilty of ab­hominable Idolatry, yet (as if God meant to waue that chal­lenge) is called to reckoning for his cruell vnthankfulnesse to Ie­hoiada; This crime shall make him odious aliue, and shall abandon him dead from the sepulcher of [Page 117] his fathers; as if this last royalty were too good for him, who had forgotten the law of humanity. Some vices are such, as Nature smiles vpon, though frowned at by diuine Iustice: Others are such, as euen Nature it selfe abhorres; such is this of Ingratitude, which therefore caries so much more de­testation from God, as it is more odious euen to them that haue blotted out the image of God.

IOASH with ELISHA dying.

THe two Kingdoms 2 Kings 13. of Iudah and Israel, how euer diuided both in gouerne­ment, and affecti­on, yet loued to interchange the names of their Kings; Euen Israel also had their Ioash, no better then that of Iudah; he was not more the father of a later Ieroboam, then (in respect of mis-worship) he was the son of the first Ieroboam, who made Israel to sin; Those Calues of Dan and Bethel, out of a poli­tick mis-deuotion, besotted all [Page 119] the succession of the ten vsurped Tribes: yet euen this Idolatrous King of Israel comes downe to visit the sicke bed of Elisha, and weeps vpon his face.

That holy Prophet was neuer any flatterer of Princes, neyther spared he inuectiues against their most plausible sinnes: yet King Ioash, that was beaten by his re­proofes, washes that face with the teares of loue, and sorrow, which had often frowned vpon his wickednesse.

How much difference there was betwixt the Ioash of Israel, and the Ioash of Iudah? That of Iu­dah hauing beene preserued and nurtured by Iehoiada the Priest, af­ter all professions of dearnesse shuts vp in the vnkinde murther [Page 120] of his sonne; and that meerly for the iust reproofe of his own Ido­latry: This of Israel hauing beene estranged from the Prophet Eli­sha, and sharply rebuked for the like offence, makes loue to his dy­ing reprouer, and bedewes his pale face with his teares: Both were bad enough, but this of Is­rael was, howeuer vicious, yet good-natur'd: That of Iudah ad­ded to his wickednesse, an ill dis­position, a dogged humor. There are varieties euen of euill men; some are worse at the root, others at the branch; some more ciuilly harmlesse, others fouler in mora­lity. According to the exercise of the restraining grace, naturall men doe eyther rise, or fall in their ill.

The longest day must haue his [Page 121] euening: Good Elisha, that had liued some ninety yeares, a won­der of Prophets, and had out­worne many successions in the thrones of Israel, & Iudah, is now cast vpon the bed of his sicknesse, yea, of his death: That very age might seeme a disease; which yet is seconded with a languishing distemper: It is not in the power of any holinesse to priuiledge vs from infirmity of body, from fi­nall dissolution: He that stretched himselfe vpon his bed, ouer the dead carkasse of the Shunamites sonne, and reuiued it; must now stretch out his owne limmes vp­on his sicke bed, and dye: Hee saw his Master Elijah rapt vp sud­denly from the earth, and fetcht by a fiery chariot from this vale [Page 122] of mortalitie; himselfe must lea­surely wait for his last pangs, in a lingring passage to the same glo­ry. There is not one way appoin­ted to vs, by the diuine proui­dence, vnto one common bles­sednesse: One hath more paine, another hath more speed: Vio­lence snatcheth away one, ano­ther by an insensible pace drawes euery day neerer to his terme: The wisedome and goodnesse of God magnifies it selfe in both: Happy is he that after due prepa­ration, is past through the gates of death, ere he be aware; Happy is he that by the holy vse of long sicknesse is taught to see the gates of death afarre off, and addressed for a resolute passage: The one dyes like Elijah, the other like [Page 123] Elisha, both blessedly.

The time was, when a great King sent to Elisha to know if he should recouer; now the King of Israel, as knowing that Elisha shall not recouer (so had his con­sumption spent him) comes to visit the dying Prophet; & when his teares would giue him leaue; breakes forth into a passionate ex­clamation, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsmen thereof. Yet the Calues of Dan and Bethel haue left some goodnesse in Ioash: As the best man hath something in him worthy of re­proofe; so the faultiest hath som­thing commendable. Had not the spirit of God himselfe told vs, that Ioash did that which was euill in the sight of the Lord, wee had [Page 124] admired this piety, this reuerent respect to the Prophet. The holi­est man could not haue said more: It is possible for the clients of a false worship, to honor (out of another regard) the professors of Truth; From the hand of Eli­sha had Iehu the grandfather of Io­ash receiued his vnction to the Kingdome: this fauour might not be forgotten.

Visitation of the sicke is a duty required both by the law of hu­manity, and of religion; Bodily infirmity is sad, and comfortlesse; and therefore needs the presence, and counsell of friends to re­lieue it; Although, when wee draw the curtaines of those that are eminently gracious, wee doe rather fetch (with Ioash) then [Page 125] bring a blessing.

How sensible should wee bee of the losse of holy men, when a Ioash spends his teares vpon Eli­sha? If we be more affected with the forgoing of a naturall friend, or kinsman, then of a noted and vsefull Prophet, it argues more loue to our selues, then to the Church of God, then to GOD himselfe.

What vse there was of charets and horsemen in those warres of the Ancient, all Histories can tell vs: All the strength of the battell stood in these: There could bee neither defence, nor offence, but by them: such was Elisha vnto Is­rael; The greatest safegard to any nation is the sanctity, and faith­fulnesse of their Prophets; with­out [Page 126] which, the Church and State lyes open to vtter desolation.

The same words that Elisha said of his master Elijah, when he saw him taken vp from the earth, doth Ioash now speake of Elisha, neere his dissolution: O my father, my father, the charets of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. The words were good; the teares were pious; but where are the actions? O Ioash, if the Prophet were thy father, wher was thy filiall obedience? he cry'd downe thy Calues, thou vpheldst them; he counsell'd thee to good, thou didst euill in the sight of the Lord.

If the Prophet were the cha­rets and horsemen of Israel, why didst thou fight against his holy doctrine? If thou weepest for his [Page 127] losse, why didst thou not weepe for those sinnes of thine, that pro­cured it?

Had thine hand answered thy tongue, Israel had been happy in Elisha; Elisha had beene happy in Israel, and thee; Words are no good tryall of profession: The worst men may speake well: Actions haue onely the power to descry hypocrites.

Yet euen a Ioash thus complying, shall not goe away vnblessed: This outward kindnesse shall re­ceiue an outward retribution; These few drops of warme wa­ter shed vpon the face of a Pro­phet, shall not lose their reward; The spirit of prophesie forsakes not the death-bed of Elisha; Hee calls for bow, and arrowes, and [Page 128] puts them into the hand of Ioash, and putting his hands vpon the Kings hand, hee bids to shoot Eastward: and whiles the shaft flyes, and lights, he sayes, The ar­row of the Lords deliuerance from Sy­ria; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou haue consumed them: If the weake and withered hand of the Prophet had not beene vp­on the youthfull, and vigorous hand of the King, this bow had been drawn in vaine; the strength was from the hand of the King, the blessing from the hand of the Prophet: He whose reall parable hath made the earth to be Syria, the arrow, reuenge, the archer, Ioash, hath obtained for his last boone from God to Israel, that this archer shall shoot this arrow [Page 129] of reuenge, into the heart of Sy­ria, and wound it to death. When the hand of the King, and of the Prophet drawes together, there cannot choose but successe must follow.

How readily doth Elisha now make good the words of Ioash? How truly is he the Charets, and Horsemen of Israel? Israel had not fought without him, much lesse had been victorious; If theirs be the indeuour, the successe is his: Euen the dying Prophet puts life, and speed into the Forces of Israel, and whiles hee is digging his owne graue, is raising Tro­phees to Gods people.

Hee had receiued kindnesse from the Syrians; amongst them was hee harbour'd in the dearth; [Page 130] and from some of their Nobles, was presented with rich gifts; but their enmity to Israel drowns all his priuate respects; he cannot but professe hostility to the pub­lique enemies of the Church: Neither can he content himselfe with a single prediction of their ruine. Hee bids Ioash to take the arrowes, and smite vpon the ground; hee sets no number of those strokes; as supposing the frequēce of those blowes, which Ioash might well (vpon his former parabolicall act) vnderstand to bee significant. The slacke hand of the King smites but thrise. So apt we are to be wanting to our selues; so coldly doe wee execute the commands of God: The sick Prophet is not more greeued, [Page 131] then angry at this dull negligence; Doubtlesse God had reuealed to him (for his last gratification) that vpon his feruent prayers, so oft as Ioash should voluntarily (after his generall charge) smite the earth, so oft should Israel smite Syria. Elishaes zeale doth not lan­guish with his body: with a fa­therly authoritie hee chides him, who had styled him father; not fearing to spend some of his last winde in a myld reproofe, Thou shouldst haue smitten fiue or six times, then thou hadst smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it, whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrise. Not that the vnchangeable decree of the Almighty meant to suspend it selfe vpon the vncertaine issue of Ioashes will; but, hee that put this [Page 132] word into the mouth of his Pro­phet, puts this motion into the hand of the King, which did not more willingly stay, then necessa­rily obey that prouidence wherby it was stirred. Euen whiles wee haue our freest choyce, wee fall vpon those actions and circum­stances, whereby the iust and ho­ly will of our God is brought a­bout. Our very neglects, our igno­rances shall fulfill his eternall councells.

Elisha dyes, and is buried; his miracles doe not cease with his life: Who can maruell that his li­uing prayers raised the sonne of the Shunamite, when his dead bones raise the carkasse that tou­ched them. God will bee free in his works; he that must dye him­selfe, [Page 133] yet shall reuiue another; the same power might haue continu­ed life to him, that gaue it by his bones. Israel shall well see that he liues, by whose vertue, Elisha was both in life, and death, miracu­lous: Whiles the Prophet was a­liue, the impetration might seeme to be his, though the power were Gods; now that he is dead, the bones can challenge nothing, but send the wondring Israelites to that almighty Agent, to whom it is all one to worke by the quicke, or dead. Were not the men of Is­rael more dead then the carkasse thus buryed, how could they choose but see in this reuiued corps, an embleme of their owne cōdition? how could they choose but thinke, If wee adhere to the [Page 134] God of Elisha, he shall raise our decayed estates, and restore our nation to the former glory.

The Sadduces had as yet no be­ing in Israel, with what face could that heresie euer after looke into the world, when before the birth of it, it was so palpably conuin­ced, with an example of the re­surrection? Intermission of time, and degrees of corruption adde nothing to the impossibilitie of our rising: The body that is once cold in death, hath no more ap­titude to a reanimation, then that which is moldred into dust; One­ly the diuine power of the Maker must restore eyther, can restore both: When wee are dead, and buryed in the graue of our sinne; it is only the touch of Gods Pro­phets, [Page 135] applying vnto vs the death and resurrection of the Sonne of God, that can put new life into vs; No lesse true, though spirituall, is the miracle of our raising vp from an estate of inward corrup­tion, to a life of grace.

Yet all this preuailes not with Israel: No bones of Elisha could raise them from their wicked I­dolatry: and, notwithstanding their grosse sins, Ioash their King prospers: Whether it were for the sake of Iehu, whose grand-chyld he was; or for the sake of Elisha, whose face hee wept vpon, his hand is notably successfull: not onely against the son of Hazael, King of Syria, whom hee beates out of the Cities of Israel; but, a­gainst Amaziah King of Iudah, [Page 136] whom he tooke Prisoner, beating downe the very walls of Ierusa­lem, and returning laden with the sacred, and rich spoyle both of the Temple, and Court, to his Sa­maria.

Oh the depth of the diuine Iu­stice, and wisedome in these out­ward administrations! The best cause, the best man doth not euer fare best: Amaziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord; Ioash, euill: Amaziah followes Dauid (though not with equall paces) Ioash followes Ieroboam, yet is Amaziah shamefully foyled by Ioash; Whether God yet meant to visit vpon this King of Iudah, the still-odious vnthankfulnes of his father to Iehoiada; or, to plague Iudah for their share in the blood [Page 137] of Zechariah, and their late reuolt to Idolatry; or, whether Amaziahs too much confidence in his own strength (which moued his bold challenge to Ioash) were thought fit to be thus taken downe, or what euer other secret ground of Gods iudgment there might be, it is not for our presumption to inquire: Who so by the euent shall iudge of loue, or hatred, shall be sure to run vpon that woe, which belongs to them that call good euill, and euill good.

What a sauage peece of Iustice it is to put the right, whether of inheritance, or honor, to the de­cision of the sword, when it is no newes for the better to mis-cary by the hand of the worse?

The race is not to the swift; the [Page 138] battell is not to the strong; no, not to the good: Perhaps, God will correct his owne by a foyle; per­haps he will plague his enemy by a victory. They are only our spirituall combats where­in our faithfull cou­rage is sure of a crowne.

VZZIAH Leprous.

EVen the Throne of 2 Chro. 26 And 2 King, 15. Dauid passed ma­ny chāges of good, and euill: Good Iehosaphat was fol­lowed with three successions of wicked Princes; and those three, were again succeeded with three others godly, and vertuous; A­maziah for a long time shone fair, but at the last, shut vp in a cloud; The gods of the Edomites marred him; his rebellion against God, stirr'd vp his peoples rebellion a­gainst him: The same hands that [Page 140] slew him, crowned his sonne Vz­ziah; so as the yong King might imagine it was not their spight, that drew violēce vpō his father, but his owne wickednesse; Both early did this Prince raigne, and late; he began at sixteene; and sat fifty two yeares in the Throne of Iudah: They that mutined in the declining age of Amaziah, the fa­ther; are obsequious to the child­hood of the sonne, as if they pro­fessed to adore souerainty, whiles they hated lewdnesse: The vn­changed gouernment of good Princes is the happinesse, no lesse of the subiects then of themselues: The hand knowes best to guide those reines to which it hath beene inured; and euen meane hackneyes goe on cheerfully in [Page 141] their wonted rode; Custome, as it makes euils more supporta­ble, so where it meets with con­stant mindes, makes good things more pleasing and beneficiall.

The wise and holy Prophet Zechariah, was an happy Tutor to the minority of King Vzziah; That vessell can hardly mis-cary where a skilfull steres-man sits at the helme: The first praise of a good Prince is to be iudicious, & iust, and pious, in himselfe; the next is, to giue eare, and way, to them that are such: Whiles Ze­chariah hath the visions of God, and Vzziah takes the counsels of Zechariah, it is hard to say whe­ther the Prophet, or the King, or the State be happier.

God will be in no mans debt; [Page 142] so long as Vzziah sought the Lord, God made him to prosper. Euen what we doe out of duty cannot want a reward: Godlinesse ne­uer disappointed any mans hopes, oft hath exceeded them. If Vzzi­ah fight against the Philistims, If against the Arabians, and Mehu­nims; according to his names, the Vzziah, Azariah. strength, the help of the Almigh­ty is with him: The Ammonites come in with presents, and all the neighbour nations ring of the greatnesse, of the happinesse of Vzziah; His bounty and care makes Ierusalem both strong, and proud of her new Towers; yea the very Desert must tast of his munificence.

The outward magnificence of Princes cannot stand firme, vn­lesse [Page 143] it be built vpon the founda­tions of prouidence and frugality; Vzziah had not beene so great a King, if he had not been so great an husband; he had his flockes in the deserts, and his heards in the plaines; his plowes in the fields, his vine-dressers vpon the moun­taines, and in Carmel: neither was this more out of profit, then de­light, for he loued husbandry. Who can contemne those callings for meannesse, which haue beene the pleasures of Princes?

Hence was Vzziah so potent at home, so dreadfull to his neigh­bours; his warres had better si­newes then theirs; which of his predecessors was able to main­taine so setled an army, of more then of three hundred and tenne [Page 144] thousand trained souldiers, well furnished, well fitted for the sud­denest occasion? Thrift is the strongest prop of power.

The greatnesse of Vzziah, and the rare deuices of his artificiall Engines for war, haue not more raised his fame, then his heart: so is hee swolne vp with the admi­ration of his owne strength, and glory, that he breaks againe; How easie it is for the best man to dote vpon himselfe; and to bee lifted vp so high, as to lose the sight both of the ground, whence he rises, and of the hand that ad­uanced him: How hard it is for him that hath inuented strange engines for the battering of his enemies, to find out any meanes to beat downe his owne proud [Page 145] thoughts? Wise Salomon knew what he did, when hee prayed to bee deliuered from too much: Lest, said he, I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Vpon this Rocke did the sonne of Salomon run, and split himselfe; His full sayles of prosperity caryed him into presumption & ruine: what may he not now doe? what may he not be? Because hee found his power otherwise vnlimited; o­uer-ruling in the Court, the Ci­ties, the Fields, the Deserts, the Armies, and Magazins, therefore he thinkes hee may doe so in the Temple too: as things royall, ci­uill, husbandly, military passed his hands, so why should not (thinkes hee) sacred also? It is a dangerous indiscretion for a man [Page 146] not to know the bounds of his owne calling: What confusion doth not follow vpon this break­ing of rankes?

Vpon a solemne day, King Vz­ziah clothes himselfe in Pontifical robes, and in the view of that po­pulous assembly, walkes vp in state, into the Temple of God, and boldly approching to the Al­tar of Incense, offers to burne sweet odours vpon it, to the God of heauen: Azariah the Priest is sensible of so perillous an incroch­ment; he therefore attended with fourscore valiant assistants, of that holy Tribe, hastēs after the King, and finding him with the censer in his hand, readie addressed to that sinfull deuotion, stayes him with a free, and graue expostula­tion: [Page 147] There is no place wherein I could be sory to see thee, ô King, but this, where thou art; nei­ther is there any act, that wee should grudge thee so much, as this, which is the most sacred; Is it possible that so great an ouer­sight should fall into such wise­dome? Can a religious Prince, trained vp vnder an holy Zecha­riah, after so many yeares zealous profession of piety, be either igno­rant, or regardlesse of those limits, which God hath set to his owne seruices?

Oh, what meanes this vncouth attempt? Consider, ô deare So­ueraigne, for Gods sake, for thy soules sake, consider, where thou art, what thou doest; it is Gods house wherein thou standest, not [Page 148] thine owne; Looke about thee, and see, whether these vailes, these Tables, these Pillars, these Walls, these Pauements, haue any resem­blance of earth: There is no place in all the world whence thy God hath excluded thee, but only this; this he hath reserued for his own vse: And canst thou think much to allow one roome as proper to him, who hath not grudged all the rest to thee? But if it bee thy zeale of a personall seruice to God, that hath caried thee hither; alas, how canst thou hope to please the Almighty with a forbidden sacrifice? Which of thine holy Progenitors euer dared to tread, where thy foot now standeth? which of thē euer put forth their hand to touch this sacred Altar? [Page 149] Thou knowest that God hath set apart, and sanctified his owne at­tendants; wherefore serues the Priesthood, if this be the right of Kings? Were it not for the strict prohibition of our God, it could seeme no other then an honour to our profession, that a King should thinke to dignifie himselfe by our employment; but now, knowing the seuere charge of the great King of heauen, wee cannot but tremble to see that censer in thine hand; who euer, out of the holy Tribe, hath weil­ded it vnreuenged? This affront is not to vs, it is to the God whō we serue; In awe of that terrible Maiesty, as thou wouldst auoid some exemplary iudgement, O King, withdraw thy selfe, not [Page 150] without humble deprecations, from this presence; and lay down that interdicted handfull, with feare and trembling; Bee thou euer a King, let vs bee Priests; The Scepter is thine, let Censers be ours.

What religious heart could do other then relent at so faithfull and iust an admonition? But how hard it is for great persons to yeeld they haue offended? Vzziah must not be faulty; what is done rash­ly shall be born out with power; He was wroth; and thus expres­ses it: What meanes this saucy expostulation, O ye sons of Leui? how dare ye thus malapertly con­troll the well-meant actions of your Soueraigne? If ye be Priests, remember that ye are subiects; or [Page 151] if ye will needs forget it, how ea­sie is it for this hand to awake your memory? What such offence can it be for me to come into that house, and to touch that Altar, which my royall Progenitors haue made, beautified, consecra­ted? Is the God of this place only yours? Why doe ye thus ambiti­ously ingrosse Religion? If Prin­ces haue not intermedled with these holy affaires, it was because they would not, not because they might not; When those lawes were made for the Sanctuary, there were no Kings to grace these diuine ceremonies; yet euen then, Moses was priuiledged: The persons of Princes (if yee know not) are no lesse sacred then your owne. It is your presumption to [Page 152] account the Lords anointed, pro­phane: Contest with those, whose dry & vnhallowed heads are subiect to your power; For me, I will not aske your leaue to bee deuout; Looke yee to your owne Censers, presume not to meddle with mine; In the meane time, can ye thinke this insolence of yours shall escape vnreuenged? Can it stand with the honour of my soueraignty, to be thus proud­ly checked by subiects? God doe so to me and more also, if. Whiles Vzziah yet speakes, God strikes: Ere the words of fury can come forth of his mouth, the leprosie appeares in his forhead: Leprosie was a most loathsome disease; the forhead is the most conspicuous part: Had this shamefull scurfe [Page 153] broken forth vpon his hand, or foot, or brest, it might haue been hid from the eyes of men; now the forhead is smitten with this iudgement, that God may pro­claime to all beholders, Thus shal it be done to the man whose arrogance hath thrust him vpon a sacred charge. Publique offen­ces must haue open shame.

It is a dangerous thing to put our selues into the affaires, into the presence of God, vnwarran­ted; There cannot be a more foo­lish mesprision, then, because we are great on earth, to thinke wee may be bold with heauen: When Gods messengers cannot preuaile by counsels, intreaties, threats, it is time for God to show his imme­diate iudgements. Wilfull offen­ders [Page 154] can expect nothing but a fearfull reuenge.

Now begins Vzziah to be con­founded in himselfe; and shame striues with leprosie, for a place in his forehead; The hand of God hath done that in an instāt, which all the tōgues of men had attemp­ted in vaine: There needs no fur­ther solicitor of his egresse, the sense of his plague sends him forth alone: And now he thinks; Wretched man that I am, how haue I angred God, and vndone my selfe? I would needs come in like a Priest, I now goe forth a leper: the pride of my hart made me thinke my selfe worthy the presence of a God; Gods iust dis­pleasure hath now made me vn­worthy of the presence of men: [Page 155] whiles I affected the altar, I haue lost my throne; whiles I scorn­fully reiected the aduice and cen­sures of Gods ministers, I am now becomne a spectacle of hor­ror, and deformity, to my owne seruants; I that would be sending vp perfumes to heauē, haue made my nastinesse hatefull to my own senses. What doe I vnder this sa­cred roofe? Neither is Gods house now, for mee, nor mine owne; what cell, what dungeon is close enough for me, wherin to weare out the residue of mine vnhappy and vncomfortable dayes? O God thou art iust, and I am miserable.

Thus with a deiected counte­nance, and sad heart, doth Vzziah hast to retire himselfe; & wishes, that he could be no lesse hid from [Page 156] himselfe, then from others: how easie is it for the God of heauen to bring downe the hyest pitch of earthly greatnesse, and to humble the stubbornest pride?

Vpon the leasure of second thoughts, Vzziah cannot but ac­knowledge much fauour in this correction, and confesse to haue escaped well; Others, hee knew, had beene strucke dead, or swal­low'd vp quick for so presumptu­ous an intrusion: It is happy for him if his forehad may excuse his soule.

Vzziah ceased not to be a King, when he began to be a leper; the disease of his forhead did not re­moue his Crowne: his sonne Io­tham raigned for him, vnder him; and whiles he was not seene, yet [Page 157] hee was obeyed. The character of soueraignty is indeleble, whe­ther by bodily infirmity, or by spirituall censure: Neither is it o­therwise, O God, betwixt thee, and vs, if we be once a royall ge­neration vnto thee, our leprosies may deforme vs, they shall not dethrone vs: stil shall we haue the right, still the possession of that glorious kingdome, wher­in wee are inuested from eternity.

AHAZ with his new Altar.

AFter many vnhap­py 2 King. 16. changes of the two thrones; Ahaz succeedes Iotham in the Kingdome of Iudah: an ill sonne of a good fa­ther; not more the heyre of Da­uids seat, then of Ieroboams sinne: Though Israel play the harlot, yet who can abide that Iudah should sin? It is hard not to be infected with a contagious neighbour­hood: who euer read that the Kingdome of Israel was seasoned with the vicinity of the true reli­gion [Page 159] of Iudah? Goodnesse (such as our nature is) is not so apt to spread: A tainted ayre doth more easily affect a sound body, then an wholsome ayre can cleare the sicke: Superstition hath euer bin more successefull, then truth; The yong yeares of Ahaz are soone mis-led to a plausible mis-deuotiō.

A man that is once falne from truth, knowes not where he shall stay: From the Calues of Ierobo­am is Ahaz drawne to the gods of the heathen; yea, now, bulls and goates are too little for those new deities, his owne flesh and blood is but deare enough; He made his son to passe through their fire. Where doe we finde any religious Israe­lite thus zealous for God? Nei­ther doth the holinesse and mer­cy [Page 160] of our God require so cruell a sacrifice: neither is our dull, and niggardly hand ready to gratifie him with more easie obediences; O God how gladly should wee offer vnto thee our soules, and bo­dies, which wee may inioy so much the more, when they are thine; since zealous Pagans sticke not to leese their owne flesh, and blood in an Idols fire?

He that hath thus shamefully cast off the God of his fathers, cannot bee long without a fearefull re­uenge. The King of Israel galls him on the one side; the King of Syria on the other: To auoid the shocke of both, Ahaz doth not betake himselfe to the God whō he had offended; who was able to make his enemies at peace [Page 161] with him, but to Tiglath Pileser King of Ashur: Him doth hee wooe with suits, with gifts; and robs God of those presents, which may indeare so strong an helper. Hee that thought not his son too deare for an Idol, thinkes not Gods siluer and gold too deare for an Idolatrous abettor.

Oh the infinite patience of the Almighty! God giues successe a while to so offensiue a riuality: This Assyrian King preuailes a­gainst the King of Syria; kils him, and takes his chiefe City, Damas­cus; The quarrell of the King of Iudah hath inlarged the territo­ries of his assistant, beyond hope; And now, whiles this Assyrian victor is inioying the possession of his new-won Damascus: Ahaz [Page 162] goes vp thither to meet him, to congratulate the victory, to adde vnto those triumphs, which were drawne on by his solicitation. There hee sees a new fashion'd Altar, that pleases his eye; That old forme of Salomons, which was made by the pattern showd to Moses in the Mount, is now growne stale, and despicable; A modell of this more exquisite frame is sent to Vrijah, the Priest; and must be sampled in Ierusalem. It is a dangerous presumption to make innouations, if but in the circumstances of Gods worship. Those humane additions which would seeme to grace the institu­tion of God, depraue it; That in­finite wisedome knowes best what will please it selfe, and pre­scribes [Page 163] accordingly; The foolish­nesse of God is wiser then the wisedome of men; Idolatry and falshood is commonly more gawdy and plausible, then truth; That hart which can for the out­ward homelinesse despise the or­dinances of God, is already alie­ned from true religion, and lyes open to the grossest superstition.

Neuer any Prince was so foul­ly idolatrous, at that he wanted a Priest to second him: An Vrijah is fit to humor an Ahaz. Great­nesse neuer could command any thing, which some seruile wits were not ready both to applaud, and iustifie.

Ere the King can be returned from Damascus, the altar is fini­shed; It were happy if true god­linesse [Page 164] could be so forward in the prosecutions of good: Neither is this strange pile reared onely, but thrust vp betwixt Gods altar, and the temple; in an apparent prece­dency, as if he said, Let the God of Iudah come behind the Deities of Syria.

And now, to make vp the full measure of his impiety, this ido­latrous King will himselfe be sa­crificing vpon his new altar, to his new gods; the gods of Damas­cus: An vsurped priesthood well becomes a false Deity. Because (saith he) the gods of the Kings of Syria helpe them, therefore will Isa­crifice to them, that they may helpe mee.

Oh blinde superstition! how did the gods of Syria helpe their [Page 165] Kings, when both those Kings, and their gods were vanquished, and taken by the King of Assyria? Euen this Damascus, and this al­tar were the spoyle of a forraigne enemy; How then did the gods of Syria helpe their Kings, any other, then to their ruine? what dotage is this to make choice of a foyled protection? But had the Syrians prospered, must their gods haue the thanks? Are there no authors of good but blocks or Deuils? Or is an outward prosperity the on­ly argument of truth, the onely motiue of deuotion? O foolish Ahaz, it is the God thou hast for­saken, that plagues thee, vnder whose onely arme thou might'st haue preuailed. His power beats those Pagan stockes, one against [Page 166] other, so, as one while, one seems victorious, another vanquisht; and at last hee confounds both, together with their proudest cli­ents: Thy selfe shall be the best instance.

Of all the Kings of Iudah hi­therto, there is none so dreadfull an example either of sin, or iudge­ment, as this son of good Iotham. I abhor to think that such a mon­ster should descend from the loynes of Dauid; where shall bee the period of this wickednesse? Hee beganne with the hie places, thence he descends to the Calues of Dan and Bethel; from thence he falls to a Syrian altar, to the Sy­rian god; then from a partnership hee falls to an vtter exclusion of the true God, and blocking vp [Page 167] his Temple; and then to the sa­crifice of his owne sonne; and at last, as if hell were broken loose vpon Gods inheritance, euery se­uerall City, euery hie place of Iu­dah hath a new god: No maruell if he bee branded by the Spirit of God, with, This is that King Ahaz.

What a fearfull plague did this noysome deluge of sin leaue be­hind it, in the land of Iudah? who can expresse the horror of Gods reuenge vpō a people that should haue beene his? Pekah the King of Israel, slew an hundred and twentie thousand of them in one day; amongst whom was Ma­seiah the sonne of Ahaz: O iust iudgement of the Almighty! A­haz sheds the blood of one sonne [Page 168] to an idoll: The true God sheds the blood of another of his sons, in reuenge.

Yet, the hand of the Lord is stretched out still:

Two hundred thousand of them were caried away by the Israelites captiue to Samaria:

The Edomites came, and caried away another part of them for bondslaues, to their country:

The Philistims came vp and shared the Cities of the south of Iudah, and the villages thereof; Shortly, what other is miserable Iudah, then the prey, and spoile of all the neighbouring Nations? For the Lord brought Iudah low be­cause of Ahaz King of Israel, for hee 2 Chr. 28. 19. made Iudah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord: As for the [Page 169] great King of Ashur, whom A­haz purchased with the sacrilegi­ous pillage of the house of God, in stead of an ayd, hee proues a burden; How euer he sped in his first onsets; now, hee distressed Iu­dah, 2 Chr. 28. 20. but strengthned it not: The charge was as great, as the benefit small: sooner shall hee eate them out, then rescue them. No arme of flesh can shelter Ahaz from a vengeance.

Be wise, ô ye Kings, be instru­cted ô yee Iudges of the earth; serue the Lord with feare, and re­ioyce with trembling: Kisse the Sonne lest he be angry, and ye pe­rish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.

His subiects complaine, that he died so late, and, as repenting that [Page 170] he euer was, deny him a roome in the sepulchers of Kings: as if they said; the common earth of Ierusalem is too good for him that degenerated from his Progeni­tors, marr'd his kingdome, depraued his people, forsooke his God.

The vtter Destruction of the Kingdome of ISRAEL.

IVdah was at a sore 2 King. 17. heaue, yet Israel shall mis-cary be­fore it; such are the sins of both, that they striue whether shall fall first; but this lot must light vpon the ten Tribes; though the late King of Iudah were personally worse then the most of Ieroboams succes­sors, yet, the people were gene­rally lesse euill: vpon whom the incroachments of Idolatry were more by obtrusion, then by con­sent, [Page 172] besides that the thrones of Iudah had some interchanges of good Princes, Israel none at all: The same iustice therefore that made Israel a scourge to Iudah, made Assyria a scorpion to Israel.

It was the quarrell of Iudah that first ingaged the King of Ashur in this warre against Israel; now he is not so easily fetcht off; So we haue seen some eager ma­stiue, that hath beene set on by the least clap of the hand, but could not bee loosned by the force of staues.

Salmaneser King of Assyria comes vp against Hoshea King of Israel, and subdues him; and puts him to his Tribute: This yoke was vncouth and vnpleasing; The vanquisht Prince was nei­ther [Page 173] able to resist, nor willing to yeeld; secretly therefore he treats with the King of Egipt for assi­stance, as desiring rather to hazard his liberty by the hand of an e­quall, then to inioy a quiet sub­iection vnder the hand of an o­uer-ruling power; wee cannot blame Princes to bee iealous of their soueraignties; The detai­ning of his yearely Tribute, and the whisperings with new con­federates, haue drawne vp the King of Ashur to perfect his own victories: He returnes therefore with a strong power, and after three yeares siege, takes Samaria, imprisons Hoshea, and in the ex­change of a wofull captiuity, he peoples Israel with Assyrians, and Assyria with Israelites. Now that [Page 174] abused soyle hath vpon a surfet of wickednesse, cast out her perfidi­ous owners, and will try how it can fare with heathenish stran­gers: Now the Assyrian gallants triumph in the Palaces of Samaria and Iezreel; whiles the Peeres and Captaines of Israel are driuen manicled through the Assyrian streets, and billeted to the seuerall places of their perpetuall serui­tude: Shortly, now the flouri­shing Kingdome of the tenne Tribes is comne to a finall and shamefull end; and so vanished in this last dissipation, that, since that day, no man could euer say, This was Israel.

Oh terrible example of venge­ance, vpon that peculiar people, whom God hath chosen forhim­selfe, [Page 175] out of all the world: All the world were witnesses of the fa­uours of their miraculous deliue­rances, and protections; All the world shall be witnesses of their iust confusion.

It is not in the power of sleight errors to set off that infinite mer­cy: What was it, ô God, what was it, that caused thee to cast off thine owne inheritance? What but the same that made thee to cast the Angells out of heauen? Euen their rebellious sins. Those sins dared to emulate the great­nesse of thy mercies, no lesse, then they forced the seuerity of thy iudgments: They left all the com­mandements of the Lord their God; and made them molten Images, euen two Calues; and made a groue and [Page 176] worshipped all the host of heauen; and serued Baal; and caused their sonnes and daughters to passe through the fire, and vsed diuination, and enchantments, and sold themselues to doe euill in the sight of the Lord to prouoke him to anger.

Neither were these slips of frailty, or ignorant mis-takings, but wilfull crimes, obstinate im­pieties, in spight of the doctrines, reproofes, menaces, miraculous conuictions of the holy Prophets, which God sent amongst them: Thy destruction is of thy selfe, ô Israel; what could the iust hand of the Almighty doe lesse then consume a nation so incorrigibly flagitious? A nation so vnthank­full for mercies, so impatient of remedies, so vncapable of repen­tance: [Page 177] so obliged, so warned, so shamelesly, so lawlesly wicked?

What nation vnder heauen can now challenge an vndefaisible interest in God; when Israel it selfe is cast off? what Church in the world can show such deare loue-tokens from the Almighty as this, now-abhorred, and adul­terous spouse? Hee that spared not the naturall Oliue, shall hee spare the wild? It is not for vs sinners of the Gentiles to be high­minded, but awfull.

The Israelites are caryed captiue into Assyria; those goodly Cities of the ten tribes may not lie wast, and vnpeopled: The wisedome of the victor findes it fit to trans­plant his owne Colonies thither; that so he may raise profit thence, [Page 178] with security: From Babylon ther­fore, and Cuthah, and Aua, and Hamath, and Sepharuaim, doth he send of his owne subiects to pos­sesse, and inhabit the Cities of Sa­maria. The land doth not brook her new Tenants: They feared not the Lord; (how should they, they knew him not?) Therefore the Lord sent Lyons amongst them which slew some of them: Not the veriest Pa­gan can bee excused for his igno­rance of God; Euen the depra­uedst nature might teach vs to tremble at a Deity; It is iust with the Almighty not to put vp neg­lect, where hee hath bestowed reason.

The brute creatures are sent to reuenge the quarrell of their Ma­ker, vpon worse beasts, then [Page 179] themselues. Still hath God left himselfe Champions in Israel: Ly­ons teare the Assyrians in pieces; and put them in mind, that, had it not beene for wickednesse, that land needed not to haue changed masters. The great Lord of the world cannot want meanes to plague offenders: If the men bee gone, yet the beasts are there; And if the beasts had beene gone, yet so long as there were stones in the wals, in the quarries God would be sure of auengers: There is no security but in being at peace with God.

The King of Assyria is sued to, for remedy: Euen these Pagans haue learned to know that these Lyons were sent from a God; that this punishment is for sinne; [Page 180] They know not the manner of the God of the land, therefore he hath sent Ly­ons among them: These blind Hea­then that thinke euery land hath a seuerall God; yet, hold that God, worthy of his owne worship; yet, hold that worship must bee grounded vpon knowledge; the want of that knowledge, punish­able, the punishmēt of that want, iust, and diuine: How much worse then Assyrians are they that are ready to ascribe all calamities to nature to chance? that acknow­ledging but one God of all the world, are yet carelesse to know him to serue him?

One of the Priests of Israel is appointed to bee caried backe to Samaria, to teach the Assyrian Co­lony the fashions of the God of [Page 181] the land; not for deuotion, but for impunity: vaine Politicians thinke to satisfie God by patch­ing vp religions; any formes are good enough for an vnknowne deity: The Assyrian Priests teach, and practise the worship of their own Gods; The Israelitish Priest prescribes the worship of the true God; The people will follow both; the one out of liking, the other out of feare: What a pro­digious mixture was here of reli­gions? true with false, Iewish with Paganish, diuine with di­uellish; Euery diuision of these transplanted Assyrians had their seuerall deities, high places, sacri­fices; this Priest of Israel intercom­mons with euery of them: So as now these fathers of Samarita­nisme, [Page 182] are in at all; They feare the Lord and serue their idols: No beg­gers cloak is more peeced then the religion of these new inhabi­tants of Israel. I know not how their bodies sped for the Lyons, I am sure their soules fared the worse for this medlie: Aboue all things God hates a mungrell de­uotion; If we be not all Israel, it were better to bee all Ashur; It cannot so much displease God to bee vnknowne or neglected, as to bee consorted with Idols.

HEZEKIAH and SENA­CHERIB.

ISrael is gone, Iudah 2 Kings 18. and 19. is left standing; or rather some few sprigs of those two Tribes: so we haue seene in the shredding of some large Timber-tree, one or two boughes left at the top to hold vp the sap. Who can but lament the poore remainders of that langui­shing kingdome of Dauid?

Take out of the two Tribes of Iudah, and Beniamin, one hundred and twenty thousand, whom [Page 184] Pekah the King of Israel slew in one day. Take out two hundred thousand that were caried away captiue to Samaria; Take out those that were transported into the bondage of the Edomites; and those that were subdued in the South parts, by the Philistims; a­las, what an handfull was left to the king of Iudah; scarce worth the name of a dominion: Yet, euen now, out of the gleeds of Iudah, doth God raise vp a glori­ous light to his forlorne Church; yea, from the wretched loynes of Ahaz, doth God fetch an holy E­zekiah. It had beene hard to con­ceiue the state of Iudah worse then it was; neither was it more mise­rable, then sinfull, and in regard of both, desperate; when beyond [Page 185] hope, God reuiues this dying stocke of Dauid, and out of very ruines builds vp his owne house. Ahaz was not more the ill sonne of a good father, then he was the ill father of a good sonne. He was the ill sonne of good Iotham, the ill father of good Hezekiah. Good Hezekiah makes amends for his fathers impietie; and puts a new life into the hartlesse remnant of Gods people.

The wisedome of our good God knowes when his ayd will bee most seasonable, most wel­come; which hee then loues to giue, when he findes vs left of all our hopes: That mercifull hand is reserued for a dead lift; then, he failes vs not.

Now, you might haue seene [Page 186] this pious Prince busily bestirring himselfe, in so late and needfull a reformation, remouing the high places, battering and burning the Idolls, demolishing their temples, cutting downe their groues, ope­ning the Temple, purging the al­tars, and vessells, sanctifying the Priests, rekindling the Lampes, renuing the incense, reinstituting the sacrifices, establishing the or­der of Gods seruice, appointing the courses, setling the mainte­nance of the ministers, publish­ing the decrees for the long-neg­lected Pass-ouer; celebrating it, and the other feasts, with due so­lemnity, incouraging the people, contributing bountifully to the offerings, and, in one word, so ordering all the affayres of God, [Page 187] as if hee had beene sent downe from heauen to restore Religion; as if Dauid himself had been aliue againe in this blessed heyre, not so much of his Crowne, as of his piety. Oh Iudah, happy in thy E­zekiah, Oh Ezekiah happy in the gratious restauration of thy Iu­dah: Ahaz shall haue no thanke for such a sonne; The God that is able of the very stones to raise children to Abraham, rayses a true seed of Dauid out of the cor­rupt loynes of an Idolater: That infinite mercy is not tyed to the termes of an immediate propaga­tion: For the space of three hun­dred yeares, the man after Gods owne heart had no perfect heyre till now; Till now did the high places stand: the deuotions of [Page 188] the best Princes of Iudah were ble­mished with some weake omis­sions; Now the zeale of good Ezekiah cleares all those defects, and workes an intyre change.

How seasonably hath the pro­uidence of God kept the best man for the worst times? When God hath a great worke to doe, hee knowes to fit himselfe with in­struments.

No maruell if the Paganish I­dolls goe to vvracke, vvhen euen the brazen Serpent that Moses had made by Gods owne appoint­ment, is broken in peeces: The Israelites were stung with fiery Serpents, this brazen Serpent hea­led them, which they did no soo­ner see, then they recouered: But now, such was the venome of [Page 189] the Israelitish Idolatry, that this Serpent of brasse, stung worse then the fiery; That, which first cured by the eye, now by the eye poysoned the soule; That which was at first, the type of a Sauiour, is now, the deadly engine of the Enemy. Whiles it helped, it stood; it stood whiles it hurt not, but when once wicked abuse hath turned it into an Idoll; what was it but Nehushtan?

The holinesse of the first insti­tution cannot priuiledge ought from the danger of a future pro­fanation; nor, as the case may stand, from an vtter abolition: What antiquity, what authoritie, what primary seruice might this Serpent haue pleaded? All that cannot keepe it out of the dust. [Page 190] Those things which are necessa­rie in their being, beneficiall in their continuance, may still re­maine when their abuse is pur­ged; but those things whose vse is but temporary, or whose du­ration is needlesse and vnprofi­table, may cease with the occa­sion, and much more perish with an inseparable abuse. Ezekiah willingly forgets who made the Serpent, when he fees the Israelites make it an idoll: It is no lesse in­tolerable for God, to haue a riuall of his owne making.

Since Hezekiah was thus, aboue all his Ancestors, pright with the Lord; it is no maruell if the Lord were with him; if he pro­spered, whither soeuer hee went; The same God that would haue [Page 191] his iustice magnified in the confu­sion of the wicked Princes of Is­srael, and Iudah, would haue his mercy no lesse acknowledged, in the blessings of faithfull Hezekiah.

The great King of Assyria had in a sort swallowed vp both the Kingdomes of Iudah, and Israel; yet not with an equall cruelty; He made Israel captiue, Iudah (vpon a willing composition) tributary. Israel is vanished in a transporta­tion, Iudah continues vnder the homage wherein Ahaz left it: He­zekiah had raigned but sixe yeares when he saw his neighbours of Israel packing into a miserable captiuity; & the proud Assyrians Lording in their Cities; yet, euen then, when hee stood alone, in a corner of Iudah, durst Hezekiah [Page 192] draw his necke out of the yoke of the great, and victorious Mo­narch of Assyria; and, as if one enemy had not beene enough, at the same time, hee falls vpon the incroaching Philistims, and pre­uailes. It is not to be asked, what powers a man can make, but in what termes he stands with hea­uen. The vnworthy father of He­zekiah had clogged Iudah with this seruile fealty to the Assyrian; what the conditions of that subiection were, it is too late, and needlesse for vs to inquire, If this payment were limited to a period of time, the expiration acquitted him; If vpon couenants of ayd, the cessa­tion thereof acquitted him; If the reforming of religion, & banish­ment of Idolatry ran vnder the [Page 193] censure of rebellion, the quarrell on Ezekiahs part, was holy, on Se­nacheribs vniust: but if the resti­pulation were absolute, and the withdrawing of this homage vp­on none but ciuill grounds, I can­not excuse the good King from a iust offence: It was an humane frailty in an obliged Prince by force to affect a free and indepen­dant soueraignty.

What doe we mince that fact, which holy Ezekiah himselfe cen­sures? I haue offended, returne from mee, what thou putst on mee will I beare? The comfort of liberty may not be had with an vnwar­ranted violence. Holinesse can­not free vs from infirmity: It was a weaknes to doe that act, which must bee soone vndone with [Page 194] much repentance, and more losse; This reuolt shall cost Ezekiah (be­sides much humiliation) three hundred yearely talents of siluer, thirty talents of gold: How much better had it beene for the Cities of Iudah to haue purchased their peace with an easie tribute, then warre with an intolerable taxa­tion.

Fourteene years had good He­zekiah fed vpon a sweet peace, sauced only with a set pension; now he must prepare his pallat for the bitter morsels of warre. The King of Assyria is comne vp against all the defenced Cities of Iudah; and hath taken them: E­zekiah: is faine to buy him out with too many talents; The poore Kingdome of Iudah is ex­haust, [Page 195] with so deepe a payment; in so much as the King is forced to borrow of God himselfe, for Hezekiah gaue him all the siluer that was found in the house of the Lord; yea, at that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doores of the tem­ple of the Lord, and from the pillars which he had ouer-laid, and gaue it to the King of Assyria. How hard was good Hezekiah driuen, ere he would bee thus bold with his God? Surely if the mines, or co­fers of Iudah could haue yeelded any supply, this shift had beene hatefull; to fetch back for an ene­my, that which hee had giuen to his Maker: Onely necessity ex­cuses that from sacriledge in the sonne, which will, made sacri­ledge in the father: That which [Page 196] is once deuoted to a sacred vse, may not be called backe to a pro­fane: But he whose the earth is, and the fulnesse of it, is not so ta­ken with our metals, that hee should more regard our gold, then our welfare: His goodnes cannot grudge any outward thing for the price of our peace: To rob God out of couetous­nesse, or wantonnesse, or neglect is iustly damnable; wee cannot robbe him out of our need; for then he giues vs all we take; and bids vs ransome our liues, our li­berties; The treasures of Gods house were precious, for his sake, to whom they were consecrated, but more precious in the sight of the Lord was the life of any one of his Saints.

[Page 197] Euery true Israelite was the spi­rituall house of God; why should not the doore of the materiall tēple be willingly stripped, to saue the whole frame of the spirituall Temple. Take therefore, ô He­zekiah what thou hast giuen, no gold is too holy to redeeme thy vexation: It matters not so much how bare the doores of the Tem­ple bee, in a case of necessity, as how wel the insides be furnished with sincere deuotion. O the cruell hard hartednesse of those men which will rather suffer the liuing Temples of God to be rui­ned; then they will ransome their life, with farthings.

It could not bee, but that the store of needy Iudah must soone be drawne dry with so deepe an [Page 198] exaction; that sum cannot be sent, because it cannot be raised: The cruell Tyran calls for his brickes whiles he allowes no straw; His anger is kindled because Ezekiahs cofers haue a bottome; with a­mighty host doth he come vp a gainst Ierusalem; therefore shal that City be destroyed by him, because by him it hath bin impouerished; the inhabitants must bee slaues, because they are beggers.

Oh lamentable, and, in sight, desperate condition of distressed Ierusalem: wealth it had none; strength it had, but a little; all the Country round about was sub­dued to the Assyrian; that proud victor hath begirt the wals of it, with an innumerable army, scor­ning that such a shouell-full of [Page 199] earth should stand out but one day; Poore Ierusalem stands alone, block't vp with a world of ene­mies, helplesse, friendlesse, com­fortlesse; looking for the worst of an hostile fury; when Tartan and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh, the great Captaines of the Assyrians, call to a parlee. Hezekiah sends to them three of his prime officers, his Steward, his Secretary, his Recorder. Lord; What insolent blasphemies doth that foule mouth of Rabshakeh belch out against the liuing God, against his anointed seruant?

How plausibly doth hee dis­courage the subiects of Ezekiah, how proudly doth hee insult vp­on their impotency, how doth he braue them with base offers of [Page 200] aduantage; and lastly, how cun­ningly doth he fore-lay their con­fidence (which was onely left them) in the Almighty, prote­sting not to bee comne vp hither without the Lord; The Lord said to me, Goe vp to this land, and destroy it; How fearfull a word was this? The rest were but vaine crackes, this was a thunderbolt to strike dead the heart of Ezekiah; If Rab­shakeh could haue been beleeued, Ierusalem could not but haue flowne open; How could it think to stand out no lesse against God, then men? Euen thus doth the great enemy of man­kinde; if hee can dis-hearten the soule from a dependance vpon the God of mercies, the day is his: Lewd miscreants care not [Page 201] how they be-lye God for their owne purposes.

Eliakim the steward of Heze­kiah well knew, how much the people must needes bee affected with this pernicious suggestion; and faine would therefore, if not stop that wicked mouth, yet di­uert these blasphemies into a for­raigne expression. I wonder that any wise man should looke for fauour from an enemy: Speak I pray thee, to thy seruants in the Sy­rian language: What was this but to teach an aduersary hovv to doe mischiefe? Wherfore came Rab­shakeh thither but to gall Ezekiah, to vvith-dravv his subiects? That tongue is properest for him vvhich may hurt most; Depreca­tions of euill to a malicious man [Page 202] are no better then aduices. An vn­knowne idiome is fit to keepe counsell; they are familiar words that must conuey ought to the vn­derstanding. Leud men are the worse for admonitions.

Rabshakeh had not so strained his throat, to corrupt the citizens of Ierusalem, had it not beene for the humble obtestation of Elia­kim; Now he reares vp his voyce, and holds his sides, and roares out his double blasphemies; one while affrighting the people with the great power of the mighty king of Assyria; another while debasing the contemptible force of Hezekiah; now smoothly allu­ring them, with the assurances of a safe and successfull yeeldance; then, discouraging them with the [Page 203] impossibility of their deliuerance; laying before them the fearfull examples of greater nations van­quished, by that sword, which was now shaken ouer them; tri­umphing in the impotency, and mis-cariage of their gods: Who are they among all the Gods of the coun­tries, that haue deliuered their Coun­try out of mine hand, that the Lord should deliuer Ierusalem out of mine hand? Where are the Gods of Arpad, and of Hamath? Where, but in that hellish darknesse, that is ordained both for them, and for thee, bar­barous Assyrian, that darest thus open thy mouth against thy Ma­ker: And can those Atheous eyes of thine see no differēce of Gods? Is there no distance betwixt a stocke, or stone, and that infinite [Page 204] Deity that made heauen & earth? It is enough that thou now feelest it; thy torments haue taught thee too late, that thou affrontedst a liuing God.

How did the fingers & tongues of these Iewish Peeres and people, itch to be at Rabshakeh; in a re­uengefull answer to those impie­ties: All is whusht; not a word sounds from those vvalls: I doe not more wonder at Hezekiahs wisedome, in commanding si­lence, then at the subiects obedi­ence, in keeping it; This rayler could not be more spighted, then with no answer; and if he might be exasperated, he could not bee reformed; besides, the reboun­ding of those multiplyed blasphe­mies, might leaue some ill im­pressions [Page 205] in the multitude; This sulphurous flaske, therefore, dyes in his owne smoke: onely lea­uing an hatefull stench behind it.

Good Hezekiah cannot easily passe ouer this deuillish oratory; no sooner doth he heare of it, thē he rends his clothes, and couers himselfe with sack-cloth, and be­takes himselfe to the house of the Lord, and sends his officers, and the grauest of the Priests, clad in sack-cloth, to Esay the Prophet of God, with a dolefull and queru­lous message.

Oh the noble piety of Heze­kiah; notwithstanding all the straits of the siege, and the dan­ger of so powerfull an enemy; I find not the garments of this good King, any otherwise then [Page 206] whole, and vnchanged; but now so soon as euer a blasphemy is vt­tered against the Maiesty of his God, (though by a Pagan dog) his clothes are torne, and turned into sack-cloth: There can bee no better argument of an vpright heart, then to be more sensible of the indignities offered to God, then of our owne dangers. Euen these desperate reproches send E­zekiah to the Temple: The more we see Gods name profaned, the more shall we, if we be truely re­ligious, loue and honor it.

Whither should Hezekiab run but to the Temple, to the Pro­phet? There, there is the refuge of all faithfull ones, where they may speak with God, where they may bee spoken to from God, [Page 207] and fetch comfort from both: It is not possible that a beleeuing heart should bee disappointed: Isaiah sends that message to the good King, that may dry vp his teares, and cheere his countenāce, and change his suit; Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the wordes which thou hast heard, with which the seruants of the King of Syria haue blasphemed me; Behold I will send a blast vpon him; and bee shall heare a rumor, and shall returne to his owne Land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his owne Land.

Loe; euen whiles Senacherib was in the height of his iollity & assurance; Gods Prophet fore­sees his ruine; and giues him for dead, whiles that Tyran thought of nothing but life and victory. [Page 208] Proud & secure worldlings little dreame of the neere approach of their iudgements: whiles they are plotting their deepest de­signes, the ouer-ruling iustice of the Almighty hath contriued their sudden confusion, and sees, and sets them their day.

Rabshakeh returnes, and find­ing the King of Assyria warring against Libnah, reports to him the silent, (and therein) contemp­tuous answer, and firme resolu­tions of Hezekiah; In the meane time God pulls Senacherib by the eare, with the newes of the ap­proching army of Tirhakah King of Ethiopia, which was comming vp to raise the siege; and to suc­cour his confederats: That dread­full power will not allow the [Page 209] Assyrian King, in person to lead his other forces vp against Ierusa­lem, nor to continue his former Leaguer long before those walls. But now, hee writes big words to Hezekiah, and thinks with his thundering menaces to beat open the gates, and leuell the bulwarks of Ierusalem: Like the true ma­ster of Rabshakeh, hee reuiles the God of Heauen; and basely parallels him with the dunghill deities of the heathen.

Good Ezekiah gets him into his Sanctuary; there he spreads the let­ters before the Lord; and calls to the God that dwells between the Cherubims, to reuenge the blas­phemies of Senacherib, to protect and rescue himselfe, and his peo­ple. Euery one of those words [Page 210] pierced heauen; which was no lesse open to mercy vnto Heze­kiah; then, vengeance to Senache­rib; Now is Isaiah addressed with a second message of comfort to him, who doubtlesse distrusted not the first: onely the reiteration of that furious blasphemy made him take faster hold, by his faith­full deuotion. Now, the iea­lous God in a disdaine of so blas­phemous a contestation, rises vp in a stile of Maiesty, and glori­ously tramples vpon this saucie insolency, Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult is comne vp into mine eares, therefore I will put my hooke into thy nose, and my beidle into thy lips: and will turne this backe by the way thou camest. Lod, Sena­cherib, the God of heauen makes [Page 211] a beast of thee, who hast so bru­tishly spurned at his name; If thou be a rauenous Beare, hee hath an hooke for thy nosthrils: If thou be a resty horse, he hath a bridle for thy mouth; In spight of thee, thou shalt follow his hooke, or his bridle; and shalt be led to thy iust shame by either.

It is not for vs to bee the Lords of our owne actions; Thus saith the Lord concerning the King of As­syria; He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come be­fore it with shield, nor cast a banke a­gainst it; by the way that he came shal he returne; &c. Impotent men, what are we in the hands of the Almighty? we purpose, he ouer­rules; wee talke of great matters, and thinke to doe wonders; he [Page 212] blowes vpon our proiects, and they vanish with our selues: He that hath set bounds to the Sea, hath appointed limits to the rage of the proudest enemies; yea, euen the Deuils themselues are confi­ned; Why boast yee your selues, ô ye Tyrans, that ye can doe mis­chiefe; yee are stinted: and euen within those lists, is confusion.

O the Trophees of diuine Iu­stice, That very night the Angell of the Lord went out, and smote in the campe of the Assyrians an hundred fourescore & fiue thousand; and when they arose earely in the morning, be­hold they were all dead corps.

How speedy an execution was this, how miraculous? No humane arme shall haue the glo­ry of this victory; It was God that [Page 213] was defied by that presūptuous Assyrian; It is God that shall right his owne wrongs; Had the E­gyptian, or Ethyopian forces beene comne vp, though the same God had done this worke by them, yet some praise of this slaughter had perhaps cleau'd to their fingers. Now an inuisible hand sheds all this blood; that his very enemies may cleare him frō all partnership of reuenge. Go now, wicked Senacherib, and tell of the gods of Hamath and Ar­pad, and Sepharuaim, and Hena, & Iuah, which thou hast destroyed, and say, that Hezekiahs God is but as one of these: Goe, and adde this Deity to the number of thy conquests: Now, say that Ezekiahs God in whom hee trusted hath [Page 214] deceiued him, and graced thy Tryumphes.

With shame and griefe enough is that sneaped Tyran returned to his Niniue, hauing left behinde him, all the pride and strength of Assyria, for compost to the Iewish fields. Well were it for thee, ô Senacherib, if thou couldst escape thus; vengeance waits for thee at home, and welcomes thee into thy place; whiles thou art wor­shipping in the house of Nisroch thy god, two of thine own sons shall be thine executioners. See now, if that false Deity of thine can preserue thee frō that stroke which the true God sends thee by the hand of thine owne flesh; Hee that slew thine hoast by his Angell, slayes thee by thy sonnes: [Page 215] The same Angell that killed all those thousands, could as easily haue smitten thee; but he rather reserues thee for the further tor­ment of an vnnaturall stroke, that thou mayest see too late, how easie it is for him in spight of thy God, to arme thine owne loines against thee.

Thou art auenged, O God, thou art auenged plentifully of thine enemies▪ Whosoeuer striues with thee, is sure to gaine nothing but losse, but shame, but death, but hell. The Assyrians are slaine, Se­nacherib is rewarded for his blas­phemy: Ierusalem is rescued, Ezeki­ah reioyces, the nations wonder and tremble. O loue the Lord all ye his Saints, for the Lord preser­ueth the faithfull, & plenteously rewarded the proud doer.

HEZEKIAH sicke, recoue­red, visited.

HEzekiah was freed 2 King. 20. from the siege of the Assyrians, but hee is surprised with a disease: he that deliuered him from the hand of his enemies, smites him with sicknesse: God doth not let vs loose from all afflictions, when he redeemes vs from one.

To thinke that Ezekiah was either not thankfull enough for his deliuerance, or too much lif­ted vp with the glory of so mira­culous [Page 217] a fauour; were an iniuri­ous mis-construction of the hand of God; and an vncharitable cen­sure of an holy Prince: For, though no flesh and blood can auoid the iust desert of bodily pu­nishment, yet God doth not al­wayes strike with an intuition of sinne; sometimes he regards the benefit of our triall; sometimes the glory of his mercy in our cure.

It was no sleight distemper, that seized vpon Ezekiah, but a di­sease both painfull, and fierce, and in nature deadly. O God, how thou lashest euen those whom thou louest: Hadst thou euer any such dearling in the throne of Iu­dah, as Hezekiah? Yet he no soo­ner breatheth from a miserable [Page 218] siege, then hee panteth vnder a mortall sicknesse: when as yet he had not so much, as the comfort of a child, to succeed him, thy Prophet is sent to him with the heauy message of his death, Set thine house in order, for thou shalt dye and not liue. It is no small mercy of God that he giues vs warning of our end; we shall make an ill vse of so gratious a premonition, if we make not a meet preparati­on for our passage. Euen those that haue not an house, yet haue a soule; no soule can want impor­tant affaires to be ordered for a fi­nall dissolution; the neglect of this best thrift is desperate. Set thy soule in order, ô man, for thou shalt dye, and not liue.

If God had giuen Ezekiah a [Page 219] son, nature had bequeathed his estate; now, hee must study to find heyres: Euen these outward things, (though in themselues worthlesse) require our carefull disposition, to those we leaue be­hind vs; and if wee haue delayed these thoughts, till then, our sicke beds may not complaine of their importunity; We cannot leaue to our families a better legacy, then Peace.

Neuer was the Prophet Esay vnwelcome to this good King, vntill now: Euen sad tidings must be caried by those messen­gers, which would be faithfull: neither may wee regard so much how they will bee taken, as by whom they are sent.

It was a bold and harsh word [Page 220] to say to a King, Thou shalt dye, and not liue: I doe not heare He­zekiah rage, & fret at the message; or threat the bearer, but he meek­ly turnes his face to the wall, and weepes, and prayes: Why to the wall? Was it for the greater secre­cie of his deuotion? was is for the more freedome from all di­straction? was it that the passion which accompanied his prayer, might haue no witnesses? Or, was it for that this wall lookt towards the Temple, which his heart and eyes still moued vnto, though his feet could not?

Howsoeuer, the patient soule of good Ezekiah turnes it selfe to that holy God, from whom hee smarts, and bleeds; and poures out it selfe into a feruent depreca­tion, [Page 221] I beseech thee, O Lord, remem­ber now how I haue walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect hart; and haue done that which is good in thy sight.

Couldst thou feare, ô Ezekiah, that God had forgotten thine in­tegrity? The grace that was in thee, was his owne worke; could he in thee neglect himselfe? Or dost thou therefore doubt of his remembrance of thy faithfulness, because hee summons thee to re­ceiue the crowne of thy faithful­nesse, glory, and immortality? wherein canst thou bee remem­bred, if this bee to forget thee? What challenge is this? Is God a debter to thy perfection? Hath thine holy cariage merited any thing from that infinite Iustice? [Page 222] Farre, farre were these presump­tuous conceits from that humble and mortified soule: Thou hadst hated thine owne brest, if it could once haue harboured so proud a thought. This perfection of thine was no other, then an honest soundnesse of hart, & life, which thou knowest God had promised to reward: It was the mercy of the couenant that thou pleadedst, not the merit of thine obedience.

Euery one of these words were steeped in teares: But what meant these words, these teares? I heare not of any suit moued by Heze­kiah; onely he wishes to bee re­membred, in that which could neuer bee forgotten, though hee should haue intreated for an ob­liuion.

[Page 223] Speake out Hezekiah, what is it that thy teares craue, whiles thy lips expresse not? O let me liue, and I shall praise thee, O God.

In a naturall man none could wonder at this passionate request; who can but wonder at it, in a Saint? whose happinesse doth but then begin, when his life cea­seth: whose misery doth but then end, when his death enters: the word of faith, is, Oh let me dye, that I may inioy thee. How then doth the good King crye at the newes of that death, which some resolute Pagans haue intertained with smiles? Certainly, the best man cānot strip himselfe of some flesh, and whiles nature hath an vndeniable share in him, he can­not but retaine some smatch of [Page 224] the sweetnesse of life, of the hor­ror of dissolution; Both these were in Hezekiah, neither of them could transport him into this pas­sion: they were higher respects that swayed with so holy a Prince; a tender care of the glory of God, a carefull pitty of the Church of God; His very teares said; ô God, thou knowest that the eyes of the world are bent vpon me, as one that hath abandoned their idola­try, and restored thy sincere wor­ship; I stand alone in the midst of a wicked and idolatrous genera­tion, that lookes thorough all my actions, all my euents; If now they shall see me snatcht a­way in the midst of my dayes, what will these Heathen say; how can thy great name but suffer in [Page 225] this mine vntimely extinction?

Besides, what will become of thy poore Church, which I shall leaue feebly religious, and as yet scarce warme, in the course of a pious reformation? how soone shall it be miserably ouer growne with superstition, and heathe­nisme; how soone shall the wild Boare of Assyria root vp this little vineyard of thine? What need I beseech thee, ô Lord, to regard thy name, to regard thine inheri­tance?

What one teare of Hezekiah can run wast? What can that good King pray for, vnheard, vnanswe­red? Senacherib came in a proud confidence to swallow vp his ci­tie, and people: prayers and teares send him away confounded: [Page 226] Death comes to swallow vp his person, (and that not without au­thority) prayers and teares send him away disappointed. Before Isaiah was gone out into the midle Court, the word of the Lord came to him, saying; Turne againe, and tell Hezekiah the Captaine of my people; Thus saith the Lord, the God of Dauid thy father; I haue heard thy prayer, I haue seene thy teares; behold I will heale thee; On the third day thou shalt goe vp to the house of the Lord; and I will adde to thy dayes fif­teene yeares.

What shall we say then, ô God, hast thou thus soone changed thy purpose? Was it not thy true mes­sage which thy Prophet, euen now, deliuered to Ezekiah? Is some what falne out that thou [Page 227] fore-sawst not? or, doest thou now decree somewhat thou meantst not? The very thought of any of these were no better then blasphemous impiety. Cer­tainly, Hezekiah could not liue one day longer, then was eternal­ly decreed; The decree of Gods eternall counsell had from euer­lasting, determined him fifteene yeeres yet longer: Why then doth God say, by his Prophet, Thou shalt dye, and not liue? He is not as man that he should repent; the message is changed, the will is not changed; yea rather the message is explicated, not changed; For the signified will of God, though it sound absolutely, yet must bee vnderstood with condition; that tells Hezekiah what hee must ex­pect [Page 228] frō the nature of his disease, what would befall him, without his deprecations: There was no­thing but death in the second cau­ses; what euer secret purpose there was in the first; and that purpose shall lye hid for a time, vnder a re­serued condition: The same de­cree that sayes, Niniue shall be de­stroyed, meanes, if Niniue repent, it shall not be destroyed; hee that finds good reason to say, Hezekiah shall dye, yet still meanes, if the quickned deuotion of Hezekiah shall importune mee for life, it shall be protracted. And the same God that hath decreed this addi­tion of fifteene years, had decreed to stirre vp the spirit of Hezekiah, to that vehement and weeping importunity, which should ob­taine [Page 229] it. O God, thou workest thy good pleasure in vs, and with vs; and by thy reuealed will mo­uest vs in those wayes, whereby thou effectest thy secret will.

How wonderfull is this mer­cy? Hezekiahs teares are not dry vpon his cheekes, yea his breath is not passed his lips, when God sends him a comfortable answer. How carefull is the God of com­passions, that his holy seruant should not languish one houre, in the expectation of his denoun­ced death? What speed was here, as in the errand, so in the act of recouery? within three daies shall Hezekiah be vpon his feet; yea his feet shall stand in the Courts of Gods house; he that now in his bed sighes, and grones, & weeps [Page 230] out a petition, shall then sing out a thanksgiuing in the Temple. Oh thou that hearest the prayer, vnto thee shall all flesh come: With what cheerfull assurance shold we approach to the throne of that grace, which neuer fayled any suppliant.

Neither was this grant more speedie, then bountifull; wee are wont to reckon seuen yeares for the life of a man; and now, be­hold, more then two liues hath God added to the age of Heze­kiah. How vnexampled a fauour is this? who euer but Hezekiah knew his period so long before? the fixednesse of his terme, is no lesse mercy, then the protraction; we must be content to liue or die at vncertainties; we are not wor­thy [Page 231] to calculate the date of our owne times: Teach vs, O Lord, so to number our dayes, that we may ap­ply our hearts to wisedome.

There is little ioy in many daies, if they be euill; Ezekiah shall not be blessed onely with life, but with peace; The proud Assyrian threatens an inuasiō; his late foyle still stickes in his stomacke, and stirs him to a reuenge; the hooke is in his nosthrils, hee cannot moue whither he lists; The God of heauen will maintaine his owne quarrell: I will defend this City for mine owne sake, and for my seruant Dauids sake. Loe; for his life, Ezekiah is beholden (next vn­der the infinite goodnes of God) to his prayers; for his protection, to the deare memory of his fa­ther [Page 232] Dauid; surely, for ought we find, Ezekiah was no lesse vp­right, and lesse offensiue then Da­uid; yet both Ezekiah and Ierusa­lem shall fare the better for Da­uids sake, aboue three hundred yeares after.

To that man after his owne heart, had God ingaged himselfe, by his gracious promise, to pre­serue his throne, his seed: God loues to remember his ancient mercies: How happy a thing it is to be faithfull with God; this is the way to oblige those which are yet vnborne; and to intayle blessings vpon the successions of future generations.

It seemes it was some pestilent vlcer that thus indangered the life of Hezekiah. Isaiah is not a Pro­phet [Page 233] only, but a Physician. And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs: Hee that gaue an assurance of recoue­ry, giues a receit for the recouery. The decree of God includes the meanes: neither can the medicine worke without a word; neither will the word worke without the medicine; both of them must meet in the cure: If we so trust the promise, that we neglect the pre­script, we presume to no purpose. Happy is that soule, that so re­gards the promise of Gods Pro­phets, as that withall he receiues their counsells.

Nothing could bee more pro­per for the ripening of hard and purulent tumors, then dryed figs; Herein Isaiahs direction was ac­cording to nature; Wherefore [Page 234] should wee balke the ordinary road, when it is both fayre and neere?

The sudden contradiction of the message causes a iust difficulty in the assent. Hezekiah therefore craues a signe; not for that he dis­trusted, but that hee might trust the more; wee can neuer take too fast hold of those promises of God, which haue not more com­fort in the application, then natu­rall impossibility in the perfor­mance. We beleeue, Lord, helpe our vnbeleefe.

The sicke King hath his opti­on; His father was offred a signe and refused it; hee sues for one, and obtaines it: Shall the shadow goe for ward ten degrees, or backe ten degrees? As if heauen it selfe lay [Page 235] open to his choyce; and were ready either to mend this pace, or retire for his confirmation; What creature is not cheerfully forward to obey the faith of Gods seruāts?

Hezekiah fastens rather vpon that signe which is more hard, more disagreeing from the course of nature; not without good rea­son; Euery proofe must bee clea­rer then the thing to bee proued, neither may there want a meet proportion betwixt both; now the going forward of the sha­dow was a motion, no other thē naturall, the recouery of that pe­stilent disease was against the streame of nature; the more dif­ficult signe therefore, the surer euidence.

Whether shall we more won­der [Page 236] at the measure of the loue of God to Hezekiah, or at the power of Isaiahs faith in God? Out of both, either the Sun goes backe in heauen that his shadow may goe backe on earth: or the sha­dow no lesse miraculously goes backe on earth, whiles the Sunne goes forward in heauen. It is true that the Prophet speakes of the shadow, not of the Sun; ex­cept perhaps because the motion of the Sun is best discerned by the shadow; and the motion of the shadow is led by the course of the Sunne: besides, that the de­monstration of this miracle is re­ported to be locall in the Diall of Ahaz, not vniuersall, in the sensi­ble length of the day; withall, the retrait of the Sunne had made a [Page 237] publike and noted change in the frame of nature, this particular al­teration of the shadow in places limited, might satisfie no lesse without a confusiue mutation in the face of the world; Whetherso­euer; to draw the Sun backe toge­ther with the shadow; or to draw the shadow backe without the Sunne was the proofe of a diuine omnipotency; able therefore to draw backe the life of Hezekiah, fifteene degrees, from the night of death; towards which it was hasting.

O God, thou wilt rather alter the course of heauen and earth, then the faith of thy children shall sinke for want of supportation.

It should seeme the Babylonians finding the Assyrian power aba­ted [Page 238] by the reuengefull hand of Gods Angell, and their owne dis­cord, tooke this aduantage of a reuolt; and now to strengthen their part, fall in with Hezekiah King of Iudah, whom they found the old enemy to the Assyrians, & the great fauourite of heauen: him they wooe with gifts; him they congratulate with Ambas­sages: The fame of Hezekiahs sicknesse, recouery, forme, and assurance of cure, haue drawne thither messengers, and presents from Berodach Baladan King of Babylon.

The Chaldees were curious searchers into the secrets of na­ture, especially into the motions of the celestiall bodies; Though there had beene no politicke rela­tions, [Page 239] this very Astronomicall mi­racle had beene enough to fetch them to Ierusalem, that they might see the man, for whose sake the Sun forsooke his place, or the shadow forsooke the Sun.

How easily haue we seene those holy men mis-caried by prospe­rity, against whom no miseries could preuaile? Hee that stood out stoutly against all the Assyrian onsets, clinging the faster to his God, by how much he was har­der assaulted by Senacherib, mel­teth now with these Babylonian fauours, and runnes abroad into offensiue weaknesses.

The Babylonian Ambassadors are too welcome to Ezekiah; As a man transported with the honor of their respectiue, and costly visi­tations, [Page 240] he forgets his teares, and his turning to the wall; he forgets their incompatible Idolatry; so hugging them in his bosome, as if there had beene no cause of strangenesse: All his doores fly open to them; and in a vainglo­rious ostentation all his new-ga­thered treasures, all his strong ar­moryes entertaine their eyes; no­thing in his house, nothing in his Dominion is hid from them.

Oh Ezekiah, what meanes this impotent ambition? It is not long since thou tarest off the very plates of the Temple doores, to giue vnto Senacherib; and can thy treasures be suddenly so multipli­ed, that they can be worthy to a­stonish forraine beholders? Or, if thy store-house were as rich as [Page 241] the earth, can thy heart be so vain as to be lifted vp with these hea­uie metals? Didst thou not see that heauen it selfe was at thy becke, whilest thou wert hum­bled? and shall a little earthlie drosse haue power ouer thy soul? Can the flattering applause of strangers let thee loose into a proud ioy, whom the late mes­sage of Gods Prophet resolued into teares? Oh God, if thou do not keepe vs, as well in our sun­shine, as in our storme, wee are sure to perish: As in all time of our tribulation, so in all time of our wealth, good Lord deliuer vs.

Alas, how sleight doth this weaknesse seeme in our eyes, to reioyce in the abundance of Gods [Page 242] blessings? to call in forraine friēds to be witnesses of our plenty? to raise our conceits, some little, vp­on the acclamations of others, vpon the value of our owne abi­lities?

Lay thine hand vpon thy mouth, ô foolish flesh and blood when thou seest the censure of thy Maker.

Isaiah the Prophet is sent spee­dily to Hezekiah, with a sharpe and heart-breaking message: Be­hold the dayes come that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers haue layd vp in store vnto this day, shall be caried into Babylon; nothing shall be left, saith the Lord; And of thy sonnes that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away, and they shall bee Eunuches in [Page 243] the Palace of the King of Babylon.

No sinne can bee light in He­zekiah: the holinesse of the per­son addes to the vnholinesse of the act; Eminency of profession doubles both the offence, and the iudgement. This glory shall end in an ignominious losse.

The great and holy God will not digest pride in any, much lesse, in his owne. That which was the subiect of Hezekiahs sin, shall be the matter of his punish­ment; those with whom he sin­ned, shall be his auengers; It was his treasure and munitiō, wherin he prides himselfe to these men of Babylon: The men of Babylon shall cary away his treasure and munition; What now doth He­zekiah but tempt them with a glo­rious [Page 244] booty; as some fond traue­ler that would show his gold to a Thiefe?

These worldly things are fur­thest off from the heart; Perhaps Hezekiah might not bee much troubled with their losse: Loe, God comes closer to him, yet.

As yet was Ezekiah childlesse; how much better had it beene to continue so still, then to bee pla­gued in his issue? He shall now beget children to seruitude; his loines shall yeeld Pages to the Court of Babylon: Whiles he sees them borne Princes, he shal fore­see them made Eunuches in a for­raigne Palace: What comfort can he take in the wishes and hopes of sonnes, when ere they bee borne, hee heares them destin'd [Page 245] to captiuitie and bondage?

This rod was smart, yet good Ezekiah kisses it; his heart strucke him no lesse, then the mouth of the Prophet; meekly therefore doth he yeeld to this diuine cor­rection; Good is the Word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. Thou hast spoken this word, but from the Lord; it is not thine, but his; and being his, it must needs bee, like himselfe, good: Good be­cause it is iust, for I haue deserued more, and worse; Good, because mercifull; for I suffer not accor­ding to my deserts. Is it not good, if there be peace and truth in my daies? I haue deserued a present paymēt, O God thou deferrest it; I haue deserued it in person, thou reser­uest it for those whom I cannot [Page 246] yet so feele, because they are not; I haue deserued war & tumult, thou fauorest me with peace; I haue de­seru'd to be ouer-run with super­stition, and Idolatry, thou bles­sest me with truth; shouldst thou continue truth vnto me, (though vpon the most vnquiet termes) the blessing were too good for me; but now thou hast promi­sed, and wilt not reuerse it, that both truth and peace shall bee in my dayes; Lord I adore thy iu­stice, I blesse thy mercy.

Gods children are neither was­pish nor fullen whē they are chid or beaten, but patiently hold their backes to the stripes of a displea­sed mercy; knowing how much more God is to be magnified, for what he might haue done, then [Page 247] repined at, for what hee hath done; resigning themselues o­uer into the hand of that gra­cious iustice, which in their smart seekes their refor­mation and glory.

MANASSEH.

AT last, some three yeares after his re­couery, 2 King. 21. And 2 Chor. 33. Hezekiah hath a sonne; but such a one, as if he could haue foreseene, orbity had beene a blessing.

Still in the throne of Iudah there is a succession, and interchange of good and euill: Good Iotham is succeeded by wicked Ahaz; wicked Ahaz is succeed by good Ezekiah; Good Ezekiah is succee­ded by wicked Manasseh: Euill Princes succeed to good, for the [Page 249] exercise of the Church: and good succeed to euill, for the comfort of the Church.

The young yeares of Manasseh giue aduantage to his mis-cariage; Euen, whiles he might haue been vnder the Ferule, hee swayed the Scepter: Whither may not a child be drawne, especially to a garish, and puppet-like superstition? As infancy is capable of all impressi­ons, so most of the worst.

Neither did Manasseh beginne more earely thē he held out long; He raigned more yeares then his good father liu'd: notwithstan­ding the miraculous addition to his age; More then euer any King of Iudah, besides, could reach: Length of daies is no true rule of Gods fauour; As plants last lon­ger [Page 250] then sensitiue creatures, and brute creatures out-liue the reaso­nable; so, amongst the reasona­ble, it is no newes for the wic­kedly great, to inherit these earth­ly glories, longer then the best.

There wants not apparent reason for this difference; Good Princes are fetcht away to a bet­ter Crowne; They cannot bee losers, that exchange a weake and fading honor, for a perfecti­on and eternity of blessednesse: Wicked men liue long to their owne disaduantage; they do but cary so many more brands to their hell: If therefore there be a iust man that perisheth in his righteousnesse; and there bee a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickednesse, farre be it [Page 251] from vs, either to pity the remo­uall of the iust, or to enuie the continuance of the wicked; This continues to his losse, that departs to an happy aduancement.

It is very like that Ezekiah mar­rying so late, in the vigour both of his age, and holinesse, made a carefull choyce of a wife sutable to his owne piety; Neither had his delight beene so much in her (according to her name) if her delight had not beene, as his, in God; Their issue swarues from both, so fully inheriting the vices of his grandfather Ahaz, as if there had beene no interuention of an Ezekiah: So wee haue seene the kernell of a well fruited plant de­generate into that crab, or wil­low, which gaue the originall to [Page 252] his stocke; yet can I not say that Ezekiah was as free from tradu­cing euill to his sonne Manasseh, as Ahaz was free from traducing good to his sonne Hezekiah: E­uill is incorporated into the best nature, whereas euen the least good descends from aboue.

We may not measure grace by meanes: Was it possible that Ma­nasseh hauing beene trained vp in the religious Court of his father Hezekiah, vnder the eye of so ho­ly Prophets and Priests, vnder the shadow of the Temple of God, after a childhood seasoned with so gracious precepts, with so fre­quent exercise of deuotiō, should run thus wild into all heathenish abominations; as if there had bin nothing but Idolatry in the seed [Page 253] of his conception, in the milke of his nourishment, in the rules of his institution, in the practice of his examples? How vaine are all outward helpes without the in­fluence of Gods Spirit? and that spirit breathes where he listeth: good educatiō raiseth great hopes, but the proofe of them is in the diuine benediction.

I feare to looke at the out-rages of this wicked sonne of Ezekiah: What hauocke doth hee make in the Church of God? as if hee had beene borne to ruine Religion, as if his onely felicity had beene to vntwist, or teare, in one day, that holy web which his father had beene weauing, nine and twenty yeares? and contrarily, to set vp in one houre that offensiue pile, [Page 254] which had beene aboue three hundred yeares in pulling down: so long had the high places stood; the zeale of Ezekiah in demolish­ing them honored him, aboue all his predecessors; and now the first act of this greene head was their reedifiyng: That mischiefe may be done in a day, which ma­ny ages cannot redresse.

Fearefull were the presages of these bold beginnings; From the mis-building of these chappels of the Hills to the true God, Manas­seh proceeds to erecting of altars to a false: euen to Baal, the God of Ahab, the stale Idoll of the hea­then; yet further, not content with so few Deities; he worships all the hoast of heauen; and, that hee might despight God yet [Page 255] more, he sets vp altas to these abu­sed riuals of their Maker, in the very house of the Lord; that holy place doth hee not feare to defile with the grauen Image of the groue, that he had made: Neuer Amorite did so wickedly as Ma­nasseh; and, which was yet worse, it sufficed not to be thus wicked himselfe, but hee seduced Gods people to these abominations; and, that his example might moue the more, he spares not his owne sonne from the fire of the Idol sa­crifices. Neither were his wit­cheries lesse enormious, then his Idolatry; he obserued times, hee vsed inchantments, he dealt with familiar spirits, & with wizards: Neither were either of these worse then his cruelty; Hee shed [Page 256] innocent blood till hee had filled Ierusalem from one end to ano­ther.

O Manasseh, how no lesse cruell wert thou to thine owne soule, thē to thy Iudah: What an hideous list of monstrous impiety is here; Any one of which were enough to draw iudgment vpon a world; but what hell is sufficient for all together?

What browes are not now lif­ted vp to an attentiue expectation of some present, and feareful ven­geance from God, vpon such fla­gitious wickednesse? Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold I am bringing such euill vpon Ierusalem, & Iudah, that whosoeuer heareth of it, both his eares shall tingle: The per­son of Manasseh is not capable of [Page 257] reuenge enough; as his sin dila­ted it selfe by an infectious diffusi­on to his people, so shall the pu­nishment. Wee are sensible of the least touch of our owne mise­ries, how rarely are wee affected with other mens calamities? yet this euill shall be such, as that the rumor of it shall beat no eare that shall not glow with an astoni­shing commiseration: What thē ô God, what shall that plague be, which thou threatnest with so much preface of horror? I will stretch ouer Ierusalem the line of Sa­maria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe Ierusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and tur­ning it vpside downe: And I will for­sake the remnant of mine inheritance; and I will deliuer them into the hand [Page 258] of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoile vnto all their ene­mies.

It is enough ô God, it is e­nough: What eare can but tin­gle? what eye can but weepe? what haire can but start vp? what heart can bee but confounded at the mention of so dreadfull a re­uenge? Can there bee a worse iudgement then desolation, cap­tiuity, desertion, spoyle, and tor­ture of preuailing enemies? but howeuer, other Cities and nati­ons haue vndergone these disas­ters, without wonder, that all this should befall to thy Ierusalem, the place which thou hast chosen to thy selfe, out of the whole earth, the lot of thine inheritance, the seat of thine abode, whereof [Page 259] thou hast said, Here shall bee my rest for euer, it is able to amaze all eyes, all eares.

No City could fare worse then Samaria, whose inhabitants after a wofull siege, were driuen, like cattle, into a wretched seruitude; Ierusalem shall fare no better from Nebuchadnezzar the King of Ba­bylon: Ierusalem, the glory of the earth, the dearling of heauen, See, ô ye vaine men, that boast of the priuiledges of Chaires, and Chur­ches, see, and tremble. There is no place vnder heauen to which the presence of God is so wedded as that the sins thereof shall not procure a disdainfull, & finall di­uorce: The height of former fa­uors shall be but an aggrauation of vengeance.

[Page 260] This totall vastation of Ierusa­lem, shall take time: onwards, God begins with the person of wicked Manasseh; against whom he stirres vp the Captaines of the hoast of the late friend, and old e­nemy of Iudah: Those thornes amongst which hee had shrou­ded his guilty head, cannot shel­ter him from their violence; they take him, and binde him with fetters of yron, and cary him to Babylon; There hee lyes loaded with chaines, in an vncomforta­ble dungeon exercised with vari­ety of tortures, fed with such coorse pittances of bread, and sips of water, as might maintaine an vn willing life, to the punishmēt of the owner. What eye can now pity the deepest miseries of [Page 261] Manasseh? What but bondage can befit him, that hath so lawlesly abused his liberty? What but an vtter abdication can befit him that hath cast off his God, and doted vpon Deuils? What but a dying life, and a tormenting death can bee fit for a man of blood?

Who now wold not haue giuē this man for lost; and haue lookt when hell should claime her owne? But oh the height, oh the depth of diuine mercy! After all these prodigies of sin, Manasseh is a conuert; When he was in afflicti­on he besought the Lord his God: and humbled himselfe greatly before the God of his fathers. How true is that word of the Prophet, Vexation giues vnderstanding; The viper [Page 262] when he is lashed, casts vp his poyson: The traitor when hee is racked, tells that truth which he had else neuer vttered; If the crosse beare vs not to heauen, nothing can: What vse were there of the graine, but for the edge of the sickle, wherewith it is cut downe; the stroke of the flayle, wherewith it is beaten; the weight and attrition of the mill, wherewith it is crushed; the fire of the ouen wherewith it is ba­ken? Say now, Manasseh, with that grandfather of thine (who was, till now, too good for thee) It is good for mee that I was af­flicted: Euen thine yron was more precious to thee, then thy gold; thy Gaole was a more hap­py lodging to thee, then thy pa­lace; [Page 263] Babylon was a better Schoole to thee, thē Ierusalem: what fooles are wee to frowne vpon our af­flictions? These, how crabbed so­euer, are our best friends. They are not, indeed, for our pleasure, they are for our profit: their issue makes them worthy of a wel­come. What doe wee care how bitter that potion bee which brings health?

How farre a man may goe, and yet turne? Could there bee fouler sinnes then these? Lo, here was Idolatrie in the height, viola­tion of Gods house, sorceries of all kinds, bloodie crueltie to his owne flesh, to the Saints of God; and all these against the streame of a religious institution, of the zealous counsels of Gods Pro­phets, [Page 264] of the checks of his owne heart.

Who can complaine that the way of heauen is blocked vp a­gainst him, when hee sees such a sinner enter? Say the worst a­gainst thy selfe, ô thou clamorous foule; Here is one that murder­ed men, defied God, worshipt Diuels; and yet finds the way to repentance; if thou bee worse then he, deny (if thou canst) that to thy selfe, which God hath not denied to thee, capacitie of grace: In the meane time; know that it is not thy sinne, but thine impe­nitence that barres heauen against thee.

Presume not yet, ô man, who­soeuer thou art, of the libertie of thy conuersion; as if thou coul­dest [Page 265] run on lawlesly in a course of sinning, till thou come to the brim or hell; and then couldst suddenly stop, and returne at lea­sure: the mercy of God did ne­uer set period to a wilfull sinner; neither yet did his owne corrupt desires; so as when he is gone the furthest, he could yet stay himselfe from another step: No man that truly repents is refused: but ma­ny a one sins so long, that he can­not repent. His custome of wic­kedness hath obdur'd his hart, & made it flint to all good impres­sions. There were Ieroboams, and Abijams, and Ahabs, and Ioashes, & Ahazes, in these sacred thrones, there was but one Manasseh: God hath not left in any mans hād the reines of his owne hart, to pace, & [Page 266] turne, and stop as hee lists; This priuiledge is reserued to him that made it; It is not of him that wils, nor of him that runs, but of God that showes mercy: and that mercy neg­lected, iustly binds ouer to iudge­ment.

I wonder not at Manasseh, ei­ther sinning, or repenting, I won­der at thy goodnesse, ô Lord; who after thy iust permission of his sinne, callest him thus graciously to repent, and so graciously recei­uest him repenting: So as Ma­nasseh was not a more loathsome and monstrous spectacle of wic­kednesse, then he is now a plea­sing and vsefull patterne of con­uersion; Who can now despaire of thy mercie, ô God, that sees the teares of a Manasseh accepted? whē [Page 267] wee haue debauched our worst; our euill cannot match with thy goodnesse; rather it is the praise of thine infinite store, that where sinne abounds, grace abounds much more; O keepe vs from a presumption of grace, that wee may repent; and raise vs from a distrust of grace when wee haue repented.

No sooner is Manasseh peni­tent, then he is free; his prayers haue at once loosed him from his sinnes, and from his chaines; and of a captiue haue made him a King; and from the dungeon of Babylon haue restored him to the palace of Ierusalem: How easie is it for the same hand that wounds to cure: What cannot feruent prayers doe, eyther for our rescu­ing [Page 268] from euill, or for our inuest­ing with good?

Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God. Then? and not before? Could his yonger eares escape the knowledge of Gods miraculous deliuerance of Ierusalem from the Assyrians? Could hee but know the slaughter that Gods Angell made in one night, of an hundred fourescore and fiue thousand? Could he but haue heard the iust reuenge vpon Senacherib? Could he be ignorant of his fathers su­pernaturall recouery? Could hee but see that euer-lasting monu­ment of the noted degrees in the Dyall of Ahaz? Could he auoid the sense of those fifteene yeares, which were super-added to his fathers age? What one of these [Page 269] proofes doth not euince a Deity? Yet, till his owne smart, and cure, Manasseh knew not that the Lord was God.

Foolish sinners pay deare for their knowledge; neither will in­dure to be taught good-cheape: so we haue seene resty horses that will not moue till they bleed with the spur: So we haue seene dull and carelesse children, that will learne nothing but what is put into them with the rod.

The Almighty wil be sure to be knowne for what he is: if not by faire meanes, yet by foule; If our prosperity, and peace, and sweet experience of his mercy can win vs to acknowledge him, it is more for our ease, but, if we will needes bee taught by stripes, it is [Page 270] no lesse for his glory.

Manasseh now returnes another man to Ierusalem: With what in­dignation doth hee looke vpon his old follies? and now, all the amends he can make, is to vndoe what he did; to doe that which hee vndid: Hee tooke away the strange Gods, and the Idoll out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Ierusalem, and cast them out of the City. True repentance beginnes to decline at the ablatiue; destroying those monuments of shame which for­mer errour had reared; The thornes must first be stubbed vp, ere the ground can be capable of seed; The true method of grace, is, first, Cease to doe euill; then, [Page 271] Learne to doe good.

In vaine had Manasseh pro­fessed a repentance, if the strange gods had still held possession of Ierusalem, if the Idoll had still har­boured in Gods Temple, if for­raigne altars had still smoked vp­on the holy mountaine; Away with all this trash, when once Manasseh comes to a true sense of piety.

There is nothing but hypo­crisie in that penitent, who after all vowes, and teares, retaines his old abhominations; It is that poore peece of satisfactiō which we can giue to the diuine iustice, in an hearty indignation, to fling downe that cup of wickednesse wherewith wee haue beene be­witched, and to trample vpon the [Page 272] shreads: without which, con­fession is but winde, and the drops of contrition, water.

The liuing God loues to dwell cleane, hee will not come vnder the roofe of Idols, nor admit I­dols to come vnder his: First ther­fore, Manasseh casts out the strange Gods and Idols, and altars; and then, He repaires the Altar of the Lord, and sacrifices thereon peace-of­ferings, and thanke-offerings. Not, till he had pull'd down, might he build; and when hee had pull'd downe, hee must build: True repentance is no lesse actiue of good. What is it the better, if when the Idolatrous altars are defaced, the true God hath not an Altar erected to his Name? In many Altars was superstition, [Page 273] in no altars, Atheisme.

Neither doth penitent Manasseh build God a new Altar, but hee repaires the old, which by long dis-vse lay wast, and was mossie & mouldred with age & neglect.

God loues well his owne institutions; neither can he abide innouations, so much as in the out-sides of his seruices. It is an happy worke to vindicate any ordinance of God from the iniu­rie of times, and to restore it to the originall glory.

What haue our pious gouer­nors done other in religion? had wee gone about to lay a new foundation, the worke had been accursed; now wee haue onely scraped off some superfluous mosse, that was growne vpon [Page 274] these holy stones, we haue cemen­ted some broken peeces, we haue pointed some crazie corners with wholsome morter, in stead of base clay, wherewith it was dis­gracefully patched vp: The altar is old, it is Gods altar: It is not new, not ours: If we haue layd one new stone in this sacred buil­ding, let it flye in our faces, and beat out our eyes.

On this repaired altar doth Ma­nasseh send vp the sacrifices of his peace, of his thankfulnesse; and doubtlesse the God of heauen smels a sweet sauour of rest; No perfume is so pleasing to God, as that which is cast in by a penitent hand.

It had not serued the turne that Manasseh had approched alone to [Page 275] this renued altar; As his leud ex­ample had withdrawn the people from their God; so now he com­mands Iudah to serue the Lord God of Israel; Had he been silent, he could not haue been vnfollowed: Euery act of greatnesse is preceptiue; but now that religion is made Law, what Israelite will not be deuout?

The true God hath now no competitour in Iudah; All the Idolls are pull'd downe, the high places will not be pull'd downe; An ill guise is easilie taken vp, it is not so easily left. After a com­mon deprauation of religion, it is hard to returne vnto the first purity: as when a garmēt is deep­ly soiled, it cannot without many lauers recouer the former clean­nesse.

IOSIAH'S Reformation.

YEt, if wee must al­ter 2 King. 22. And 23. from our selues, it is better to bee a Manasseh, then a Io­ash: Ioash beganne well, and ended ill: Manasseh be­gan ill, and ended well; his age varied from his youth, no lesse, then one mans condition can va­rie from another; His posterity succeeded in both; Amnon his sonne succeeded in the sinnes of Manassehs youth; Iosiah his grand­child succeeded in the vertues of his age. What a vast differēce doth grace make in the same age? Ma­nasseh began his reigne at twelue [Page 277] yeares; Iosiah at eight; Manasseh was religiously bred vnder Heze­kiah; Iosiah was mis-nurtured vn­der Amnon; and yet Manasseh runs into absurd Idolatries, Iosiah is ho­lie and deuout. The Spirit of God breathes freely; not confining it selfe to times, or meanes.

No rules can bind the hands of the Almightie; It is in ordina­rie proofe too true a word, that was said of old, Woe be to thee, O Land, whose King is a child: the goodnesse of God makes his owne exceptions; Iudah neuer fa­red better, then in the green years of a Iosiah: If wee may not rather measure youth, and age by go­uernment, and disposition, then by yeares: Surely thus, Iosiah was older with smooth cheekes, then [Page 278] Manasseh with gray haires. Happy is the infancie of Princes, when it falls into the hands of faithfull Counsellors.

A good patterne is no small helpe for young beginners; Iosiah sets his father Dauid before him, not Amnon, not Manasseh: Ex­amples are the best rules for the inexperienced; where their choice is good, the directions are easiest: The lawes of God are the wayes of Dauid; Those lawes were the rule, these wayes were the pra­ctice; Good Iosiah walkes in all the wayes of his Father Dauid.

Euen the minority of Iosiah was not idle; we cannot be good too early: At eight yeares it was enough to haue his eare open to heare good counsaile; to haue his [Page 279] eies & hart opē to seek after God: At twelue, he begins to act: and showes well that hee hath found the God he sought: Then he ad­dresses 2. Chro 34. 3. himselfe to purge Iudah, and Ierusalem, from the high pla­ces, groues, images, altars, where­with it was defiled; burning the bones of the idolatrous Priests vpon their altars; strawing the ashes of the idols vpon the graues of them that had sacrificed to them, striuing by those fires, and mattocks to testifie his zealous de­testation of all idolatry.

The house must first be clen­sed, ere it can bee garnished; no man will cast away his cost vpon vncleane heaps; so soone as the Temple was purged, Iosiah bends his thoughts vpon the repayring, [Page 280] and beautifying of this house of the Lord.

What stir was there in Iudah, wherein Gods Temple suffered not? Sixe seuerall times was it pillaged, whether out of force, or will: First, Iehoash King of Iudah is faine by the spoile of it to stop the mouth of Hazael; Then, Io­ash King of Israel fils his owne hands with that sacred spoile, in the dayes of Amaziah; after this, Ahaz rifles it for Tiglath Pileser, King of Assyria; then Hezekiah is forced to ransacke the treasures of it for Senacherib; yet after, the sa­criledge of Manasseh makes that booty of it, which his later times indeuoured to restore; and now lastly, Amnon his sonne neglects the frame, embeazels the furni­ture [Page 281] of this holy place: The very pile began to complaine of age and vnrespect: Now comes good Iosiah, and in his eighteenth yeare (when other young Gallants would haue thought of nothing but pleasure, and iollity) takes vp the latest care of his father Dauid, and giues order for the repayring of the Temple.

The keepers of the doore haue receiued the contribution of all faithfull Iewes, for this pious vse; the King sends Shaphan the scribe to Hilkijah the Priest to summe it vp, and to deliuer it vnto Car­penters, and Masons, for so holy a worke.

How well doth it beseeme the care of a religious Prince, to set the Priests and Scribes in hand [Page 282] with reedifying the Temple? The command is the Kings, the charge is the high-Priests, the exe­cution is the workmens; when the laborers are faithfull in doing the worke, and the high Priest in directing it, and the King in in­ioining it, Gods House cannot faile of an happy perfection; but when any of these slackens, the businesse must needs languish.

How God blesses the deuout indeuours of his seruants? Whiles Hilkijah was diligently suruaying the breaches and the reparation of the Temple, hee lights vpon the booke of the Law: The au­thenticke and originall Booke of Deut. 31. 26. Gods Law was by a speciall charge appointed to be carefully kept within a safe shrine, in the [Page 283] Sanctuary: In the depraued times of idolatry, some faithfull Priest (to make sure worke) had locked it fast vp, in some secret corner of the Temple, from the reach of all hands, of all eyes: as knowing how impossible it was, that di­uine monument could otherwise escape the fury of prophane guil­tinesse: Some few transcripts there were doubtlesse, (parcels of this sacred Book) in other hands; neither doubt I, but as Hilkijah had been formerly well acquain­ted with this holy volume (now of long time hid) so the eares of good Iosiah had beene inured to some passages thereof; but the whole body of these awfull Re­cords, since the late night of Ido­latrous confusion, and persecu­tion [Page 284] saw no light, till now; This precious treasure doth Hilkijah find, whiles he digs for the Tem­ple: Neuer man laboured to the reparation of Gods Church, but he met with a blessing more thē he looked for.

Hilkijah the Priest, and Shaphan the scribe do not ingrosse this in­valuable wealth into their owne hands, nor suppresse these more then sacred roles, for their owne aduantage; but trans-mit them, first to the eares of the King, then by him, to the people: It is not the praise of a good scribe, to lay vp, but to bring forth, both old and new: And if the Priests lips shall keepe knowledge, they keep it to impart, not to smother: The people shall seeke the Law at his [Page 285] mouth; for hee is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

So soone as the good King heares the words of the booke of the Law, and in speciall, those dreadfull threats of iudgement, denounced against the Idolatries of his Iudah; he rends his clothes, to show his heart rent with sor­row, and fearfull expectation of those plagues; and washes his bo­some with teares. Oh gracious tendernesse of Iosiah: he doth but once heare the Law read, and is thus humbled; humbled for his fathers sins, for the sins of his peo­ple: how many of vs, after a thousand hammerings of the me­naces of Gods Law, vpon our guilty soules, continue yet insensi­ble of our danger? The very rea­ding [Page 286] of this Law doth thus affect him; the preaching of it stirs not vs; The sinnes of others strucke thus deepe with him; our owne are sleighted by vs: A soft hart is the best tempered for God: So Physitians are wont to like those bodies best, which are easiest to worke vpon: O God make our clay, waxe, and our waxe pliable to thine hand; so shall we be sure to be free either from sin, or from the hurt of sin.

It is no holy sorrow that sends vs not to God; Iosiah is not moa­ped with a distractiue griefe, or an astonishing feare, but in the height of his passion, sends fiue choice messengers to Huldah the Prophetesse, to enquire of the Lord, for himselfe, for Iudah: It is [Page 287] an happie trouble that driues vs to this refuge. I doe not heare any of these Courtiers reply to this godly motion of their young King: Alas, Sir, what meanes this deepe perplexity? What needs all this busie inquisition? If your father were idolatrous, what is that to you, who haue abando­ned his sinnes? If your people were once idolatrous, what is that to you, yea to them, who haue expiated these crimes by their repentance? Haue you not carefully reformed all those abu­ses? hath not your happy refor­matiō made an abūdant amends for those wrongs? Spare your teares, and saue the labor of your messengers; All is well, all shall be well; these iudgements are for [Page 288] the obstinate; had we beene still guilty, these feares had been iust: were wee still in danger, what had we gained by our conuersi­on? Rather, as glad to second the religious cares of their young King, they feed his holy anxieties with a iust aggrauation of perill; and by their good counsell, whet these his zealous desires of a spee­dy resolution: That state cannot but be happy, whose Priests and Peeres are ready as to suggest, so to cherish, and execute the deuout proiects of their Soueraignes.

The graue Priest, the learned scribe, the honourable Courtiers doe not disdaine to knocke at the doore of a Prophetesse: Neither doth any of them say; It were hard if wee should not haue as much [Page 289] acquaintance with God, as a wo­man; but in an humble acknow­ledgement of her Graces, they come to learne the will of God, from her mouth: True piety is modest, and stands not vpon termes of reputation, in the busi­nesses of God; but willingly ho­nors his gifts in any subiect, least of all in it selfe.

The sexe is not more noted in Huldah, then the condition; As she was a woman, so a wife; the wife of Shallum: Holy matrimo­ny was no hindrance to her di­uine reuelations; she was at once a Prophetesse in her colledge, an huswife in her family; It was neuer the practice of God to confine his graces to virginitie: At this very time the famous Pro­phet [Page 290] Ieremy flourished, some years had he already spent in this pub­like seruice; why was not he ra­ther consulted by Iosiah? It is not vnlike that some propheticall im­ployments called him away, at this time from Ierusalem: His pre­sence could not haue beene bal­ked: purposely, doubtlesse doth God cast this message vpon the point of that absence, that hee might honor the weaker vessell with his diuine oracle; and exer­cise the humility of so great cli­ents: In the answers of God, it is not to be regarded, who speakes, but from whom: The iniury re­dounds to God, if the weaknes­ses of the person cause vs to vn­dervalue the authority of the fun­ction.

[Page 291] As Iosiah and his messengers do not despise Huldah, because shee was a woman; so Huldah doth not flatter Iosiah, because a King: Goe tell the man that sent you; Thus saith the Lord: Behold I will bring e­uill vpon this place. Loe, hee that was as God to his subiects, is but as a man to the Prophetesse: nei­ther is the message euer the swee­ter, because it is required by a Prince: No circumstance may vary the forme of diuine truth.

Euill must befall Ierusalem and Iudah, yea, all the words of that booke, must allight vpon the in­habitants of both: In how bad a case we may bee, and yet thinke our selues not safe onely, but hap­py? These Iewes had forgotten their old reuolts; and now ha­uing [Page 292] framed themselues to ho­ly courses; promised them­selues nothing but peace, when the Prophetesse foresees, and fore­tels their approching ruine: Euen their old score must be paid, after the opinion of a cleer agreement. In vaine shall wee hope to quit our arrerages by prorogation. This Prophetesse had immedi­ate visions from God, yet shee must speake out of the Booke; There was neuer any reuelation from the Lord, that crossed his writings: His hand, and his tongue agree eternally: If that booke haue cursed Iudah, she may not absolue it.

Yet, what a gracious mixture was here of mercy, with souerity; seuerity to Iudah, mercy to Iosiah; [Page 293] Iudah shall be plagued, and shall become a desolation, and a curse; Iosiah shall bee quietly housed in his graue, before this storme fall vpon Iudah: His eye shall not see, what his people shall feele: It is enough that the expectation of these euills afflicts him, the sense shall not.

Whence is this indulgence? Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thy selfe before the Lord. How happy a thing it is to bee a reed vnto Gods iudge­ments, rather then an oake, the meeke and gentle reed stoops and therefore stands, the oake stands stiffely out against the strongest gust, and therefore is turned vp by the roots: At least, let vs la­ment those sins wee haue not a­uoyded; [Page 294] and mourne for the sins of others, whiles wee hate our owne.

He that found himselfe exemp­ted from this vengeance, by his repentance and deepe humiliatiō, would faine find the fame way for the deliuerance of his people: The same words of the Law therefore, that had wrought vpon his heart, are by him caused to be publikely read in the eares of Iu­dah, and Ierusalem; The assembly is vniuersall, of Priests, Prophets, people, both small and great; be­cause the sin was such, the danger was such: that no man may com­plaine to want information, the Law of God soūds in euery eare. If our eare be shut to the Law, the sin is ours; but if the Law be shut [Page 295] to our eares, the sin is of our go­uernors: Woe be to them that hide Gods booke from the peo­ple, as they would doe rats-bane from the eye of children: Igno­rant soules cannot perish with­out their murder: There is no feare of knowing too much, there is too much feare of practi­zing too little: Now, if the peo­ple doe not imitate their King in relenting, they are not worthy to partake with him in his impu­nitie. Howsoeuer, they shall not want a great example; as of sor­row, so of amendment. Good Iosiah stands by the pillar, and so­lemnly renewes his Couenant with his God; the people cannot for shame refuse to second him: Euen they that lookt for a de­struction, [Page 296] yet doe not with-draw their obedience; Gods Children may not be sullen vnder his cor­rections, but whether they expect or feele smart, are no other then dutifull to his awfull hand. As a man that findes hee hath done something that might indanger the forfait of his fauour, puts him­selfe into some deseruing action, whereby hee may hope to re-in­deare himselfe, so doth Iosiah here; No indeauor is enough to testifie his zeale to that name of God which was so profaned by his peoples Idolatry; What euer mo­numents were yet remaining of wicked Paganisme, hee defaces with indignation; hee burnes the vessels of Baal, and puts downe his Chemarim, destroyes the houses [Page 297] of the Sodomites, strawes the pow­der of their idols in the brooke Kedron, defiles Topheth, takes a­way the horses, of the Sun, burns the charets of the Sun with fire, and omits nothing that might re­concile God, cleare Iudah, perfit a reformation.

Neither is this care confined to Ierusalem, and the neighboring Townes, but stretches it selfe to the vtmost coasts of Iosiahs King­dome; Bethel was the infamous seat of the pollution of Israel; it seemes the heyres of Ieroboam (who set vp his goldē calfe there) inioyed it not long; the Kings of Iudah recouered it to their crown, but, it had not yet recouered it selfe from that ancient infection: Thither doth good Iosiah send the [Page 298] vnhallowed ashes of Baals Re­liques, to staine that altar first, which hee will soone after de­face.

The time was, and it was no lesse then three hundred and fiftie yeares since, that the man of God, out of Iudah, cried against Ierobo­ams altar;

O Altar, Altar; Thus saith the 1 Kin. 13. 2 Lord; Behold a Child shall be borne, vnto the House of Dauid, Iosiah by name, and vpon thee shall he offer the Priests of the high-places, that burne incense vpon thee, and mens bones shall be burnt vpon thee.

And now is the houre come, wherein euerie of those words shall bee accomplished: It could not but bee a great confirmation to Iosiah, to see that God had so [Page 299] long agoe fore-markt him for his owne; and fore-nam'd him to so zealous a seruice.

All our names are equally fore-known of that diuine prouidēce, though not fore-spoken: neither can any act passe from vs, which was not pre-determined in that eternall Counsell of the Almigh­tie: neither can any act that is there pre-determined bee vnful­filled vpon earth: Interuention of time breakes no square in the diuine decrees: Our pur-blind eies see nothing, but that which toucheth their lidds; the quicke sight of Gods prescience sees that, as present, which is a world off: According to the prediction, the stench of dead mens bones is a fit perfume to send vp from this [Page 300] altar to heauen; whose best sacri­fices sauoured worse in the nos­thrils of God. And the blood of the idolatrous sacrificers was a meet oblation to that God, who had beene dishonoured by their burnt-offerings to his base cor­riualls.

Euen that Prophet who fore-told this, had his toomb in Bethel, and that toomb had his inscripti­on; His last weakenesse might not rob him of the honour of his sepulture: How palpablie doe these Israelites condemne them­selues, whiles they reserue so fa­mous a monument of their own conviction. It was no preiudice to this holy Prophet, that his bones lay amongst the sepulchers of idolaters. His Epitaph preser­ued [Page 301] those bones from burning, vpon that altar, which he had ac­cursed; As the Lyon might not teare his carcasse, when hee died, so now, the furie of the multitude may not violate his verie bones, in the graue.

I doe not see Iosiah: saue them for reliques; I heare him com­mand they shall rest in peace; it is fit the dead bodies of Gods Saints should be as free from contempt, as from superstition.

After the remouall of these rites of false worship, it is time to bring in the true: Now a solemne Pas­souer shall be kept vnto the Lord, by the charge of Iosiah: That book of the Law sets him, the time, place, circumstances of this sacra­ment, his zeale so carefully fol­lowes [Page 302] it, that since the dayes of Samuel, this feast was neuer so glo­riously, so punctually celebrated. Ierusalē is the place, the fourteenth day of the first moneth is the time, the Leuites are the actors, a year­ling and spotlesse Lambe is the prouision; no bone of it is bro­ken, the blood is sprinkled vpon the doore-postes, it is roasted whole, eaten with sowre herbs, with bread vnleauened; the re­mainder is consumed by fire. The law, the sacrifices, had beene in vaine, if the Passouer had beene neglected. No true Israelite might want, whether this monument of their deliuerance past, or this Type of the Messiah to come. Rather then faile, Iosiahs bountie shall supplie to Iudah Lambs for [Page 303] their paschall deuotion: No almes is so acceptable, as that where­by the soule is fur­thered.

IOSIAH'S Death; with the desolation of the Temple, and Ierusalem.

IOsiah hath now happily setled the 2 King. 23. vers 29. And 2 Chro. 35. vers 20. 2 Chr. 36. affaires both of God, & the state: and now hath sweet leisure to inioy himselfe, and his people: his conscience doth not more cheare him at home, then his subiects abroad; Neuer King raigned with more officious piety to God, with more loue, and applause of men: But what stability is there in these [Page 305] earthly things? how seldome is excellency in any kind long-liu'd? In the very strength of his age, in the height of his strength, is Iosiah withdrawne from the earth; as not without a mercifull intenti­on of his glory, on Gods behalfe, so, not without some weaknesse, on his own. Pharaoh Necho King of Egipt comes vp to fight against the King of Assyria: What is that to Iosiah? Perhaps the Egiptians attempted to passe through the land of Iudah, towards Carchemish the seat of his war; but, as a neigh­bour, not as an enemy: Iosiah re­sists him; as neither holding it safe to admit a forraigne power into the bosome of his Coun­trey, nor daring to giue so faire an occasion of prouoking the [Page 306] Assyrian hostility against him.

The King of Egipt mildly de­precates this enmity, hee sends Ambassadors to Iosiah, saying, What haue I to doe with thee thou King of Iudah, I come not against thee, this day, but against the house wherewith I haue warre; for God commanded me to make hast; forbeare thee from medling with God, who is with me, that hee destroy thee not.

What friend could haue sayd more? what Prophet could haue aduised more holily? why doth not good Iosiah say with himselfe; There may bee truth in this sug­gestion; God may haue sent this man, to be a scourge of mine old enemy, of Ashur: If the hand of the Almighty be in this designe, why doe I oppose it? The quar­rell [Page 307] is not mine, why do I thrust my finger into this flame, vnbid­den? Wherefore should I hazard the effusion of blood, vpon an harmlesse passage? Can I heare him plead a command from God, and not inquire into it? How easie is it for me to know the certainty of this pretended commission? Haue not I the Priests, and Prophets of God a­bout me? Let mee first goe and consult his oracle; If God haue sent him, and forbidden mee, why should my courage cary me against my piety?

It is strange that the good hart of Iosiah could escape these thoughts; these resolutions: Yet, hee that vpon the generall threats of Gods Law against Iudah, sends messen­gers [Page 308] to inquire of a Prophetesse; now, vpon these particular threats of danger to himselfe, speaks not, stirs not. The famous Prophet Ieremy was then liuing, and Ze­phaniah; besides a whole Col­ledge of Seers, Iosiah doth not so much as send out of doores, to aske, Shall I goe vp against the King of Egipt? Sometimes, both grace and wit are asleepe in the holiest and wariest brests: The best of all Gods Saints may bee some­times miscaried by their passions, to their cost.

The wise prouidence of God hath mercifully determined to leaue Iosiah to his owne counsels, that by the weaknesse of his ser­uant, hee might take occasion to perfit his glory: Euen that where­in [Page 309] Iosiah was wanting vnto God, shall concurre to the making vp of Gods promise to Iosiah: when we are the most blind-folded, we run on the waies of Gods hidden decrees; and, what euer our in­tents be, cannot, if wee would, goe out of that vnknowne path.

Needs will Iosiah put himselfe into armes against an vnwilling enemie; and, to bee lesse noted, disguises himselfe. The fatall ar­row of an Egyptian archer findes him out, in the throng, and giues him his deaths-wound; Now, too late hee calls to a retrait; his changed Charet is turned to a Biere, to carie his bleeding corps to his graue, in Ierusalem.

What eye doth not now pitie and lament the vntimely end of [Page 310] a Iosiah? Whom can it choose but affect, to see a religious, iust, ver­tuous Prince snatcht away in the vigour of his age? After all our foolish moane, the prouidence that directed that shaft to his ligh­ting place, intends that wound for a stroke of mercy: The God whō Iosiah serues, looks through his death, at his glorie: and by this sudden violence will deliuer him from the view, and partici­pation of the miseries of Iudah, which had beene many deaths; and fetches him to the participa­tion of that happinesse, which could countervaile more deathes, then could be incident into a Iosi­ah. Oh the wonderfull goodnesse of the Almighty, whose verie iudgements are mercifull; Oh [Page 311] the safe condicion of Gods chil­dren, whom very paine easeth, whom death reuiues, whom dis­solutiō vnites, whom lastly their verie sinne and temptation glo­rifies.

How happily hath Iosiah gai­ned by this change? In stead of a froward people, he now is sor­ted with Saints and Angels; in stead of a fading, and corruptible crowne, he now inioyes an eter­nall. The orphane subiects are readie to weepe out their eyes, for sorrow; their losse cannot be so great, as his gaine: he is glorious, they, as their sins had deserued, miserable. If the separated soule could be capable of passion, could Iosiah haue seene, after his depar­ture, the calamities of his sons, of [Page 312] his people, it could not but haue laid siege to his peace.

The sad subiects proclaime his sonne Iehoahaz, King, in stead of so lamented a father; He both doth ill, and fares ill: By that time he hath sat but three moneths in the throne, Pharaoh Nechoh King of Egypt secōds the fathers death, with the sonnes captiuity: This victorious enemy puts downe the wicked sonne of Iosiah, and lades him with chains at Riblath, in the land of Hamath; and lades his people with the tribute of an hundred talents of siluer, and a ta­lent of gold: Yet, as if he that was vnwilling to fight with Iosiah, were no lesse vnwilling to root out his posterity, this Egyptian sets Eliakim, the second sonne of [Page 313] Iosiah, vpon the seat of his father; &, that he might be al his, changes his name to Iehoiakim: oh the wo­ful & vnworthy successiō of Iosi­ah; one son is a prisoner, the other is a tributary; both are wicked. Af­ter that Iehoiakim hath been some yeares Pharaohs Bayliue, to gather, and racke the deare rents of Iudah; Nebuchadnezzar the great King of Babylon comes vp, and sweepes away both the Lord, and his Feo­dary, Pharaoh, and Iehoiakim.

So farre was the ambitious E­gyptian from maintaining his in­croachment vpon the territories of Iudah, that hee could not now hold his owne: From Nilus to Euphrates, all is lost: So subiect are the lesser powers still to bee swallowed vp of the greater; so [Page 314] iust it is with God, that they which will bee affecting vndue inlargement of their estates, should fall short of what they had.

Iehoiakim is caried in fetters to Babylon: and now in that dun­geon of his captiuity, hath more leasure, then grace, to bethinke himselfe of all his abominations; and whiles hee inherits the sad lodging of his great grandfather, Manasseh, inherits not his suc­cesse.

Whiles hee is rotting in this Goale, his young sonne Iehoiachin starts vp in his throne; like to a mushrom that rises vp in a night, and withers in a day: Within three moneths, and ten dayes, is that young Prince (the meet son [Page 315] of such a father) fetcht vp in irons to his fathers prison; Neither shall he goe alone; his attendance shal adde to his misery; His mother, his wiues, his officers, his peeres, his craftsmen, his warriours ac­company him, manicled, and chained, to their perpetuall bon­dage.

Now, according to Isaiahs word, it would haue been great preferment for the fruit of Heze­kiahs loynes to bee Pages in the Court of Babylon.

One only branch yet remaines of the vnhappy stocke of holy Io­siah, Mattaniah, the brother of Ie­hoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezar (changing his name to Zedekiah) sets vp in that forlorne, and tribu­tary throne; There might hee [Page 316] haue liued (though an vnderling) yet peaceable; This man (to make vp the measure of Gods iust iudg­ments) as he was euer a rebell to God, so proues rebellious to his Soueraigne master, the King of Babylon: The Prophet Ieremy hath forewarn'd him in vain; nothing could teach this man, but smart.

Who can looke for other then fury frō Nebuchadnezzar, against Ierusalem, which now had affron­ted him with three seuerall suc­cessions of reuolts, and conspira­cies against his gouernment; and thrice abused his bounty, and in­dulgence? with a mighty army doth he therfore come vp against his seditious deputy; and besieges Ierusalem, and blockes it vp with forts round about. After two [Page 317] yeares siege, the Chaldees without, and the famine within, haue pre­uailed; King Zedekiah and his souldiers are fled away by night, as thinking themselues happy, if they might abandon their walls, and saue their liues.

The Chaldees (as caring more for the birdes, then for the nest) pursue them, and ouertake Zede­kiah, forsaken of all his forces, in the plaine of Iericho, and bring him to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. What can so vnthank­full and perfidious a vassall ex­pect, but the worst of reuenge? The sentence is fearfull: First, the sonnes of Zedekiah are slaine be­fore his eyes; then those eyes of his (as if they had seene enough, when they had seene him child­lesse) [Page 318] are put out: His eyes are onely lent him so long, as to tor­ment him with the sight of his owne vtmost discomfort; Had his sonnes but ouer-liued his eies, the griefe had beene so much the lesse, as the apprehension of it had beene lesse liuely, and piercing; Now, this wofull obiect shall shut vp his sight, that, euen when his bodily eyes are gone, yet the eyes of his minde might euer see what he last saw; That thus his sonnes might bee euer dying be­fore him, and himselfe in their death euer miserable.

Who doth not now wish that the blood of Hezekiah and Iosiah could haue beene seuered from these impure dregs of their lewd issue? no man could pity the of­fenders, [Page 319] were it not for the mix­ture of the interest of so holy pro­genitors.

No more sorrow can come in at the windowes of Zedekiah, more shall come in at his doores; his care shall receiue what more to rue for his Ierusalem: Nebuza­radan the great Marshall of the King of Babylon comes vp against that deplored City, and breakes downe the walls of it, round a­bout, and burnes the Temple of the Lord, and the Kings house, and euery faire Pallace of Ierusa­lem, with fire; driues away the remainder of her inhabitants, into Captiuity, caries away the last spoiles of the glorious Temple. Oh Ierusalem, Ierusalem, the won­der of all times, the paragon of [Page 320] nations, the glory of the earth, the fauourite of heauen, how art thou now become heapes of ashes, hilles of rubbish, a spectacle of desolation, a monument of ruine? Iflater, yet no lesse deepe hast thou now pledged that bitter cup of Gods vengeance, to thy sister Samaria; How carefully had thy God forwarned thee? Thogh Israel play the harlot, yet, let not Iudah sinne: Loe now, as thine iniquities, so thy iudgements haue ouertaken her: Both lye together in the dust, both are made a curse to all posterities: Oh God, what place shall thy iustice spare, if Ieru­salem haue perished? If that delight of thine were cut off for her wic­kednesse, Let not vs bee high minded but feare.

[Page 321] What pity it was to see those goodly Cedars of the Temple flaming vp higher then they stood in Lebanon? to see those cu­rious marbles, which neuer felt the dint of the pick-axe, or ham­mer, in the laying, wounded with mattockes, and wounding the earth in their fall? to see the holy of holies, whereinto none might enter but the high-priest, once a yeare, thronged with Pa­gans; the vailes rent, the sacred Arke of God vilated, and defaced, the Tables ouer-turned, the altars broke down, the pillars demoli­shed, the pauements digged vp, yea, the very groūd, where that fa­mous pile stood, deformed. O God, thou woldst rather haue no visible house vpon earth, then in­dure [Page 322] it defiled with Idolatries.

Foure hundred thirty and sixe yeares had that Temple stood, and beautified the earth, and ho­nored heauen, now it is turned into rude heapes; There is no prescription to be pleaded for the fauour of the Almighty: Onely that Temple, not made with hands, is eternall in the heauens. Thither hee graciously bring vs, that hath ordain'd vs thither, for the sake of that glorious high-Priest, that hath once for all entred into that holy of holies,

Amen.

Contemplations ON TH …

Contemplations ON THE HISTO­RIE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.

The 21th. and last Booke.

Wherein are,

  • 1 Zerubbabel and Ezra.
  • 2 Nehemiah building the walls of Ie­rusalem.
  • 3 Nehemiah redressing the extortion of the Iewes.
  • 4 Abasuerus feasting; Vashti cast off: Esther chosen.
  • 5 Haman disrespected by Mordecai; Mordecaies message to Esther.
  • 6 Esther suing to Ahasuerus.
  • 7 Mordecai honored by Haman.
  • 8 Haman hanged; Mordecai aduanced.

ZERVBBABEL and EZRA.

THE first transpor­tation into Baby­lon, vnder Iehoia­kim, (wherein Daniel, Ezekiel, and many other of the best note, were driuen into captiuity,) was (some eleuen yeares after) follow­ed with a second, vnder Zedekiah; wherin the remnant of the, now­ruined, Ierusalem, and Iudah, were swept away. Seuenty yeares was [Page 326] the period of their longest serui­tude; whiles Babylō was a Queen, Iudah was her vassall: when that proud Tyrannesse fell, Gods peo­ple began to rise againe: The Ba­bylonian Monarchie was no soo­ner swallowed vp of the Persian, then the Iewes felt the comfort of libertie.

For Cyrus conquering Babylon, and finding the Iewes groaning vnder that miserable captiuity, straight releases them, and sends them, vnder the conduct of their Captaine Zorobabel, backe to their almost-forgotten country.

The world stands vpon vicis­situdes; Euery Nation hath her turne, and must make vp her measure: Threescore and tenne yeares agoe, it was the course of [Page 327] Iudah, the iniquity of that rebelli­ous people was full. Some hun­dred and thirty yeares before that, was the turne of Samaria, and her Israelites: Now the staffe is come to the doores of Babylon, euen that wherewith Iudah was bea­ten: and those Persians which are now victorious, must haue their terme also. It is in vaine for any earthly state to promise to it selfe an immutable cōdition. At last, the rod that scourged Gods children, is cast into the fire: Thou hast re­membred, O Lord, the Children of E­dom in the day of Ierusalem, how they said, Downe with it, downe with it, euen to the ground: O daughter of Babylon wasted with misery, how hap­py is hee that rewardeth thee as thou hast serued them: It is Cyrus that [Page 328] hath wrought this reuenge, this rescue.

Doubtlesse, it did not a little moue Cyrus to this fauour, that he found himselfe honorably fore-named in these Iewish prophe­sies, and fore appointed to this glorious seruice, no lesse then an hundred and seuenty yeares, be­fore Esay 44 vlt he was: Who would not be glad to make good so noble and happy a destiny? O God, if wee heare that thou hast ordained vs to life, how gladly, how careful­lie, should we worke out our sal­uation? if to good workes, how should we abound?

In the first yeare of his Monar­chy, doth Cyrus both make pro­clamations, and publish them in writing, through all his King­dome; [Page 329] wherein he both profes­seth his zealous resolutions, and desires to build vp Gods house, in Ierusalem, and inioynes, and in­courages all the Iewes, through his dominions, to addresse them­selues to that sacred worke; and incites all his subiects to ayd them with siluer, and gold, and goods, and beasts. How gracious was the command of that, whereof the very allowance was a fauour?

Was it Cyrus that did this? was it not thou, O God, in whose hands are the harts of Kings, that stirredst vp the spirit of this Persi­an; as if he had beene more then a sonne of thy Church, a father? How easie is it for thee to make very Pagans protectors to thy Church; enemies, benefactors?

[Page 330] Not with an empty grace doth this great King dismisse the Iewes, but with a royall bountie; Hee brings forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nehuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Ierusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; and causes them to be numbred by his Trea­surer to the hands of Sheshbazzar the Prince of Iudah, for the vse of the Temple; no fewer then fiue thousand and foure hundred vessels of gold and siluer.

Certainly, this great Monarch wanted not wit to thinke; It is a rich booty that I find in the Tem­ples of Babylon; by the law of conquest it is mine; hauing van­quisht their gods, I may well challenge their spile; how sea­sonably doth it now fall into my [Page 331] hands, vpon this victorie, to re­ward my souldiers, to settle my new Empire: what if this treasure came from Ierusalem? the propri­etie is now altered; the very place (according to the cōceit of Iewes) hath profaned it; The true God, I haue heard, is curious; neither will abide those vessels, which haue beene polluted with idola­trous vses: It shall bee enough if I loose the bonds of this miserable people: If I giue liberty, let the next giue wealth: they will think themselues happy in bare walls, in their natiue earth: To what purpose should I pamper their penurie with a sudden store? But the Princely hart of Cyrus would admit of no such base sacrilegious thoughts; Those vessels that hee [Page 332] finds stampt with Gods marke, he will returne to their owner; neither his owne occasions, nor their abuse shall be any colour of their detention. O Cyrus, how manie close-handed, griple-min­ded Christians shall once be cho­ked in iudgement with the ex­ample of thy iust munificence? thou restoredst that which wee purloine: woe bee to those hou­ses that are stored with the spoiles of Gods Temple: woe bee to those fingers that are tainted with holy treasures.

Kings can hardly doe good a­lone; their lawes are not more followed, then their examples: No sooner doe the chiefe of the fathers of Iudah and Beniamin, and the Priests, and Leuites set their [Page 333] faces towards Ierusalem for the building of the Temple, then the liberall hands of their Pagan neighbours furnish them with gold, and siluer, and precious things. Euer Persian is glad to be at the charge of laying a stone, in Gods house. The same God that had giuen them these mettals, out of his cofers of the earth, giues it out of their cofers to his Temple. He that tooke away by the Chal­dees, giues by the Persians: Where the Almighty intends a worke, there cannot bee any want of meanes.

Thus hartened, thus laded, doe the ioyfull families of Iudah re­turne to their old home; How many thousands of them were worne out, and lost in that seuen­ty [Page 334] yeares seruitude? How few of them yet suruiued, that could know the place of their birth, and habitation; or, say, Here stood the Temple, here the Palace? A­mongst those fourty and two thousand, three hundred & three­score Iewes, that returned in this first expedition; there were whō the confusion of their long cap­tiuity Besides ser­uants 7337. had robbed of their pedi­gree; They knew themselues Iewes, but could not deriue their line: these were yet admitted, without difficulty; But those of the Priestly tribe, which could not deduce their genealogy from the register, are cashiered as vn­cleane. Then, God would bee serued in a blood, now in a due succession: If we could not fetch [Page 335] the line of our pedigree from Christ, and his Apostles, we were not fit for the Euangelicall altars. Their calling was by nature, ours by grace; The grace of inward abilities, of outward ordination; if we cannot approue both these, we are iustly abādoned; now had the children of Israel taken down their Harpes from the Willowes, which grew by the waters of Ba­bylon, & could, vnbidden, sing the true sōgs of their recouered Zion: They are newly setled in their old māsions, when vpō the first pub­like feast, in the Autumne, immedi­ately following their return, they flock vp to Ierusalē: their first care is their publike sacrifice; That school of their Captiuity, wherin they haue been long trained, hath [Page 336] taught them to begin with God: A forced discontinuance, makes deuotion more sauoury, more sweet to religious hearts; whereas in an open freedome, piety doth too often languish.

Ieshua the Priest, and Zorobabel the Prince are fitly ioyned in the building of the Altar: neither of their hands may be out of that sa­cred worke: no sooner is that set vpon the bases, then it is im­ployed to the daily burnt-offe­rings: The Altar may not stay the leisure of the Temple; Gods Church may not want her obla­tions; He can be none of the sons of Israel, that doth not euery day renue his acknowledgements of God.

How feelingly doe these Iewes [Page 337] keepe their feast of Tabernacles, whiles their soiourning in Baby­lon was still in their thoughts; whiles as yet their Tēts must sup­ply their ruined houses? The first motions of zeale are commonly strong, and feruent; How care­fully doe these Gouernours and Priests make preparatiō for Gods Temple? Carpenters and Ma­sons are hyred; Tyrian workmen are againe called for, and Lebanon is now anew solicited for Cedar trees. The materials are ready; Euery Israelite, with such courage addresses himselfe to this seruice, as if his life lay in those stones: And now, whiles the foundati­on of the Temple was laying, the Priests stand in their habits, with Trumpets, the Leuites with [Page 338] Cymbals, interchanging their ho­ly Musicke, and melodiously sin­ging praises to the God of Israel, who had turned their captiuity as the streames in the South, and honoured their eyes and hands with the first stones of his house: The people second their songs with shouts; The earth sounds, and heauen rings with the ioy­full acclamations of the multi­tude; It is no small comfort, in a good action, to haue begun wel; The entrance of any holy enter­prise is commonly encountred with many discouragements, which if wee haue once ouer­come, the passage is smooth.

How would these men haue shouted at the laying on of the last stone of the battlements, who are [Page 339] thus ioyed with laying the first stones of the foundation? The end of any thing is better then the beginning: that hath certainty, this danger; this labour, that rest: little did these men thinke that, for all this, few of them should liue to see the roofe.

What different affections shall wee see produced in men by the same occasion? The younger Iewes shouted at this sight, the el­der wept: The yonger shouted to see a new foundation; The elder wept to remember the old: They who had seene no better, thought this goodly; They who had seen the former, thought this meane, and homely; more sor­rowing for what they had lost, then reioycing in so vnequal a re­paration.

[Page 340] As it may fall out, it is some peece of misery to haue beene happier; euery abatement of the degrees of our former height laies siege to our thankfulnesse, for lesser mercies. Sometimes, it proues an aduantage to haue knowne no better; he shall more comfortably inioy present bene­fits, who takes them as they are, without any other comparisons, then of the weakenesse of his owne deseruings. It is nothing to mee what my selfe or others haue beene, so I bee now well: Neither is it otherwise in particu­lar Churches, if one be more glo­riously built then another, yet if the foundation be rightly layd in both; one may not insult, the other may not repine: Ech must [Page 341] congratulate the truth to other, each must thankfully inioy it selfe.

The noise was not more loud, then confused; here was a dis­cordant mixture of lamentation, and shouting; it was hard to say whether drowned the other.

This assembly of Iewes was a true image of Gods Church on earth; one sings, another cries; neuer doth it all either laugh or mourne at once. It shall bee in our triumph that all teares shall be wipt from our eyes; till then, our passions must bee mixed, accor­ding to the occasions.

The Iewes are busie at worke, not more full of ioy, then hopes; and now that the wals begin to ouerlook the earth; their thoughts [Page 342] seeme to ouerlooke the walls. But what great enterprise was euer set on foot for God, which found not some crosses?

There was a mungrell brood of Samarit-Assyrians, which euer since the daies of Senacherib dwelt in the land of Israel; whose reli­gion was a patched coate of se­uerall shreds; some little part Ie­wish, the rest Pagan, not with­out much variety of idolatry. These hollow neighbours profer their assistance to the children of the captiuity; Let vs build with you, for we seeke your God, as ye doe: and doe sacrifice to him. Might men be their owne iudges, there would bee no heresie in the world, no mis-worship. It is true; these men did sacrifice to the true God; [Page 343] The Lyons taught them to seeke, and the Israelitish Priest taught them to find the fashions of the God of the land: Some of these Iewes knew their deuotion of old; They serued Israels God; but with their owne: As good no God, as too many. In a iust indignation therefore do these Iewish gouer­nours repell the partnership of such helpers: You haue nothing to doe with vs, to build an house to our God; but we our selues together will build vnto the Lord God of Israel. The hand of an idolater is contagious. Yet, had it beene to the building of some fortresse, or common­hall, perhaps their ayd had not beene refused, but when the wals of Gods house are to be raised, this society had beene piacular.

[Page 344] Those that may not be allow­ed to helpe the worke, will aske no leaue to hinder it: their mali­cious suggestions weaken the hands of the people of Iudah, and stirre vp authoritie to suppresse them.

Cyrus was farre off; neither liued he long after that gracious commission; and besides was so taken vp the while with his wars, that he could not haue leasure to sift those querulous accusations. Now therefore, during the last yeares of Cyrus, and the raigne of his sonne Cambyses, and the long gouernment of Darius Hystaspi­des, and of his sonne Xerxes, or Ahasuerus, and lastly of his sonne Artaxerxes, vntill the daies of Da­rius Nothus, (which was no lesse [Page 345] then fiue successions of Kings, (besides Cyrus) doe the wals of the Temple stand still, yea lye waste; subiect to the wrongs of time, and wether: the fit matter of sorrow to the Iewes, insulta­tion to the enemies, derision to passengers.

What a wide gap of time was here betwixt the foundation of Gods house, and the battlements? How large a triall doth God now secondly take of the faith, of the patience of his people? How large a proofe doth he giue of his own long-suffering? Oh God, when thou hadst but one house vpon earth, thou wert content to put vp delayes, yea affronts in the building of it; now thou hast many, it is no maruell if thy lon­ganimity [Page 346] and iustice, abide some of them to lie desolate: They are not stones, or mettals, or men that can make thee more glorious; thou best knowest when to serue thy selfe of all these; when to ho­nour these with thy seruice.

A small matter hinders the wor­thiest action; as a little fish (they say) stayes the greatest ship: Be­fore, the Iewes were discouraged with words, but now they are stopped by commands.

These enuious Samaritans haue corrupted the gouernours which the Persian Kings set ouer those parts; and from their hands haue obtained letters of deepe calum­niation, to Ahasuerus the King; and after him, to his sonne Ar­taxerxes; wherein Ierusalem is [Page 347] charged with old rebellion to Kings; and for proofe, appellation is made to the records; frō which euidence, is spightfully inferred, that if these wals bee once built, the King shall receiue no tribute on this side the riuer. Neuer was Gods Church but subiect to re­proaches.

Princes haue reason to bee iea­lous of their rights. The records are searcht; It soone appeares that within one Century of yeares, Ie­rusalem had rebelled against Ne­buchadnezzar, and held out two yeares siege of that great Babylo­nian. The scandall of disloyaltie is perpetuall: although indeed they held him rather a preuailing enemie, then a lawfull Soueraine; One act disparages either place, or [Page 348] person, to all posterities. There­fore shall the wals of Ierusalem lie waste, because it had once beene trecherous; After an hundred yeares doth that Citie rue one per­fidious act of Zedekiah. Fidelitie to our gouernours is euer both safe, and honourable.

Command is now sent out from Surna­med Long­hand. Artaxerxes, (euen the son of Queene Esther) to restrain the worke: All respects must cease with carnall minds, when their honors, or profits are in question. Rehum the Chancellor, and Shim­shai the Scribe, come now armed with authoritie: The sword hath easily preuailed against the tro­well. Still do the Iewes find them­selues as it were, captiues at home, and in silence, and sorrow, cease [Page 349] from their labors, vntill the dayes of the next successour, Darius No­thus.

As those that had learn'd to sow after a bad crop, these Iewes, vpon the change of the Prince, by the incouragement of the Pro­phets of God, Haggai, and Ze­chariah, take new heart to build againe: If others power hinder vs in the worke of God, our will may not be guilty.

Their new gouernors come, as before; to expostulate; Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make vp this wall? and what are your names? They wisely and modestly plead the seruice of the God of heauen, the decree of Cy­rus; still persisting to build, as if the prohibition of Artaxerxes had [Page 350] dyed with the author. The vn­partiall Gouernours doe neither claw, nor exasperate; but relating the humble and iust answer of the Iewes, moue the King that search may be made in the rolles of Babylon, whether such an E­dict were made by Cyrus; and require his royall pleasure, con­cerning the validity of such pre­tended decree. Darius searches, findes, ratifies, inlargeth it, not onely charging his officers not to hinder the worke, but comman­ding to leuie summes of his own Tribute, beyond the riuer, for the expences of the building, for the furnishing of sacrifices; threat­ning vtter ruine to the house of that man, and death to his per­son, who shold offer to impeach [Page 351] this bounty: and shutting vp with a zealous imprecation; The God of heauen that hath caused his name to dwell there, destroy all Kings and people that shall put to their hand to alter, and to destroy this house of God which is at Ierusalem: I Darius haue made a decree, let it be done with speed.

Who would haue lookt for such an edict from a Persian? No Salomon, no Dauid could haue said more.

The ruler of all hearts makes choyce of his owne instruments, and when hee pleaseth, can glori­fie himselfe by those meanes, which are least expected: That sacred work which the husband, and son of an Esther crossed, shall bee happily accomplished by a [Page 352] Darius: In the sixt yeare of his raigne, is the Temple of God ful­ly finished; and now the Dedi­cation of it, is celebrated, by a ioy­full feast: An hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, foure hun­dred lambes, in a meet proporti­on, smoke vpon their altars: And now the children of the captiui­tie thinke this day a sufficient pay­ment for all their sorrowes: We haue reason to thinke it the fairest day that euer shone forth to vs, wherein the spirituall building of Gods house is raised vp in our soules. How should wee shout at the laying of this foundation, and feast at the laying on of the roofe? What other, what better sacrifice can wee offer vp to God in the sense of our ioy, then our [Page 353] selues? Let our hearts be at once, the Temple, the Altar, the sacri­fice; Oh God, bee thou glorified in all these, who hast graciously honoured all these with thy selfe.

Euery holy feast is now duely kept, the Priests know their di­uisions, the Leuites their courses; and the whole seruice of God is put into a setled order; But, as there can be no new beginnings without imperfection, nor long continuance, without corruption; reformation is no lesse necessary then good institutions; Ataxerxes The windfull. Mnemon hath learn'd of his father Darius to befriend Gods people; and striues to inherit his benefi­cence: vnder his gouernment, is Ezra the Priest, & learned scribe, sent with a large commission frō [Page 354] Babylon, to Ierusalem, to inquire in­to the wants, and redresse the disorders of the Iewes; with full power not onely to cary with him all the voluntaries of his na­tion; and the treasures contribu­ted in all the prouince of Babylon; but to raise such summes, out of the Kings reuenues, as should be found requisite; and withall to ordaine Magistrates and Iudges, and to crowne the Lawes with due execution, whether to death, or banishment, or confiscation; and lastly, with a large exemption of the Priests and Leuites, and all the inferiour officers of the Tem­ple, from all toles, tributes, cu­stomes. Nothing wanted here, whether for direction, or incou­ragement. It is a signe of Gods [Page 355] great fauour to any nation, when the hearts of Soueraigne gouer­nours are raised vp, both to the choice of worthy agents, and to the commanding of pious, and restauratiue actions.

Holy and carefull Ezra gathers a new colony of Iewes, takes view of them, at the riuer of Ahaua; and finding a misse of the sonnes of Leui (without whom no compa­ny, no plantation can bee com­pleat) sends for their supply; And now, fully furnished, hee pro­claimes a fast in the way.

I doe not heare him say, The iourney is long and dangerous; the people haue need of all their strength. I could well wish vs al afflicted with a religious fast, were it not that the abatement of [Page 356] the courage, and vigour of the multitude may indanger our suc­cesse; But without all these car­nall consultations, he begins with this solemne act of humiliation; It is better to haue God strong in our weaknesse, then to haue flesh and blood strong in his neglect.

Artaxerxes was a Patron of the Iewes, yet a Pagan by profession; wise Ezra was afraid of quench­ing those sparkes of piety which he descryed in this semi-proselite. Rather therefore then hee will seeme to imply a distrust in the prouidēce of that God, in whose seruice he went by seeking a con­uoy of souldiers from the King; Ezra chooses to put himselfe vp­on the hazard of the way, and the [Page 357] immediate protection of the Al­mighty. Any death were better then to heare Artaxerxes say, Is this the man that so confidently told me, The hand of our God is vpon all them for good that seeke him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him? Doth he be­leeue himselfe that he thus doubts ere he begin? Dare he not trust his God with his owne busi­nesses?

The resolutions of faithfull hearts are heroicall: No heathen man shall stumble at Ezraes feare: Hee can finde more assu­rance in his fast, then in a Persian band: with a couragious rely­ance vpon the hand of his God he puts himselfe into the iour­ney; and finds nothing but safety [Page 358] and successe: The fidelity of the Almighty neuer disappointed the confidence of his seruants. All the army of Artaxerxes could not haue been so strong a gard to the Iewes, as their inuisible pro­tection.

In the space of foure moneths is Ezra, and his company happily ariued at Ierusalem: where hee ioyes to see the new Temple, and his old Colleagues: and now hauing deliuered vp the charge of his treasure, by waight, in the chambers of the house of the Lord, hee applies himselfe to his worke, and deliuers the Kings Commissions to the Lieu-tenants and Gouernors, for their vtmost assistance.

The Princes of Iudah doe not [Page 359] (for ought I heare) repine at the large Patent granted to this Priest, nor say, What doth a man of this robe meddle with placing, or dis­placing Magistrates? with execu­tion of iudgements to death, bonds, banishment? but rather as congratulating this power to sacred hands, gladly present vnto him all their grieuances. Truly religious hearts cannot grudge any honour to their spirituall guides.

This holy Commissioner is soone welcomed with a sad Bill of complaint, from some good Peeres of Israel; wherein they charge diuers of the Priests, Le­uites, people, not to haue separa­ted themselues from the idola­trous inhabitants of the lands, nor [Page 360] (therefore) from their abomina­tions, euen from Canaanites, Hit­tites, Perizzites, and the rest of those branded nations; That they haue taken of their daugh­ters for themselues, and for their sonnes: So that the holy seed haue mingled themselues with those forbidden people; and, (which made the matter so much more hainous, lesse remediable) that the hand of the Princes, and Ru­lers, hath beene chiefe in this trespasse.

Oh hypocriticall Iewes, did ye refuse to suffer your Samaritan neighbours to ioyne with you in building a liuelesse house vnto God, and doe ye now ioyne af­finitie with a more accursed ge­neratiō for the building of liuing houses vnto posteritie? for the [Page 361] pulling down of the liuely house of God?

How could Ezra heare this with his cloathes, his haire, his beard vntorne? What griefe, what astonishment must this newes needs bring to a zealous heart? And, were it not that the consci­ence of his sincere respect to Gods glory relieued him, how could Ezra choose but repent him of his iourney; and say; Am I comne from Babylon to find Paganisme in Iudah? Did I leaue Persians, to meet with Canaanites? what doe I here, if Ierusalem bee remoued? How much better were a cleare captiutie, then an idolatrous free­dome? Wo is me, that hauing left many Iewish harts in Babylon, I now am forced to find heathen [Page 362] blood in Ierusalem.

As a man distracted with sor­row, Ezra sits downe vpon the earth with his garmēts rent, with the haire of his head, and beard pluckt off, wringing his hands, knocking his brest, not mouing from his place vntill the euening sacrifice. It is hard to be too much affected with the publike sinnes of Gods people. Those who find themselues in the ship of Gods Church, cannot but bee much troubled with euery dangerous leake that it takes: Common ca­ses are not more neglected by the carelesse, then taken to heart by the wise, and godly.

There, and thus, Ezra sits asto­nied vntill the euening sacrifice: others resorted to him the while; [Page 363] euen all that trēbled at the words of the God of Israel; but to help on his sorrow, not to relieue it; neither doth any man with a mi­tigation of his owne, or others griefe. At last, hee rises vp from his heauinesse, and casts himselfe vpon his knees, and spreads out his hands vnto the Lord his God: Wherefore was all that pensiue­nesse, fasting, silence, tearing of haire and clothes, but to serue as a meete preface to his prayers? wherein he so freely powres out his hart, as if it had beene all dis­solued into deuotion; professing his shame to lift vp his face to­wards the throne of God; con­fessing the iniquities of his peo­ple, which were increased ouer their heads, and growne vp vn­to [Page 364] heauen; fetching their trespasse farre, and charging them deepe; feelingly acknowledging the iust hand that had followed them, in all their iudgements, and the iust confusion wherein they now stand before the face of their God.

Teares, and sighes, and groue­lings accompanied his prayers; the example and noise whereof drew Israel into a participation of this publike mourning, For the people wept very sore: How can they choose but thinke, If he thus lament for vs, how should wee grieue for our selues?

All Iudah went away merrily with their sinne, till this checke of Ezra, now they are afflicted: Had not the hands of the Peeres [Page 365] beene in this trespasse, the people had not beene guilty; had not the cheekes of Ezra beene first drenched with teares, the people had not beene penitent. It cannot be spoken, what power there is in a great example, whether to euill, or good.

Prayers and teares are nothing without indeauors. Shechaniah, the sonne of Iehiel puts the first life into this businesse. Hauing seconded the complaint of Ezra, he now addes, Yet there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let vs make a couenant with our God to put away all the wiues, and such as are borne of them. Arise, for this matter belongeth to thee, wee also will be with thee; Be of good cou­rage, and doe it.

[Page 366] When mischiefe is once done, the chiefe care is how to redresse it. The best way of redresse is the deliberate vndoing of that which wee haue rashly commit­ted; The surest obligation to the vndoing of an euill act, is an oath or couenant made with God for the performance.

There is no man so wise, but hee may make vse of good coun­sell; there is no man so forward, but he may abide incitation. It is no small incouragement to see an harty assistance in an enuious and difficult seruice. Then arose Ezra, and made the chiefe Priests, the Le­uites and all Israel to sweare that they should doe according to this word.

It is halfe done that is thus as­sured. There was need of a strōg [Page 367] power to dissolue a matrimoni­all, though inordinate loue: Doubtlesse, these men had mari­ed out of affection; their hearts were no lesse set vpon these wiues (though heathenish) then if they had beene of their owne Tribes; neither were their chil­dren, thus begotten lesse deare vn­to them, then if they had laine in Iewish wombes: Nothing lesse then an oath of God, therefore could quit these passions; That is both required and taken

Now begins Ezra to conceiue some hope of present redresse; the comfort whereof, yet, cannot turne off his sorrow for the of­fence passed; Hee neither eates bread, nor drinkes water; wil­lingly punishing himself, because [Page 368] Israel had sinned: Now shall his Countreymen easily reade in his face their owne penance, and iust humiliation; and say; This man takes no ioy in our sufferings; hee would not smart thus for vs, if he did not descry more danger to­wards vs then we can apprehēd.

Proclamation is made through Iudah and Ierursalem, vnder paine of forfaiture of substance, and ex­communication from Gods peo­ple; that all the children of the captiuity should gather them­selues together vnto Ierusalem. They are met accordingly; The Courts of Gods house are thron­ged with penitents; and now, as if the heauen would teach them what to doe, the cloudes raine downe aboundance of teares. [Page 369] What with those sad showres, what with their inward remorse, the people sit trembling in the open Courts; and humbly wait for the reproofe, for the sentence of Ezra. He rises vp; and with a seuere countenance, layes before them their sinne, their amends: The sinne of their strange wiues; the amends of their confession, of their separation: not sparing to search their wound; not neg­lecting the meet plaister for their cure.

The people, as willing to bee healed, yeeld themselues patiently to that rough hand; not shrink­ing at the paine, not fauouring the sore; As thou hast said, so must wee doe; Onely crauing a fit propor­tion of time, and a due assistance [Page 370] for the dispatch of so long and important a worke. Ezra gladly harkens to this, not so much re­quest, as counsell of Israel; The charge is diuided to men, and dayes; For two moneths space the commissioners sit close; and within that compasse, finish this businesse, not more thanklesse then necessary: Doubtlesse much varietie of passion met with thē in this busie seruice; Here you should haue seene an affectionate husband bitterly weeping at the dismission of a louing wife, and drowning his last farewell in sobs: there you might haue seen a passionate wife, hanging vpon the armes of her beloued husbād, and on her knees, coniuring him by his former vowes, and [Page 371] the deare pledges of their loues; and profering with many teares, to redeeme the losse of her hus­band with the change of her re­ligion: Here, you might haue seene, the kindred and parents of the dismissed, shutting vp their denyed suites with rage and threats. There, the abandoned children kneeling to their seem­ingly-cruell father, beseeching him not to cast off the fruit of his owne loynes; and expostulating, what they haue offended in be­ing his: The resolued Israelites must be deafe, and blind to these mouing obiects; and so farre for­get nature, as to put off part of themselues. Personall inconue­niences haue reason to yeeld to publike mischiefes Long inter­tainment [Page 372] makes that sinne hard to be eiected; whose first moti­ons might haue beene repelled with ease.

Had not the prohibition of these mariages been expresse, and their danger and mischiefe palpa­ble, the care of their separation had not bred so much tumult in Israel. Hee that ordained matri­mony, had vpon fearefull curses forbidden an vnequall yoke with Infidels. Besides the marring of the Church by the mixture of an vnholy seed, religion suffered for the present, and all good hearts with it. Many teares, many sacri­fices needed to expiate so foule an offence, and to set Israel straight againe.

All this while euen these mes­line [Page 373] Iewes were yet forward to build the Temple; The worst sinners may yeeld an outward conformity to actions of pie­ty: Ezra hath done more ser­uice in pulling downe, then the Iewes in building; without this act, the temple might haue stood, religion must needes haue falne. Bebel had beene translated to Ie­rusalem; Iewes had turned Gentiles. Oh happy indeauors of deuout and holy Ezra that hath at once restored Iudah to God, and to it selfe.

NEHEMIAH building the walls of Ierusalem.

THirteen years were Nehemiah 1, 2, 3, 4, Chapt. now passed since Ezraes going vp to Ierusalem, whē Nehemiah the reli­gious Courtier of Artaxerxes, in­quires of the estate of his Coun­try, and brethren of Iudaea: Hee might well finde that holy scribe had not beene idle: The com­mission of Artaxerxes had beene improued by him to the vtmost; Disorders were reformed, but the walls lay wast; The Temple [Page 375] was built, but the Citie was rui­nous; and if some streets were repaired, yet they stood vngar­ded; open to the mercy of an ene­mie, to the infestation of ill neigh­bourhood: Great bodies must haue slow motions; As Ierusalem, so the Church of God, whose type it was, must bee finisht by leasure.

Nehemiah sate warme in the Court at Shushan, fauored by the great King Artaxerxes; nothing could be wanting to him, whe­ther for pleasure, or state; what needed hee to trouble his head with thoughts for Ierusalem? what if those remote wals lay on heaps whiles himselfe dwelt faire? what if his far-distant countrymen be despised, whiles himselfe is ho­noured, [Page 376] by the great Monarch of the world?

It is not so easie for gracious dispositions to turne off the pub­like calamities of Gods Church; neither can they doe other then leese their priuate felicities in the common distresses of the vniuer­sall body. If I forget thee, O Ierusa­lem, let my right hand forget her cun­ning; If I doe not remember thee, let my tongue cleaue to the roofe of my mouth.

Many Iewes went vp from Ba­bylon, and Shushan, to Ierusalem, few euer returned voluntarily from their natiue home to the re­gion of their captiuity: Some occasion drew Hanani with cer­taine others of Iudah, to this voy­age. Of them doth Nehemiah [Page 377] carefully inquire the present con­dition of Ierusalem: It was no newes that the people were af­flicted, and reproached, the walls broken downe, the gates burnt with fire. Euer since the furious vastation of Nebuzaradan, that City knew no better termes: sel­dome when doth the spirituall Ierusalem fare otherwise in respect of outward estate: Externall glo­ry and magnificence is an vnsure note of the Church.

Well had Nehemiah hoped that the gracious edict, and beneficēce of Darius, and the successiue pa­tronage of his Lord Artaxerxes had by the continuance of twen­ty yeares fauour aduanced the strength and glory of Ierusalem, but now, finding the holy City [Page 378] to lie still in the dust of her con­fusion, neglected of God, despi­sed of men, hee sits downe and weepes, and mournes, and fasts, and prayes to the God of heauen. How many saw those ruines, and were little affected? he heares of them a far off, and is thus pas­sionate? How many were vpon this sight affected with a fruitlesse sorrow, his mourning is ioyned with the indeuors of redresse. In vaine is that griefe which hath no other end then it selfe.

Nehemiah is resolued to kneele to the King, his master, for the re­paire of his Ierusalem; he dares not attempt the suit till hee haue be­gun with God; This good Cour­tier knew well that the hearts of these earthly Kings are in the o­uer-ruling [Page 379] hand of the King of heauen to incline whither hee pleaseth: Our prayers are the only true meanes to make way for our successe; If in all our occasions we doe not begin with the first mouer, the course is preposterous and commonly speeds thereafter.

Who dares censure the piety of Courtiers, when he finds Nehe­miah standing before Artaxerxes? Euen the Persian Pallace is not vncapable of a Saint: No man that waits on the Altar at Ierusa­lem can compare for zeale, with him, that waits on the cup of a Pagan Monarch: The mercies of God are vnlimited to places, to callings.

Thus armed with deuotions, doth Nehemiah put himselfe in­to [Page 380] the presence of his master Ar­taxerxes. His face was ouerclou­ded with a deepe sadnesse, nei­ther was hee willing to cleare it. The King easily notes the dispa­rity of the countenance of the bearer, & the wine that he beares: and in a gracious familiarity askes the reason of such vnwonted change; How well it becomes the great to stoope vnto a curte­ous affability, and to exchange words of respect, euen with their humble vassalls.

Nehemiah had not been so long in the Court but hee knew that Princes like no other then cheere­full attendants; neither was hee wont to bring any other face in­to that presence, then smooth, and smiling.

[Page 381] Greatnesse vses to bee full of suspition, and where it sees a de­iection, and sowernesse of the browes, is ready to apprehend some sullē thoughts of discontēt­ment, or, at the least, construes it for a disrespect to that soueraign­ty, whose beames should bee of power to disperse all our inward mists: Euen good manners for­bid a man to presse into the pre­sence of a Prince, except hee can either lay by these vnpleasing pas­sions, or hide them: So had Ne­hemiah hitherto done: Now, he purposely suffers his sorrow to looke through his eies, that it may worke both inquiry, and com­passion from his master; neither doth hee faile of his hopes in ei­ther; Why is thy countenance sad, [Page 382] seeing thou art not sicke. How sen­sible doe we thinke the father of mercies is of all our pensiue thoughts, when an heathen ma­ster is so tender of a seruāts griefe? How ready should our tongues bee to lay open our cares to the God of all comfort, when we see Nehemiah so quicke in the expres­sions of his sorrow to an vncer­taine eare?

Let the King liue for euer: Why should not my countenance, bee sad when the City the place of my father sepulphres lyeth wast, and the gates thereof are burnt with fire. Not without an humble preface doth Nehemiah lay forth his grieuance; Complaints haue euer an vnplea­sing harshnesse in them which must bee taken off by some dis­screet [Page 383] insinuation: Although it could not but sound well in the generous eare of Artaxerxes, that his seruant was so carefull for the honour of his Countrey; As na­ture hath made vs all members of a community and hath giuen vs common interests, so, it is most pleasing to vs, to see these publike cares diuide vs from our owne.

The King easily decryes a se­cret supplication wrapt vp in this moanefull answer, which the modest suiter was afraid to dis­close, and therefore he helps that bashfull motion into the light; For what dost thou make request? It is the praise of bounty to draw on the iust petitions of fearefull sup­pliants.

Nehemiah dares not open his [Page 384] mouth of the King, till his heart hath opened it selfe by a sudden eiaculation to his God; No busi­nesse can bee so hasty, but our prayer may preuent it; the wings whereof are so nimble, that it can fly vp to heauen, and solicit God, and bring downe an answer, be­fore euer our words need to come forth of our lips. In vaine shall we hope that any designe of ours can prosper, if wee haue not first sent this messenger on our errād.

After this silent, and insensible preparation; Nehemiah moues his suit to the King; not yet at once; but by meet degrees; first hee craues leaue for his iourney, and for the building: then he craues ayd for both; Both are granted; Nehemiah departs furnished [Page 385] with letters to the gouernours, for a conuoy; with letters to the keeper of the Kings forrest for timber. Not more full of desire, then hope.

Who euer put his hand to any great worke for the behoofe of Gods Church, without opposi­tion? As the wals of the Temple found busie enemies, so shall the walls of the City; and these so much more; as they promise more security and strength to Ie­rusalem: Sanballat the Deputie-Lieutenant of the Moabites, and Tobiab, the like officer to the Am­monites, and Geshem, to the Arabi­ans, are galled with enuy at the a­riuall of a man authorized to seek the welfare of the children of Is­rael: There cannot bee a greater [Page 386] vexation to wicked hearts, then to see the spiritual Ierusalem in any likelihood of prosperity. Euill spirits and men need no other torment, then their owne de­spight.

This wise Courtier hath learnt that secrecy is the surest way of any important dispatch. His er­rand could not but be known to the gouernors; their furtherance was inioyned for the prouision of materialls; else the walls of Ierusalem had ouer-lookt the first notice of their heathē-neighbors. Without any noise doth Nehemiah arise in the dead of night, and ta­king some few into his compa­nie, none into his counsaile, hee secretly rounds the decayed wals of Ierusalem, and viewes the brea­ches, [Page 387] and obserues the gates; and returnes home in silence, ioying in himselfe to fore-see those repa­rations, which none of the inha­bitants did once dreame of: At last, when hee had fully digested this great worke in his owne brest, hee cals the rulers and Citi­zens together, and hauing con­doled with them, the common distresse, and reproach, hee tells them of the hand of his God, which was good vpon him; hee shewes them the gracious commission of the King, his ma­ster, for that good worke. They answer him with a zealous in­couragement of each other, Let vs rise vp and build▪ Such an hear­ty inuitation countenanced by authority hath easily strengthe­ned [Page 388] the hands of the multitude; with what obseruance and dear­nesse doe they now looke vpon their vnexpected patron? how do they honour him as a man fent from heauen, for the welfare of Ierusalem? Euery man flyes to his hodde, and trowell, and re­ioyces to second so noble a leader, in laying a stone in that wall of their common defence.

Those emulous neighbours of theirs, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, the cheife commanders of Moab, Am­mon, Arabia, haue soone espyed the first morter, that is laid vpon that old foundation. Enuy is vsu­ally more quicke-sighted then loue: And now they scornfully apply themselues to these despi­sed Iewes, and thinke to scoffe [Page 389] them out of their worke: The fauourablest persecution of any good cause is the lash of lewd tongues; whether by bitter taunts or by scurrilous inuectiues: which it is as impossible to auoyd, as ne­cessary to contemne. The bar­king of these dogs doth not hin­der Nehemiah from walking on his way; professing his confi­dence in the God of heauen, whose work that was; he shakes off their impotent malice, and goes on cheerfully to build: Eue­ry Israelite knowes his station. E­liashib the high Priest, and the rest of that sacred tribe put the first hand to this worke; they build the sheep-gate, and sanctifie it; and in it, all the rest. As the first fruits of the field, so the first stones [Page 390] of the wall, are hallowed to God, by the consecration of those de­uout agents: That businesse is like to prosper which beginnes with God.

No man was idle, no part was intermitted; All Ierusalem was at once encompassed with busie la­bourers. It cannot bee, but the ioynt-indeauors of faithfull harts must raise the walles of the Church.

Now Sanballat, and his bre­thren, find some matter to spend their scoffes vpon; What doe these feeble Iewes? will they fortifie them­selues? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they reuiue the stones out of the heapes of rubbish which are burnt?

How basely do carnall minds [Page 391] thinke of the proiects, and actions of Gods children; therefore vilify­ing them, because they measure them by no other line, then out­ward probability. Oh foolish Moabites, this worke is Gods, and therefore in despight of all your tonges and hands, it shall prosper: He heares you whom yee haue blasphemed, and shall turne your reproach vpon your own heads.

And, thou proud Ammonite, that couldst say, If a Foxe goe vpon their stone-wall, hee shall breake it downe; shalt well find, that all the wol­uish troopes of your confederats shall not bee able to remoue one stone of this sure fortification; Whiles Moab and Ammon repine and bluster in vaine this wal shal rise, & when Moab & Ammon shal [Page 392] lye in the dust, this wall shall stand. The morter that hath beene tempered with so many teares, and layed with so many prayers, cannot but out-last all the flints, and marbles of humane confidence.

Now the growth of this wall hath turned the mirth of the aduersaries into rage: These Moa­bites, Ammonites, Arabians, Ashdo­dites conspire all together, to fight against Ierusalem; and whiles the morter is yet greene, to demolish those enuied heapes.

What hath this City offended in desiring to be defenced? what wrong could it be to wish a free­dome from wrongs? Were this people so mighty, that there could be danger in ouer-powring their [Page 393] neighbours, or in resisting a com­mon soueraign, there might haue appeared some colour for this hostile opposition; but, alas; what could a despised handfull doe to the preiudice of either? It is quar­rell enough to Ierusalem that it would not be miserable.

Neither is it otherwise with the head of these hellish compli­ces; there needs no other cause of his vtmost fury, then to see a poor soule strugling to get out of the reach of his tyrannie. So doe sa­uage beasts bristle vp themselues, and make the most fierce assaults when they are in danger of loo­sing the prey, which they had once seized on.

In the meane while, what doth Nehemiah with his Iewes for their [Page 394] common safety? They pray, and watch; they pray vnto God, they watch against the enemy.

Thus, thus shall wee happily preuaile against those spirituall wickednesses, which war against our soules: No euill can surprize vs if we watch; no euill can hurt vs, if we pray; This is the victory that ouercomes the world, euen our faith.

There was need of a continu­ed vigilancy; the enemy was not more malicious, then subtle, and had said; They shall not know, nei­ther see, till wee come in the midst a­mong them, and slay them. Open force is not so dangerous, as close dissimulation; They meant to seeme Iewes, whiles they were Moabites and Ammonites; and in the [Page 395] clothes of brethren purposed to hide murderers. Neuer is Satan so preuailent, as when hee comes transformed into an Angell of light.

It was a mercifull prouidence of God, that made these mens tongues the blabs of their owne counsell. Many a fearfull designe had prospered, if wickednesse could haue beene silent. Warning is a lawfull gard to a wise aduer­sary: Now doth Nehemiah arme his people; and for the time, chan­ges their trowels into swords, & speares, and bowes; raising vp their courage with a vehement exhortation, to remember the Lord, which is great, and terrible, and to fight for their brethren, their sonnes, their daughters, their wiues, [Page 396] and their houses. Nothing can so harten vs to the encountring of any euill, as the remembrance of that infinite power and wisdome which can either auert, or mitti­gate, or sanctifie it: wee could not faint if wee did not forget God.

Necessity vrges a man to fight for himself, loue inables his hand to fight for those which challēge a part in him; where loue meets with necessity, there can want no indeuor of victory; Necessity can make euen cowards, valiant; loue makes the valiant, vnresista­ble: Nehemiah doth not there­fore perswade these Iewes to fight for themselues, but for theirs: The inlargement of the interest, and danger, cannot but quicken the dullest spirits.

[Page 397] Discouered counsels are alrea­die preuented; These serpents dye by being first seene; When the ene­mies heard that it was knowne vnto vs, they let fall their plot. Could wee descry the enterprises of Sa­tan, that tempter would returne ashamed.

It is a safe point of wisedome to carrie a iealous eye ouer those, whom we haue once found hol­low, and hostile: From that time forth Nehemiah diuided the taske, betwixt the trowell, and the sword; so disposing of euery Is­raelite, that whiles one hand was a Mason, the other was a souldi­er: one is for worke, the other for defence. Oh liuely image of the Church militant, wherein e­uery one labours, weaponed; [Page 398] wherein there is neither an idle souldier, nor a secure workman: euery one so builds, as that he is ready to ward temptations; eue­rie one so wields the sword of the spirit, for defence, that, with­all, hee builds vp himselfe in his most holy faith; here is neither a fruitlesse valour, nor an vnsafe di­ligence.

But what can our weapons a­uaile vs, if there be not meanes to warne vs of an enemie? Without a Trumpet we are armed in vain. The worke is great and large, and we are separated vpon the wall, one farre from another: Yea, so farre as the vtmost bounds of the earth, are wee separated one from another, vpon the wals of the spirituall Ie­rusalem; onely the sacred Trum­pets [Page 399] of God, call vs, who are di­stant in place, to a combination in profession. And who are those Trumpets, but the publike mes­sengers of God, of whom God hath said; If the Watchmen see the Ezee. 33. 6. sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned, if the sword come, and take any person from among them, hee is taken away in his iniquitie, but his blood will I require at the watchmans hand. Wo bee to vs if we sound not; if the sound we giue be vncertaine: wo be to our people, if when we premo­nish them of enemies, of iudge­ments, they sit still vnmoued, not buckling themselues to a resi­stance, to a preuention.

It is a mutuall ayd, to which these Trumpets inuite vs; wee [Page 400] might fight apart, without the signals of warre; In what place yee heare the sound of the Trumpet, resort ye thither vnto vs. There can bee no safety to the Church, but wher euery man thinkes his life, and welfare consists in his fellowes; Conioyned forces may prosper, single oppositions are desperare: All hearts and hands must meet in the common quarrell.

NEHEMIAH redressing the extortion of the Iewes.

WIth what difficul­tie doe these mi­serable Iewes settle in their Ierusalem? The feare of fo­raine enemies doth not more af­flict them, then the extortion of their owne: Dearth is added vn­to warre: Miseries doe not stay for a mannerly succession to each other, but in a rude importunity throng in, at once. Babel may be [Page 402] built with ease, but whosoeuer goes about to raise the walls of Gods Citie, shall haue his hands full: The incursion of publike enemies may be preuented with vigilancy and power; but there is no defence against the secret gripes of oppression.

There is no remedy, the Iewes are so taken vp with their trowel, and sword, for the time, that they cannot attend their trades; so as, whiles the wall did rise, their estates must needs impayre: Euen in the cheapest season they must needs be poore, that earned nothing but the publike safetie, how much more in a common scarcity? their houses, lands, vine­yards are therefore morgaged, yea their very skins are sold, for corn, [Page 403] to their brethren: Necessity forces them to sell that, which it was cruelty to buy; What will we not, what must we not part with, for life? The couetous rulers did not consider the occasions of this want, but the aduantage. Some­times, a bargaine may bee as vn­mercifull as a robbery: Charity must be the rule in all contracts; the violation whereof, whether in the matter, or the price, cannot but be sinfull.

There could not bee a iuster ground of expostulation then this of the oppressed Iewes: Our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our chil­dren as their children; and loe, we bring into bondage our sonnes and our daugh­ters: whiles there is no difference in nature, why should there bee [Page 404] such an iniurious disproportion in condition. Euen the same flesh may beare a iust inequality; Some may be rulers, whiles others are subiect; Some wealthy, others poore; but why those wealthy rulers should tyrannize ouer those poore inferiours, and turne brotherhood into bondage no reason can be giuen but lawlesse ambition; If there were one flesh of Peeres, another of Peasants, there should be some colour for the proud impositions of the great, as because the flesh of beasts is in a lower ranke then ours, we kill, we deuoure it at pleasure; but now, since the large body of mankinde consists of the same flesh, why should the hand strike the foot? And if one flesh may [Page 405] challenge meet respects from vs, how much more one spirit; The spirit is more noble, then the flesh is base; the flesh is dead without the spirit; the spirit with­out the flesh, actiue and immor­tall; Our soule, though shapelesse, and immateriall, is more appa­rently one, then the flesh; And if the vnity of our humane spirit call vs to a mutuall care, and ten­dernesse in our cariage, each to o­ther, how much more of the di­uine? by that we are men, by this we are Christians: As the soule animates vs to a naturall life, so doth Gods Spirit animate the soule to an heauenly; which is so one; that it cannot bee deuided. How should that one spirit cause vs so farre to forget all naturall, [Page 406] and ciuill differences, as not to contemne, not to oppresse any whom it informeth?

They are not Christians, not men, that can inioy the miseries of their brethren, whether in the flesh or spirit.

Good Nehemiah cannot choose but bee much moued at the bar­barous extortion of the people; and now, like an vnpartiall go­uernour, hee rebukes the Rulers and Nobles, whose hand was thus bloody with oppression. As of fishes, so of men, the lesser are a prey to the great: It is an ill vse made of power, whē the weight of it serues onely to crush the weake. There were no liuing amongst men had not God ordained higher then the highest; [Page 407] and yet higher then they. Emi­nency of place cannot bee better improued, then by taking down mighty offenders.

If nobility doe embase it selfe to any foule sinne, it is so much more worthy of coertion, by how much the person is of grea­ter marke.

The iustice of this reproofe could not but shame impudence it selfe; Wee after our abilitie haue redeemed our brethren the Iewes which were sold to the heathen, and will you sell your brethren, or shall they be sold to vs? Shall they finde at home that yoke of bondage which they had put off a­broad? whiles they are still Iewes, shall we turne Assyrians? If they must be slaues, why not rather to [Page 408] enemies, then to brethren? How much more tollerable were a fo­rayne seruitude, then a domesti­call: Be ashamed, ô ye Nobles of Israel, to renue Babylon in Ierusa­lem. I maruell not if the offen­ders be stricken dumbe with so vnanswerable an expostulation; Guiltinesse, and confusion haue stopt their mouthes.

Many of those who haue not had grace enough to refraine sin, yet are not so vtterly void of grace as to maintaine sinne; Our after­wits are able to discerne a kinde of vnreasonableness in those wic­ked actions, which the first ap­pearance represents vnto vs plau­sible. Gaine leads in sinne, but shame followes it out. There are those that are bold and witty to [Page 409] beare out commodious, or plea­sant euills; neither could these Iewish enormities, haue wanted some colours of defence; Their stocke was their owne, which might haue beene otherwise im­proued, to no lesse profit; The offer, the suit of these bargaines was from the sellers; These es­cheates fell into their hands, vn­sought; neither did their contract cause the neede of their brethren, but releeue it: But their consci­ence will not beare this plea. I know not whether the mainte­nance of the least euill bee not worse, then the commission of the greatest; This may bee of frailty, that argues obstinacy: There is hope of that man that can blush, and be silent.

[Page 410] After conuiction of the fact, it is seasonable for Nehemiah, to perswade reformation: No ora­tory is so powerfull, as that of mildnesse: especially when we haue to doe with those, who ei­ther through stomach, or great­nesse, may not indure a rough re­proofe: The drops that fall ea­sily vpon the corne, ripen, and fill the eare, but the stormy showers that fal with violence, beat down the stalkes flat to the earth, and lay whole fields, without hope of recouery. Who can resist this sweet & soueraign reprehension; Ought yee not to walke in the feare of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen, our enemies? Did we dwell alone in the midst of the earth, yet the feare of our God [Page 411] should ouer-awe our wayes; but now that we dwell in the midst of our enemies, whose eies are bent vpon all our actions, whose tongues are as ready to blaspheme God, as we to offend him, how carefully should we auoid those sins, which may draw shame vpon our profession?

Now, the scandall is worse then the fact; Thus, shall religi­on suffer more from the heathen, then our brethren doe from vs: If iustice, if charity cannot sway with vs, yet, let the scornfull in­sultations of the prophane Gen­tiles, afright vs frō these pressures. No ingenuous disposition can be so tender of his own disgrace, as the true Israelite is of the re­proch of his God: What is it that [Page 412] hee will not rather refraine, doe, suffer, then that glorious name shall hazard a blemish? They cannot want outward retentiues from sin, that liue either among friends, or enemies; if friends, they may not be grieued, if ene­mies, they may not be prouoked: Those that would liue well, must stand in awe of all eyes; Euen those that are without the Church yet may not bee without our re­gard: No person can bee so con­temptible, as that his censure should be contemned.

In dissuading from sinne, rea­son it selfe cannot preuaile more then example. I likewise, and my brethren, and my seruants might ex­act of them money, and corne. But from the time that I was appointed to [Page 413] the charge of Iudah, I, and my brethren haue not eaten the bread of the gouer­nour. Hee shall neuer rule well, that doth all that hee may: It is not safe for either part, that a Prince should liue at the height of his power: And if the grea­test abate of their right, is it for in­feriors to extort? Had Nehemiah aimed at his own greatnesse, no man could haue had fairer pre­tences for his gaine.

The former gouernors that were before him were chargeable vnto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, besides fourty shekels of sil­uer. His foot had not first trod in this commodious path; it was beaten by the steps of his prede­cessors; neither did any of them walke beside it: How euer it [Page 414] might bee enuious to raise new taxations, yet to continue those he found vnrepined at, had been out of the reach of exception: A good Gouernour lookes not so much what hath beene done, as what should bee; Precedents are not the rule, whereby hee rules, but iustice, but piety. So did not I, because of the feare of the Lord: Lawes are not a straiter curbe to subiects, then conscience is to good Princes.

They dare not doe what they cannot doe charitably: what ad­uantage can they thinke it to bee from vnder the controllment of men, when the God of heauen notes, and punishes their offen­ces. Who so walketh by this rule, can neither erre, nor mis-cary; It [Page 415] is not trusting to the externall re­medies of sinne, either they are not alwaies present; or if present, not powerfull enough; but if the feare of God haue once taken vp the heart, it goes euer with vs, and is strong enough to ouer-maister the forceablest temptation.

Therefore must these Iewes fol­low this example of Nehemiah, because he followed not the ex­ample of his predecessors; because he left their euill, they must imi­tate his good. In vaine shall ru­lers aduise against their owne practice; when they lead the way, they may well challenge to bee followed: Seldome hath it been euer seene that great persons haue not beene seconded in euill, why should not their power serue to [Page 416] make patternes of their vertues?

Thus well did it speed with Nehemiah; his mercifull cariage, and zealous suit haue drawne the Rulers to a promise of restitution; We will restore them, and will require nothing of them, so will we doe as thou sayest.

It is no small aduantage that these Nobles must forgoe, in their releases: there cannot be a better signe of a sound amendment, thē that we can be content to be loo­sers by our repentance; Many formall penitents haue yeelded to part with so much of their sinne, as may abate nothing of their pro­fit; as if these Rulers should haue beene willing to restore the per­sons, but withall should haue stood stifly to require their sums: [Page 417] This whining and partiall satis­faction had been thanklesse. True remorse inlargeth the heart, and openeth the hand to a bountifull redemption of our errors.

Good purposes doe too often coole in time, and vanish into a carelesse forgetfulnesse; Nehemiah feared this issue of these holy re­solutions; and therfore he prose­cutes them in their first heat; not leauing these promises, till he had secured them, with an oath; The Priests are called for, that in their mouthes, the adiuration may be more solemne, & sacred; It is the best point of wisedome to take the first opportunity of fixing good motions, which otherwise are of themselues light, & sleigh­tie. To make all yet more sure, [Page 418] their oathes are crosse-barred with his execration. Also I shooke my lap, and said, so God shake out euery man from his house, and from his labour that per­formeth not this promise, euen thus be he shaken out, and emptied, and all the Congregation said, Amen. A promise, an oath, a curse, are passed vpon this act; now, no Israelite dares falter in the execution: When we haue a sin in chace, it is good to follow it home, not slackning our pursuit till we haue fully pre­uailed; and when it is once falne vnder our hands, we cannot kill it too much.

Now Nehemiah hauing thus happily deliuered his people frō a domesticall captiuity, commēds his seruice to the gracious remu­neration [Page 419] of the Almighty; Thinke vpon me my God, for good, according to all that I haue done for this people; Ther­fore doth hee refuse the bread of the Gouernour, that hee may re­ceiue the reward of the Gouer­nour of heauen: Had hee taken a temporary recompence, both he and it had beene forgotten, now he hath made an happy change for eternity. Not that he pleades his merit, but sues for mercy; nei­ther doth he pray to bee remem­bred for his work, but according to his worke.

Our good deedes as they are well accepted of God, so they shall not goe vnrewarded; and what God will giue, why may not wee craue. Doubtlesse, as we may offer vp our honest obe­diences [Page 420] vnto God, so we may ex­pect and beg his promised retri­butions; not out of a proud con­ceit of the worth of our earnings, who at the best are no other then vnprofitable seruants; but out of a faithfull dependance vpon his pact of bounty, who cannot bee lesse then his word: O God, if we doe ought that is good, it is thine act, and not ours; crowne thine owne worke in vs, and take thou the glory of thine own mercies.

Whiles Nehemiah is busie in re­forming abuses, at home; the e­nemy is plotting against him, a­broad; Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian conspire a­gainst his life, and in him, against the peace of Ierusalem: What open [Page 421] hostility could not do, they hope to effect by pretence of treaties: Foure seuerall messages call Ne­hemiah to a friendly meeting. Di­strust is a sure gard. The wise go­uernor hath learn'd to suspect the hollow fauours of an enemy; and to returne them, with safe and iust excuses. I cannot come downe, why should the worke cease whiles I leaue it, and come downe to you? I doe not heare him say, You in­tend mischiefe to mee; I will not come forth to you; though this were the proper cause of his for­bearance, but he hee turnes them off with an answer, that had as much truth, as reseruednesse. Fraud is the fitliest answered with subtlety: Euen innocencie is allowed a lawfull craft; That [Page 422] man is in an ill case, that conceales no truth from an aduersary.

What intreaties cannot doe, shall bee attempted by threats; Sanballats seruant comes now the fifth time, with an open letter, importing dangerous intimation, wherein is written, It is reported among the heathen and Gashmu saith it, that the Iewes thinke to rebell; for which cause thou buildest the wall that thou mayest be their King. It is re­ported: and what falshood may not plead this warant [...] What can be more lying then report? A­mong the beathen: and who is more Ethnick then Sanballat? what Pa­gan can be worse then a mungrel Idolater? And Gashmu saith it, Aske my fellow else; This Ara­bian was one of those three heads [Page 423] of all the hostile combination, a­gainst Ierusalem, against Nehemiah; It would be wide with innocēce if enemies might bee allow'd to accuse.

That the Iewes thinke to rebell: A stale suggestion, but, once, powerfull; Malice hath learn'd to miscall all actions; where the hands cannot bee taxed, very thoughts are preiudged: For which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their King; Hee was ne­uer true Israelite that hath not pas­sed spightfull slanders, and mis­constructions: Artaxerxes knew his seruant too well, to beleeue any rumour, that should haue beene so shamelesse; The ambiti­on of Nehemiah was wel known to reach onely to the cup, not to [Page 424] the Scepter of his Soueraign: And yet, to make vp a sound tale, Pro­phets are suborned to preach, There is a King in Iudah: as if that loyall gouernor had corrupted the pul­pits also; and had taught them the language of treason.

But what of all this? what if some false tongue haue whispe­red such idle tales? It is not safe for thee, O Nehemiah, to contemn report: Perhaps this newes shal fly to the Court, and worke thee a deadly displeasure ere thou canst know thy selfe traduced; Come therefore, and let vs take counsell together: Surely that man can­not be sparing of any thing, that is prodigall of his reputation. If ought vnder heauen can fetch Nehemiah out of his hold, it is the [Page 425] care of his fame. But, that wary gouernour sees a net spred neere vnto this stall; and therfore keeps aloofe, not without contempt of those slie deuises. There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou fainest them out of thine owne heart: Some imputations are best an­swered with a neglectiue deniall: It fals out often that plaine dea­ling puts craft out of countenāce,

Since neither force nor fraud can kill Nehemiah, they will now try to draw him into a sinne, and thereby into a reproach; O God, that any Prophets tongue should be mercenary! Shemaiah the Seer, is hyred by Tobiah, and Sanballat, to affright the Gouernour, with the noyse of his intended mur­der; and to aduise him for shel­ter, [Page 426] to flye to the forbidden re­fuge of the Temple. The co­lour was faire. Violence is meant to thy person, no place but one can promise thee safetie; The City hath as yet no gates; come therefore, and shut thy selfe vp in the Temple, there onely shalt thou be free from all assaults.

And what if Nehemiah had harkened to this counsell? Sinne, and shame had followed; That holy place was for none but per­sons sacred; such as were priui­ledged by blood, and function; others should presume, and of­fend in entring; and now, what would the people say? What shall become of vs whiles our Gouernour hides his head for feare? When shall wee finde a [Page 427] Temple to secure vs? What doe wee depending vpon a co­wardly leader?

Well did Nehemiah fore-cast these circumstances, both of act, and euent, and therefore resol­uing to distrust a Prophet that perswaded him to the violation of a Law, hee reiects the motion with scorne; Should such a man as I flee? Should I goe into the Tem­ple to saue my life? I will not goe: It is fit for great persons to stand vpon the honour of their places; Their very stations should put those spirits into them, that should make them hate to stoope vnto base conditions.

Had God sent this message, wee know hee hath power to dispence with his owne Lawes; [Page 428] but well might the contradiction of a Law argue the message not sent of God. God as he is one, so doth hee perfitly agree with himselfe. If any priuate spi­rit crosse a written word, let him be accursed.

AHASVERVS Feasting, VASHTI cast off, ESTHER chosen.

WHat bounds can Ester 1, 2. be set to humane ambition? Aha­suerus, that is, Xer­xes, the sonne of Darius is already the King of an hundred, and seuen and twenty Prouinces, and now is ready to fight for more. Hee hath newly subdued Egypt, and is now ad­dressing himself for the conquest of Greece. Hee cannot hope euer [Page 430] to see all the land that hee posses­seth, and yet hee cannot be quiet, whiles he heares of more. Lesse then two ells of earth shall ere long serue him, whom, for the time, a whole world shall scarce satisfie; In vaine shall a man striue to haue that which he can­not inioy, and to inioy ought by mere relation; It is a windy hap­pinesse that is sought in the exag­geration of those titles, which are taken vpon others credit, with­out the sense of the owner: No­thing can fill the heart of man, but he that made it.

This great Monarch, partly in triumph of the great victories, that he hath lately wonne in E­gypt, and partly, for the anima­tion of his Princes, and souldiers, [Page 431] to his future exploits, makes a feast, like himselfe, royall and magnificent.

What is greatnesse if it bee not showed? And wherein can great­nesse bee better showne, then in the atcheiuments of warre, and the intertainments of peace?

All other feasts were but hun­ger to this of Ahasuerus, whether we regard the number of guests, or the largenesse of preparation, or continuance of time: During the space of a whole halfe yeare, all the tables were sumptuously furnished for all commers from India, to Ethyopia; A world of meat was euery day dressed for a world of men; Euery meale was so set on, as if it should haue beene the last: Yet all this long [Page 432] feast hath an end; and all this glory is shut vp in forgetfulnesse; What is Ahasuerus the better, that his Peeres then said, hee was in­comparably great? What are his Peeres the better, that they were feasted? Happy is he that eates bread, and drinkes new wine in the Kingdome of God; this ban­quet is for eternity, without inter­mission, without satiety.

What variety of habits, of lan­guages, of manners, met at the boards of Ahasuerus? What con­fluence of strange guests was there now to Shushan? And, lest the glory of this great King might seeme, like some coorse picture, only faire a farre off; after the Princes and Nobles of the remote Prouinces, all the people [Page 433] of Shushan are intertained, for se­uen daies with equall pompe and state; The spacious Court of the Palace is turned into a Royall Hall, the walls are rich hangings, the pillars of marble, the beds of siluer and gold, the pauement of porphirie curiously checkered; The wine and the vessels stroue whether should bee the richer; no man drunke in worse then gold; and whiles the mettall was the same, the forme of each cup was diuers; the attendants was answerable to the cheare; and the freedome matched both: Here was no compulsion, either to the measure, or quality of the draught; euery mans rule was his owne choice. Who can but blush to see forced healths in Christian [Page 434] banquets, when the ciuility of very pagans commands liberty.

I cannot but enuy the mode­sty of heathen Dames; Vashti the Queene, and her Ladies, with all the seuerall rankes of that sexe, feast apart; intertaining each o­ther, with a bashfull curtesie, without wantonnesse, without that wild scurrility, which v­seth to haunt promiscuous mee­tings: Oh shamefull vnchastity of those loose Christians, who must feed their lust, whiles they fill their bellies; and thinke the feast vnperfit, where they may not sate their eye no lesse then their palate.

The last day of this pompous feast is now come: King Aha­suerus is so much more cheerfull, [Page 435] by how much his guests are nee­rer to their dismission. Euery one is wont to close vp his curtesie with so much more passion, as the last acts vse to make the dee­per impression; And now, that he might at once amaze, and in­deare the beholders, Vashti the Queene in all her royalty, is called for; Her sight shall shut vp the feast, that the Princes and people may say, How happy is King A­hasuerus, not so much in this greatnesse, as in that beauty.

Seuen officers of the chamber are sent to cary the message, to attend her entrance, and are re­turned with a deniall: Perhaps Vashti thought; What meanes this vncouth motion? More then sixe moneths hath this feast con­tinued; [Page 436] and, all this while wee haue inioyed the wonted liberty of our sexe; Were the King still himselfe, this command could not bee sent; it is the wine, and not hee, that is guiltie of this er­rand; Is it for mee to humour him in so vaine a desire? Will it agree with our modest reserued­nesse, to offer our selues to bee ga­zed at by millions of eyes? Who knowes what wanton attempts may follow vpon this vngouer­ned excesse? This very message argues that wit, and reason haue yeelded their places to that besot­ting liquor. Nothing but absence can secure vs from some vnbe­seeming profer; neither doubt I, but the King when he returnes to himselfe, will giue me thankes [Page 437] for so wise a forbearance.

Thus, vpon the conceit (as is likely) that her presence would bee either needlesse, or vnsafe. Vashti refuseth to come. Although perhaps her great spirits thought much to receiue a command frō the hand of officers.

The blood that is once infla­med with wine, is apt to boyle with rage: Ahasuerus is very wroth with this indigne repulse: It was the ostentation of his glory, and might, that hee affected, before those Princes, Peeres, people; and now that seemes eclipsed, in the shutting vp of all his magnifi­cence, with the disgraceful affront of a woman. It vexes him to thinke, that those Nobles, whom hee meant to send away astoni­shed [Page 438] with the admiration of his power, and maiesty, should now say: What boots it Ahasuerus to rule afarre off, when hee cannot command at home? In vaine doth he boast to gouerne Kings, whiles hee is checked by a wo­man.

What euer were the intentions of Vashti, surely her disobedience was inexcusable; it is not for a good wife to iudge of her hus­bands will, but to execute it: nei­ther wit, nor stomacke may carie her into a curious inquisition in­to the reasons of an inioyned charge, much lesse to a resistance: but in an hood-winkt simplicity she must follow, whither shee is led; as one that holds her chiefe praise to consist in subiection.

[Page 439] Where should the perfection of wisedome dwell, if not in the Courts of great Princes? or what can the treasures of Monarchs purchase more invaluably preci­ous, then learned and iudicious attendance? Or who can be so fit for honour as the wisest.

I doubt how Ahasuerus could haue beene so great, if his throne had not beene still compassed with them that knew the times, and vnderstood the law, and iudgement. These were his O­racles in all his doubts: These are now consulted in this difficulty; neither must their aduice bee se­cretly whispered, in the Kings eare, but publikely deliuered in the audience of all the Princes. It is a perillous way that these sages [Page 440] are called to goe, betwixt an hus­band and wife; especially of such power, and eminency; yet Me­mucan feares not to passe an hea­uie sentence against Queen Vash­ti. Vashti, the Queene hath not done wrong to the King onely, but also to all the Princes, and all the people, that are in all the Prouinces of the King A­hasuerus. A deepe and sore com­mination; iniuries are so much more intolerable, as they are dila­ted vnto more; those offences which are of narrow extent, may receiue an easie satisfaction; the amends are not possible, where the wrong is vniuersall: For this deed of the Queene shall come abroad to all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes: Indeed so publique a fact must needs fly; [Page 441] That concourse gaue fit opportu­nity to diffuse it all the world o­uer; The examples of the great are easily drawne into rules. Bad lessons are apt to be taken out; as honour, so contempt fals downe from the head to the skirts; neuer ascends from the skirts to the head.

These wise men are so much the more sensible of this danger, as they saw it more likely, the case might proue their owne. Likewise shall the Ladies of Persia and Media say this day vnto all the Kings Princes. The first prece­dents of euill must bee carefully auoided, if wee care to keepe a constant order in good. Prudence cannot better bestirre it selfe, then in keeping mischiefe from home.

[Page 442] The foundation of this doom of Memucan is not laid so deep for nothing; If it please the King let there goe a royall commandement from him, and let it bee written among the lawes of the Persians, and Medians, that it bee not altered, that Vashti come no more before Ahasuerus; and let the King giue her royall estate to another that is better then she. How bold a word was this, and how hazardous? Had Ahasuerus more loued the beauty of Vashti, then his honor, Memucan had spoken this against his owne life: How­soeuer, a Queene of so great spi­rit, could not want strength of fauour, and faction, in the Persian Court; which could not but take fire at so desperate a motiō. Faith­full statesmen, ouerlooking pri­uate [Page 443] respects, must bend their eies vpon publique dangers, labou­ring to preuent a common mis­chiefe, though with the aduen­ture of their owne. Nature had taught these Pagans the necessitie of a female subiection; and the hate and scorne of a proud diso­bedience. They haue vnlearned the very dictates of Nature, that can abide the head to bee set be­low the ribbe.

I cannot say but Vashti was worthy of a sharpe censure; I can­not say she was worthy a repudi­ation. This plaister drew too hard; It was but heathen iustice to punish the wiues disobedience in one indifferent act, with a di­uorce: Nothing but the violati­on of the mariage-bed, can either [Page 444] breake, or vntye the knot of ma­riage. Had she not been a Queen, had not that contemptuous act beene publique, the sentence had not beene so hard; now the pu­nishment must be exemplary, lest the sin should be so. Many a one had smarted lesse, if their persons, if their places had beene meaner.

The King, the Princes approue this heauy iudgment of Memucan; It is not in the power of the faire face of Vashti, to warrant her sto­macke: No doubt many messa­ges passed ere the rigour of this execution: That great hart knows not to relēt, but will rather break, then yeeld to an humble depreca­tion. When the stone, and the steele meet, fire is stricken; it is a soft answer that appeaseth wrath. [Page 445] Vashti is cast off, Letters are sent from the King, into all his Pro­uinces, to command that euery man should rule at home; The Court affords thē an awfull pat­terne of authority: Had not Aha­suerus doted much vpon Vashties beauty, hee had not called her forth at the feast, to be wōdredat, by his Peeres & people; yet now hee so feeles the wound of his reputation, that he forgets he euer felt any wound of his affection. Euen the greatest loue may be o­uer-strained; It is not safe presu­ming vpon the deepest assuran­ces of dearnesse: There is no heart that may not be estranged. It is not possible that great Princes should want soothing vp in all their inclinations, in all their acti­ons: [Page 446] Whiles Ahasuerus is follow­ing the chace of his ambition, in the wars of Greece, his followers are prouiding for his lust at home; Nothing could sound more plea­sing to a carnall eare, then that all the faire yong virgins, through­out all his dominions, should be gathered into his palace at Shu­shan, for his assay, and choice: The decree is soone published; The charge is committed to He­ge, the Kings Chamberlain, both of their purification, and orna­ments.

What strife, what emulation was now, amongst all the Per­sian damosells, that either were, or thought themselues faire? E­uery one hopes to bee a Queene; and sees no reason why any o­ther [Page 447] should be thought more ex­cellent; How happy were wee, if we could be so ambitious of our espousalls to the King of heauen?

Amongst all this throng of Virgins, God hath prouided a wife for Ahasuerus; hauing de­termined his choice, where most aduantage shall rise to his for­lorne people.

The Iewes were miserably scat­tered ouer the world, in that wo­full deportation vnder Iechoniah; scarce an handfull of them retur­ned to Ierusalem; the rest remaine still dispersed where they may but haue leaue to liue. There are many thousands of them tur­ned ouer with the Babylonian Monarchy, to the Persian; amōgst the rest, was Mordecai, the sonne [Page 448] of Iair, of the tribe of Beniamin; a man of no meane note, or ability; who, liuing in Shushan, had brought vp Hadassah, or Esther, his vncles daughter, in a liberall fashion; It was happy for this orphane, that in a region of cap­tiuity, shee light into such good hands; Her wise kinsman finds it fit, that her breeding, and habit shold be Persian-like; In outward and ciuill formes, there was no need to vary from the heathen; her religion must bee her owne; the rest was so altogether theirs, that her very nation was not dis­cerned.

The same God that had giuen incomparable beauty to this Iewesse, gaue her also fauor in the eies of Hegai, the keeper of the [Page 449] women; Shee is not only taken into the Persian Court, as one of the selected virgins, but obserued with more then ordinary respect; all necessaries for her speedie pu­rification are brought to her; Se­uen maides are allowed for her attendance, and the best & most honorable place in that Seraglio is allotted to her; As if this great officer had designed her for a Queene, before the choice of his master.

What strange preparation was here for the impure bed of an heathen? Euery Virgin must be sixe moneths purified with oyle of myrrhe, and six other months perfumed with sweet odors, be­sides those speciall receits, that were allowed to each, vpon their [Page 450] owne election: O God, what care, what cost is requisite to that soule which should be addressed a fit Bride for thine holy and glo­rious Maiesty?

When wee haue scoured our selues with the most cleansing oyle of our repentance, and haue perfumed our selues with thy best graces, and our perfectest o­bedience, it is the onely praise of thy mercy, that we may bee ac­cepted.

The other Virgins passed their probation, vnregarded; when Est­hers turne came, though shee re­quired nothing; but tooke what was giuen her; though she affec­ted nothing, but brought that face, that demeanure, which na­ture had cast vpon her, no eye [Page 451] sees her without admiration; the King takes such pleasure in her beauty, that, contemning all the other vulgar formes, his choyce is fully fixed vpon her; All things must prosper, where God hath intended the suceesse: the most wise prouidence of the Almigh­ty fetches his proiects from farre; The preseruation and aduantage of his owne people is in hand; for the contriuing of this, Vashti shal be abandoned; the virgins shall be chosen; Esther only shall please Ahasuerus; Mordecai shall dis­please Haman; Hamans ruine shall raise Mordecai: The purposes of God cannot be iudged by his re­mote actions; only the accōplish­ment showes his designes; In the meane time, it pleaseth him to [Page 452] looke another way, then hee moues; and to worke his owne ends, by arbitrary, and vnlikely accidents.

None but Esther shall succeed Vashti; she onely caries the heart of Ahasuerus from all her sexe; The royall Crowne is set vpon her head; And, as Vashti was cast off at a feast, so, with a solemne feast shall Esther bee espoused; Here wanted no triumph, to expresse the ioy of this great Bridegroom; and that the world might wit­nesse he could be no lesse louing, then seuere, all his Prouinces shal feele the pleasure of this happy match, in their immunities, in their rich gifts.

With what enuious eyes doe we thinke Vashti lookt vpon her [Page 453] glorious riuall? How doth shee now (though too late) secretly chide her peeuish will, that had thus stript her of her royal crown, and made way for a more happy successor? Little did shee thinke her refusall could haue had so hai­nous a construction: Little did she feare, that one word (perhaps not ill meant) should haue for­faited her husband, her crowne, and all that she was. Who so is not wise enough to forecast the danger of an offence, or indiscre­tion, may haue leasure enough of an vnseasonable repentance.

That minde is truly great and noble, that is not changed with the hyest prosperity; Queen Esther cannot forget her cozen Mordecai; No pompe can make her sleight [Page 454] the charge of so deare a kinsman: In all her royalty, she casts her eie vpon him, amongst the throng of beholders, but shee must not know him; her obedience keeps her in awe, and will not suffer her to draw him vp with her, to the participation of her honor; It troubles her, not a little, to for­beare this duty; but shee must; It is enough for her, that Morde­cai hath commanded her not to be acknowne, who, or whose she was.

Perhaps the wise Iew feared, that whiles her honour was yet greene, and vnsetled, the notice of her nation, and the name of a despised captiue might bee some blemish to her in that proud Court; when as afterwards, vpon [Page 455] the merit of her cariage, and the full possession of all harts, her name might dignifie her nation, and countermand all reproches

Mordecai was an officer in the Court of Ahasuerus; his seruice called him daily to attend in the Kings gate; Much better might he, being a Iew, serue a Pagan Master, then his foster-daughter might ascend to a Pagans bed.

If the necessity or conuenience of his occasions called him to serue; his pietie and religion cal­led him to faithfulnesse in his ser­uice: Two of the Kings Cham­berlaines, Bigthana, and Teresh, conspire against the life of their Soueraine. No greatnesse can se­cure from trecherie, or violence: Hee that ruled ouer millions of [Page 456] men, through an hundred, and seuen and twenty Prouinces, can­not assure himselfe from the hand of a villaine; He that had the po­wer of other mens liues, is in dan­ger of his owne. Happy is that man, that is once possessed of a crown incorruptible, vnfadable, reserued for him in heauen: no force, no treason can reach thi­ther, there can be no perill of ei­ther violence, or forfaiture.

The likeliest defence of the person of any Prince, is the fideli­ty of his attendants: Mordecai o­uer-hears the whispering of these wicked conspirators; and reueales it to Esther; she (as glad of such an opportunity to commend vn­to Ahasuerus the loyalty of him whom she durst but secretly ho­nour) [Page 457] reueales it to the King; The circumstances are examined, the plot is discouered, the traytors executed, the seruice recorded, in the Persian Annalls. A good foun­dation is thus laid for Mordecaies aduancement, which yet is not ouer-hastened, on either part; Worthy dispositions labour one­ly to deserue well, leauing the care of their remuneration, to them, whom it concernes; It is fit that Gods leasure should be attended in all his designements; The houre is set, when Mordecai shall bee raised: If in the meane time there be an interuention, not on­ly of neglect, but of feares, and dangers, all these shall make his honour so much more sweet, more precious.

HAMAN disrespected by MORDECAI. MORDECAIS message to ESTHER.

BEsides the charge of his Ester 3. 4. office, the care of Est­hers prosperity calls Mordecai to the Kings gate; and fixes him there: With what inward contentment did he thinke of his so royall pupill? Here I sit among my fellowes; little doth the world thinke, that mine adopted child sits in the Throne of Persia: that the great [Page 459] Empresse of the world owes her selfe to me; I might haue more honor, I could not haue so much secret comfort, if al Shushan knew what interest I haue in Queene Esther.

Whiles his hart is taken vp with these thoughts, who should come ruffling by him, but the new-raised fauorite of King A­hasuerus, Haman the sonne of Am­medatha the Agagite? Him hath the great King inexpectedly ad­uanced, and set his seat aboue all the Princes that were with him: The gracious respects of Princes are not alwayes led by merit, but by their owne will; which is e­uer affected to bee so much the freer, as themselues would bee held more great.

[Page 460] When the Sunne shines vpon the Diall, euery passenger will be looking at it; There needed no command of reuerence, where Ahasuerus was pleased to counte­nance; All knees will bow alone euen to forbidden Idols of ho­nor; how much more where royall authority inioynes obey­sance? All the seruants, all the subiects of King Ahasuerus are willingly prostrate before this great mignon of their Souerayn; onely Mordecai stands stiffe, as if he saw nothing more then a man in that proud Agagite.

They are not obserued that do as the most; but if any one man shall vary from the multitude, all eyes are turned vpon him: Mor­decaies fellow-officers note this [Page 461] palpable irreuerence, and expo­stulate it; Why transgressest thou the Kings commandements?

Considerest thou not how far this affront reacheth? It is not the person of Haman, whom thou refusest to adore, but the King in him: Neither doe we regard so much the man, as the command; Let him be neuer so vile whom the King bids to bee honoured, with what safety can a subiect examine the charge, or resist it? his vnworthinesse cannot dis­pence with our loyalty.

What a dangerous wilfulnesse should it be to incurre the forfai­ture of thy place, of thy life for a curtesie? If thou wilt not bow with others, expect to suffer a­lone; Perhaps (they thought) [Page 462] this omission was vnheedy; In a case of ignorance, or incogitan­cie, it was a friendly office to ad­monish; the sight of the errour had beene the remedy.

Mordecai heares their challenge, their aduice; and thinks good to answer both, with silence; as wil­ling they should imagine, his in­flexiblenesse proceeded from a resolution; and that resolution from some secret grounds, which he needed not impart: at last yet he imparts thus much: Let it suffice, that I am a Iew, and Ha­man an Amalekite.

After a priuate expostulation, the continuance of that open neglect is construed for a sullen obstinacie; and now, the moni­tors themselues grow sensible of [Page 463] the contempt: Men are com­monly impatient to lose the thanke of their indeuours, and are prone to hate whom they cannot reforme. Partly therfore to picke a thanke, and partly to reuenge this contumacy, these of­ficers turne informers against Mordecai, neither meant to make the matter fairer then it was; they tell Haman how proud, and stub­borne a Iew sate amongst them, how ill they could brooke so sau­cie an affront to be offered to his greatnesse; how seriously they had expostulated, how stomack­fully the offender persisted; and beseech him, that he would bee pleased in his next passage, to cast some glances that way, and but obserue the fashion of that into­lerable [Page 464] insolency.

The proud Agagite cannot long indure the very expectation of such an indignity; On purpose doth he stalk thither, with higher then his ordinary steps; snuffing vp the aire, as he goes, and would see the man, that durst deny re­uerence to the greatest Prince of Persia.

Mordecai holds his old pos­ture; onely hee is so much more carelesse, as he sees Haman more disdainfull, and imperious; nei­ther of them goes about to hide his passion; one lookt, as if hee said, I hate the pride of Haman; the other lookt, as if he said, I will plague the contempt of Mordecai: how did the eies of Hamā sparkle with fury, and as it were dart [Page 465] our deadly beames in the face of that despightfull Iew? How did he swell with indignation; and then againe waxe pale with an­ger? shortly, his very brow and his motion bad Mordecai looke for the vtmost of reuenge.

Mordecai foresees his danger, and contemnes it; no frownes, no threats can souple those ioints: he may breake, he will not bow.

What shall we say then to this obfirmed resolution of Mordecai? What is it, what can it be, that so stiffens the knees of Mordecai, that death is more easie to him, then their incuruation? Certainly, if meere ciuility were in question, this wilfull irreuerence to so great a Peere, could not passe without the iust censure of a rude peruers­nesse; [Page 466] It is religion that forbids this obeisāce, & tels him, that such curtesie could not bee free from sinne; Whether it were, that more then humane honor was requi­red to this new-erected image of the great King, as the Persiās were euer wont to bee noted for too much lauishnesse in these courtly deuotions: Or whether it were, that the ancient curse wherewith God had branded the blood, and stocke of Haman, made it vnlaw­full for an Israelite to giue him a­ny obseruance: For the Amale­kites (of whose royall line Haman was descended) were the nation, with which God had sworne perpetuall hostility; and whose memory hee had straitly charged Ex. 17. 16. Deu. 25. 19. his people to root out, from vn­der [Page 467] heauen; How may I (thinks he) adore, where God commāds me to detest? How may I pro­fesse respect, where God profes­seth enmity? How may I con­tribute to the establishment of that seed vpon earth, which God hath charged to be pull'd vp from vnder heauen? Outward acti­ons of indifferency, when once they are felt to trench vpon the conscience, lay deepe obligations vpon the soule; euen whiles they are most sleighted by carelesse hearts.

In what a flame of wrath doth Haman liue this while? where­with he could not but haue con­sumed his owne heart, had hee not giuen vent to that rage in his assured purposes of reuenge: [Page 468] Great mens anger is like to them­selues, strong, fierce, ambitious of an excessiue satisfaction. Haman scornes to take vp with the blood of Mordecai; This were but a vulgar amends; Poore men can kill where they hate, and expiate their owne wrong, with the life of a single enemie: Hamans fury shall fly an higher pitch; Millions of threats are few enow to bleed for this offence: It is a Iew that hath despighted him; all the whole nation of the Iewes shall perish for the stomach of this one: The Monarchy of the world was now in the hand of the Persian, as Iudaea was with­in this compasse, so there was scarce a Iew vpon earth, without the verge of the Persian domini­ons: [Page 469] The generation, the name shall now dye at once; Neither shall there bee any memory of them; but this; There was a peo­ple, which hauing beene famous through the world, for three thousand, foure hundred, and fourescore yeares, were in a mo­ment, extinct by the power of Haman for default of a courtesie.

Perhaps, that hereditary grudge, and old antipathy, that was be­twixt Israel, and Amalek, stucke still in the heart of this Agagite; he might know that God had com­manded Israel to root out Amalek from vnder heauen; and now therefore an Amalekite will bee ready to take this aduātage against Israel. It is extreame iniustice to dilate the punishment, beyond [Page 470] the offence; and to enwrap thou­sands of innocents within the trespasse of one: How many that were yet vnborne when Haman was vnsaluted, must rue the fact they liued not to know? How many millions of Iewes were then liuing, that knew not there was a Mordecai? all of them are fetcht into one condicion, and must suffer, ere they can know their of­fence. Oh the infinite distance be­twixt the vniust cruelty of men, and the iust mercies of the Al­mighty; Euen Caiphas himselfe could say, It is better that one man dye, then that all the people should pe­rish; and here Haman can say, It is better that all the people should perish then that one man should dye. Thy mercy, ô God, by the willing [Page 471] death of one that had not sinned, hath defrayed the iust death of a world of sinners: Whiles the in­iurious rigour of a man, for the supposed fault of one, would de­stroy a whole nation, that had not offended: It is true, that by the sinne of one, death raigned o­uer all; but it was, because all sin­ned in that one: had not all men beene in Adam, all had not falne in him, all had not dyed in him; It was not the man, but mankind that fell into sinne, and by sinne, into death: No man can com­plaine of punishment, whiles no man can exempt himselfe from the transgression: Vnmercifull Haman would haue imbrued his hands in that blood, which hee could not but confesse innocent.

[Page 472] It is a rare thing, if the height of fauour cause not presumption; Such is Hamans: greatnesse, that he takes his designe for granted, ere it can receiue a motion; The fit­test dayes for this great massacre, are determined by the lots of their common diuination; according whereunto, Haman chooseth the houre of this bloody suit; and now, waited on by opportunity, he addresseth himselfe to King A­hasuerus. There is a certaine people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people, in all the Prouinces of the Kingdome, and their lawes are diuers from all people; neither keepe they the Kings lawes, therefore it is not for the Kings profit to suffer them; If it please the King, let it bee written that they may be destroyed, and I will pay tenne [Page 473] thousand talents of siluer to the hands of the officers. With what cunning hath this man couched his ma­lice? He doth not say, There is a Iew that hath affronted mee, let me be auenged of his nation; this rancour was too monstrous to be confessed; perhaps this suggesti­on might haue bred in the mind of Ahasuerus a conceit of Hamans ill nature, and intolerable imma­nity; but his precences are plau­sible, and such as driue at no o­ther, then the publique good; E­uery word hath his insinuation: It is a scattered people; were the na­tion intire, their maintenance could not but stand with the Kings honour; but now since they are but straglers, as their losse would be insensible, so their con­tinuance, [Page 474] and mixture cannot but be preiudiciall; It was not the fault, it was the misery of these poore Iewes, that they were dis­persed; and now their dispersion is made an argument of their ex­tirpation; therefore must they be destroyed, from the earth, because they were scattered ouer the earth. As good, so euils draw on each o­ther; That which should plead for pitty in the well-affected, is a motiue to cruelty in sauage minds. Seldome euer hath extre­mity of mischiefe seized, where easier afflictions haue not beene billeted before.

All faith full Iewes had wont to say vnto God, Haue mercy vpon vs, O God, and saue vs, for our soule is full of contempt, and we are scatte­red [Page 475] amongst the heathen; and here this enemy can say of them, to A­hasuerus, Destroy them for they are scattered; Root them out, for they are contemned; How much bet­ter is it to fall into the hands of God, thē of men; since that which whets the sword of men, works commiseration in the Almighty: Besides the dissipation of the per­sons, Their lawes are diuers from all people: All other people liue by thy lawes, they onely by their owne: and how can this singu­larity of their fashions, but breed disorder, and inconuenience? Did they liue in some corner of the earth apart, their difference in religion and gouernment could not import much; now, that they are dispersed amongst all thy [Page 476] subiects, vvhat doe these vncouth formes of theirs, but teach all the vvorld to bee irregular? vvhy should they liue vnder thy pro­tection, that will not be gouerned by thy lawes?

Wicked Haman! what were the lawes of Israel, but the lawes of God? if this be a quarrell, what shall the death of the Iewes bee o­ther, then martyrdome?

The diuersity of iudgement, and practice from the rest of the world hath beene an old, and en­uious imputation cast vpō Gods Church: What if we be singled from others, whiles wee walke with God? In matters lawfull, arbitrary, indifferent, wisedome teacheth vs to conforme our selues to all others; but, where [Page 477] God hath laid a speciall impositi­on vpon vs, we must either vary, or sinne: The greatest glory of Israel was their lawes, wherein they as far exceeded all other na­tions, as heauen is aboue earth; yet, here their lawes are quarrel­led, and are made the induce­ments of their destruction; It is not possible the Church of God should escape persecution, whiles that which it hath good is ma­ligned; whiles that offēds which makes it happy.

Yet, that they haue lawes of their owne, were not so vnsuffe­rable, if withall, they did obserue thine, ô King, but these Iewes, as they are vnconformable; so they are seditious: They keepe not the King lawes: Thou slanderest Ha­man; [Page 478] they could not keepe their owne lawes, if they kept not the Kings; for their lawes call them to obedience vnto their soue­raignes; and adiudge hell to the rebellious: In all those hundred and seuen and twenty prouinces, King Ahasuerus hath no subiects, but them; They obey out of con­science, others out of feare: why are they charged with that, which they doe most abhorre? What can be the ground of this crimi­nation? Ahasuerus commanded all knees to bow to Haman; A Iew onely refuses; Malicious Ha­man; He that refused to bow vn­to thee, had sufficiently approued his loyalty to Ahasuerus; Ahasuerus had not been, if Mordecai had not beene a good subiect; Hath the [Page 479] King no lawes, but what con­cerne thine adoration? Set aside religion (wherein the Iew is ready to present if not actiue, yet passiue obedience) and name that Persi­an law, which a Iew dares break.

As I neuer yet read, or heard of a conscionable Israelite, that hath not passed vnder this calumniati­on, so I cannot yeeld him a true Israelite, that deserues it.

In vaine doth hee professe to acknowledge a God, in heauen, that denies homage to his deputy on earth.

It is not for the Kings profit to suf­fer thē. Worldly hearts are not led by good, or euill, but by profit, or losse; neither haue they grace to know that nothing is profita­ble but what is honest, nothing [Page 480] so desperately incommodious, as wickednesse; They must needs offend by rule that measure all things by profit, & measure pro­fit by their imagination. How easie is it to suggest strange vn­truths, when there is no body to giue an answer? False Hamā, hovv is it not for the Kings profit to suffer the Iewes? If thou construe this profit, for honor, The Kings honor is in the multitude of sub­iects, and what people more nu­merous then they? If for gaine, The Kings profit is in the large­nesse of his Tributes; and what people are more deepe in their payments? If for seruices? what people are more offici­ous? How can it stand with the Kings profit to bereaue himselfe [Page 481] of subiects, his subiects of their liues, his Exchequer of their tri­butes, his state of their defence? Hee is a weake polititian that knowes not to guild ouer the worst proiect, with a pretence of publike vtility. No name vnder heauen hath made so many fooles, so many villaines, as this of profit.

Lastly, as Ahasuerus reapes no­thing but disprofit by the liues of the Iewes, so hee shall reape no small profit by their deaths: I will pay tenne thousand talents of siluer to the Kings treasuries for this executi­on. If reuenge were not very sweet to the malicious man, hee could not be content to purchase it at so high a rate; How doe we see daily that the thirst hereof ca­ries [Page 482] men to a riotous prodigality of estate, body, soule?

Cruell Haman, if thou couldst haue swim'd in a whole Sea of Iewish blood, if thou couldst haue raised mountaines of their carcas­ses; if thou couldst haue made all Persia thy shambles; who would haue giuen thee one farthing for all those piles of flesh, for all those streames of blood? yea who would not rather haue beene at charge for the auoyding of the annoyances of those slaughtered bodies, which thou offerest to buy at ten thousand talents? It were an happy thing, if charitie could inlarge it selfe, but so much as malice; if the preseruation of mankinde could be so much be­holden to our bountie, as the de­struction.

[Page 483] Now when all these are laid together, the basenesse and dis­persednesse of the people, the di­uersitie of their lawes, the irregu­laritie of their gouernment, the re­bellion of their practice, the in­conuenience of their toleration, the gaine of their extirpation; what could the wit or art of man deuise more insinuatiue, more likely to perswade? How could it bee but Ahasuerus must needs thinke (since he could not suspect the ground of this suit;) What a zealous patriot haue I raised that can be content to buy off the in­cōmodity of the state, at his own charge? How worthy is hee ra­ther of the aide both of my po­wer, and purse? why should I be fee'd to ease my Kingdomes of [Page 484] rebels: The siluer is giuen to thee, the people also, to doe with them as seemeth good to thee: Without all delay, the secretaries are call'd to write the warrants, the Kings ring is giuen to seale them, the posts are sent out to cary them in­to all Prouinces; The day is set wherein all Iewes, of all ages, of both sexes, through the hundred and seuen and twenty prouinces of the King, shall be sacrificed to the wrath of Haman.

In all the cariage of Ahasuerus, who sees not too much heddi­nesse of passion? Vashti is cast off for a trifle; the Iewes are giuen to the slaughter for nothing, his rage in the one, his fauour in the other is too impotent: Hee is not a worse husband then a King; the [Page 485] bare word of Haman is enough to kill so many subiects: No dis­position can bee more dangerous in great persons, then violence of affectiō mixed with credulity. Oh the seeming inequality of humane condicions: The King and Haman sate down to drink, but the City of Shu­shan was perplexed: It is a wofull thing to see great ones quaffe the teares of the oppressed; & to heare them make musick of shriekes.

With what lamentation doe we thinke all the Synagogues of Iewes through the world receiued this fatall message of their proclai­med destruction? How doe they bemone themselues, each to o­ther? How doe their conioyned cries fill heauen, and earth? But aboue all, what sack-cloth and [Page 486] ashes could suffise wofull Morde­cai, that found in himselfe the oc­casion of all this slaughter? What soule could bee capable of more bitternesse, then he felt? Whiles he could not but think, Wretched man that I am; It is I, that haue brought all this calamity vpon my nation; It is I, that haue beene the ruine of my people: wo is me that euer I put my selfe into the Court, into the seruice of a Pagan; how vnhappy was I to cast my selfe into these straits, that I must either honour an A­gagite, or draw a vengeance vpon Israel? Yet how could I imagine, that the flame of Hamans rage would haue broken out so farre? might that reuenge haue deter­mined in my blood, how happy should I haue been? now, I haue [Page 487] brought death vpon many thou­sands of innocents, that cannot know wherefore they dye; Why did I not hide my selfe rather frō the face of that proud Amalekite? Why did I stand out in contesta­tion with so ouer-powerfull an enemy? Alas, no man of Israel shall so much as liue to curse me, onely mine enemies shall record my name, with ignominy, and say, Mordecai was the bane of his nation. Oh, that my zeale should haue reserued mee for so heauie a seruice! Where now are those vaine ambitions, wherewith I pleased my selfe in this great match of Esther? How fondly did I hope by this vndue meanes to raise my selfe, and my people? Yea, is not this carnall presumpti­on [Page 488] the quarrell that God hath a­gainst me? Doe I not therefore smart from these Pagans, for that I secretly affected this vncircum­cised alliance? Howsoeuer it bee, yet, ô God, what haue thy people done? Oh let it be thy iust mercy that I may perish alone!

In these sad thoughts did Mor­decai spend his hart, vvhiles hee vvalked mournfully in sackcloth, before that gate, wherein he vvas wont to sit; now his habit bars his approach; no sackcloth might come vvithin the Court: Lo, that vvhich is vvelcomest in the court of heauen, is here excluded from the presence of this earthly royal­tie: A broken and a contrite hart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Neither did it a little adde to [Page 489] the sorrow of Mordecai, to heare the bitter insultations of his for­mer monitors: Did wee not aduise thee better? Did we not foreadmonish thee of thy danger? see now the issue of thine obstinacy: now see, what it is for thine earthen pitcher to knock vvith brasse? now, vvhere is the man that vvould needs contest vvith Haman? hast thou not now brought thy matters to a fair pass? Thy stomacke had long owed thee a spight, and now it hath paid thee; vvho can pitty thy wil­fulnesse? since thou vvouldest needs deride our counsell, vvee vvill take leaue to laugh at thy sackcloth. Nothing but scornes, and griefes, and terrors present themselues to miserable Mordecai: All the externall buffets of aduer­saries [Page 490] were sleight to the vvounds that he both made, and felt in his owne heart.

The perpetuall intelligences that were closely held betwixt Esther, and Mordecai, could not suffer his publique sorrow to bee long concealed from her; The newes of his sackcloth afflicts her ere she can suspect the cause; her crowne doth but clog her head, vvhiles shee heares of his ashes; True friendship transformes vs into the condicion of those vvee loue; and if it cannot raise them to our cheerfulnesse, drawes vs downe to their deiection: Faine vvould shee vncase her foster-fa­ther of these mournfull vveeds; and change his sackcloth for tis­sue; that yet, at least, his cloathes [Page 491] might not hinder his accesse to her presence, for the free opening of his griefes.

It is but a sleight sorrow that abides to take in outward com­forts; Mordecai refuses that kinde offer; and vvould haue Esther see that his afflictiō was such, as that hee might well resolue to put off his sackcloth and his skin at once; that he must mourne to death ra­ther then see her face to liue.

The good Queene is astonisht with this constāt humiliatiō of so deare a friend; and now she sends Hatach, a trusty (though a Pagan) attendant, to inquire into the oc­casion of this so irremediable hea­uinesse: It should seeme Esther inquired not greatly into matters of state; that which perplexed all [Page 492] Shushan, was not yet knowne to her; her followers, not knowing her to be a Iewesse, conceiued not how the newes might concerne her, and therefore had forborne the relation: Mordecai first in­formes her, by her messenger, of the decree that was gone out a­gainst all her nation, of the day wherein they must all prepare to bleed, of the summe which Ha­man had profered for their heads, & deliuers the copy of that bloo­dy Edict; charging her, now, if euer, to bestirre her selfe; and to improue all her loue, all her po­wer with King Ahasuerus, in a speedy and humble supplication for the sauing of the life (not of himselfe so much, as) of her people.

[Page 493] It was tydings able to con­found a weake heart; and hers, so much the more, as shee could ap­prehēd nothing but impossibility of redresse: she needs but to put Mordecai in mind of that, which all the Kings seruants and sub­iects knew well enough, that the Persian law made it no lesse then death for whom soeuer, man, or woman, that should presse into the inner court of the king, vncal­led. Nothing but the royall scepter extended, could keepe that pre­sumptuous offender from the graue. For her, thirty dayes were now passed since shee was called in to the King; an intermission, that might bee iustly suspicious; Whether the heate of his first af­fection were thus soone (:of it [Page 494] selfe) allayed towards her; or whether some suggestions of a secret enemie (perhaps his Aga­gite) may haue set him off; or whe­ther some more pleasing obiect may haue laid hold on his eyes; what euer it might be, this absēce could not but argue some strange­nesse, and this strangenesse must needs imply a danger in her bold intrusion: Shee could bewaile therfore, she could not hope to re­medy this dismallday of her peo­ple. This answer in the eares of Mordecai sounded truth, but weaknesse; neither can he take vp with so feeble a returne; These occasions require other spirits, o­ther resplutions, which must bee quickened by a more stirring re­ply:) Thinke not with thy selfe that [Page 495] thou shalt escape in the Kings house, more then all the Iewes. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall their inlargement, & deliuerance arise to the Iewes from a­nother place, but thou and thy fathers house shall bee destroyed. And who knoweth whether thou art comne to the Kingdome for such a time as this.

The expectation of death had not quailed the strong heart of faithfull Mordecai; euen, whiles hee mournes, his zeale droupes not; there could haue beene no life in that brest, which this mes­sage could not haue rouzed.

What then? is it death that thou fearest in this attempt of thy sup­plication; what other thē death awaits thee in the neglect of it? there is but this difference, sue, & [Page 496] thou maist die, sue not, and thou must dye: what blood hast thou but Iewish? and if these vnaltera­ble edicts exempt no liuing soule, what shall become of thine? and canst thou be so vainly timerous, as to die for feare of death? to pre­ferre certaintie of danger, before a possibility of hopes? Away with this weake cowardise vn­worthy of an Israelite, vnworthy of a Queene: But if faint hear­tednesse or priuate respects shall seale vp thy lippes, or with-hold thine hand from the ayde of thy people; if thou canst so farre neg­lect Gods Church, know thou that God will not neglect it; it shall not be in the power of Ty­rans to root out his chosen seed; that holy one of Israel shall rather [Page 497] worke miracles from heauen, thē his inheritance shall perish vpon earth? and how iust shall it then be for that iealous God, to take vengeance vpon thee, and thy fa­thers house for this cold vnhelp­fulnesse to his distressed Church? Suffer me therefore to adiure thee by all that tendernesse of loue, wherewith I haue trained vp thine orphane infancie; by all those deare and thankfull respects which thou hast vowed to mee againe; by the name of the God of Israel whom wee serue, that thou awaken and stirre vp thine holy courage, and dare to aduen­ture thy life, for the sauing of ma­ny; It hath pleased the Almigh­ty to raise thee vp to that height of honor, which our progenitors [Page 498] could little expect; why shouldst thou bee wanting to him, that hath beene so bountifull to thee? yea why should I not thinke that God hath put this very act into the intendement of thine exalta­tion? hauing on purpose thus seasonably hoysed thee vp to the throne, that thou maist rescue his poore Church from an vtter ruine?

Oh the admirable faith of Mor­decai, that shines through all these cloudes, and in the thickest of these fogges, descries a cheerfull glimpse of deliuerance; Hee saw the day of their common destru­ction enacted, he knew the Persi­an decrees to be vnalterable; but, withall, hee knew there was a Messias to come; he was so well [Page 499] acquainted with Gods couenan­ted assurances to his Church, that he can through the midst of those bloody resolutions foresee in­demnity to Israel; rather trusting the promises of God, then the threats of men. This is the victo­ry that ouercomes all the feares, and fury of the world, euen our faith.

It is quarrell enough against any person, or community not to haue been aidfull to the distresses of Gods people. Not to ward the blow, if wee may, is construed for little better then striking. Till we haue tryed our vtmost, wee know not whether wee haue done that we came for.

Mordecai hath said enough; These words haue so put a new [Page 500] life into Esther, that she is resolute to hazard the old; Goe gather toge­ther all the Iewes that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and nei­ther eate nor drinke, three daies night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise, and so will I goe in vnto the King, (which is not according to the law) and if I perish, I perish. Heroi­call thoughts doe well befit great actions. Life can neuer be better aduentured, then where it shall begaine to leese it.

There can bee no law against the humble deprecation of euils; where the necessity of Gods Church calls to vs, no danger, should with-hold vs from all honest meanes of releife. Deepe humiliations must make way for the successe of great enterprises, [Page 501] wee are most capable of mercy, vvhen we are throughly empty: A short hunger doth but whet the appetite, but so long an absti­nence meets death halfe way, to preuent it; Well may they inioyne sharp penances vnto others, who practise it vpon themselues.

It was the face of Esther that must hope to win Ahasuerus, yet that shall be macerated with fast­ing, that she may preuaile. A car­nall heart would haue pampered the flesh, that it might allure those wanton eyes; shee pines it, that she may please.

God, and not she, must work the hart of the King; Faith tea­ches her rather to trust her deuo­tions, then her beauty.

ESTHER suing to AHA­SVERVS.

THE Iewes are easily Esther. 5. intreated to fast, who had receiued in themselues the sentence of death; what pleasure could they take in meat, that knew what day they must eate their last? The three dayes of abstinence are expired; now Esther changes her spirits, no lesse then her clothes; Who that sees that face, and that habit, can say she had mourned, she had fasted? Neuer did her royall ap­parell [Page 503] become her so well. That God before whom she had hum­bled her selfe, made her so much more beautifull, as she had beene more deiected; And now, with a winning confidence, she walks into the inner court of the King, and puts her selfe into that for­bidden presence: as if she said; Here I am with my life in my hand, if it please the King to take it, it is ready for him; Vashti, my predecessor, forfaited her place for not comming when she was called; Esther shall now hazard the forfaiture of her life, for com­ming when she is not called: It is necessity, not disobedience that hath put me vpon this bold ap­proch; according to thy constru­ction, O King, I doe either liue or [Page 504] dye, either shall be welcome. The inexpectednesse of pleasing ob­iects makes them many times the more acceptable: the beautifull countenance, the gracefull de­meanure, and goodly presence of Esther, haue no sooner taken the eyes, then they haue rauished the hart of King Ahasuerus: Loue hath soone banished all dreadfulnesse; And the King held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand: Moderate intermission is so farre from cooling the affection, that it inflames it: had Esther been seene euery day, perhaps that satiety had abated of the height of her wel­come; now, three and thirty dayes retirednesse hath indeared her more to the surfeted eyes of Ahasuerus.

[Page 505] Had not the golden Scepter been held out, where had Queen Esther beene? The Persian Kings affected a stern awfulnesse to their subiects; It was death to solicit them, vncalled; How safe, how easie, how happy a thing it is to haue to doe with the King of heauen, who is so pleased with our accesse, that he solicits sutors; who, as he is vnweariable with our requests, so is infinite in his beneficences!

How gladly doth Esther touch the top of that Scepter, by which shee holds her life? and now, whiles she thinks it well that she may liue, she receiues besides par­don, fauour: What wilt thou Queene Esther, and what is thy request? it shall be giuen thee, euen to the halfe of [Page 506] the Kingdome. Commonly, when wee feare most, wee speed best; God then most of all magnifies his bounty to vs, when we haue most afflicted our selues. Ouer­confident expectations are sel­dome but disappointed; whiles humble suspicions goe laughing away: It was the benefit and safe­ty of but one peece of the King­dome that Esther comes to sue for, and behold, Ahasuerus offers her the free power of the halfe: He that gaue Haman, at the first word, the liues of all his Iewish subiects, is ready to giue Esther halfe his Kingdome, ere she aske: Now shee is no lesse amazed at the louing munificence of Ahasue­rus, then she was before afraid of his austerity; The Kings hart is in [Page 507] the hand of the Lord, as the riuers of water; hee turneth it whithersoeuer hee will.

It is not good to swallow fa­uours too greedily, lest they either choke vs in the passage, or proue hard of digestion. The wise Queene, howeuer shee might seeme to haue a faire opportunity offered to her suit, findes it not good to apprehend it too sudden­ly; as desiring by this small dila­tion, to prepare the eare and hart of the King for so important a re­quest.

Now, all her petition ends in a banquet; If it seeme good vnto the King, let the King and Haman come this day vnto the banquet, that I haue prepared for him. It is an easie fauor to receiue a small courtesie, where [Page 508] we offer to giue great. Haman is called, the King comes to Est­hers table; and now highly plea­sed with his entertainment, hee himselfe solicits her to propound that suit, for which her modesty would, but durst not solicit him: Bashfulnesse shall leese nothing at the hand of wel-gouerned great­nesse.

Yet still Esthers suit stickes in her teeth, and dares not come forth without a further preface of time, and expectation; Ano­ther banquet must passe, ere this reckning can be giuen in. Other suitors wait long for the deliue­rie of their petition; longer for the receit of their answer: Here the King is faine to wait for his suit: Whether Esthers hart would [Page 509] not yet serue her to contest with so strong an aduersary, as Haman, without further recollection; or whether she desired to get better hold of the King, by indearing him with so pleasing entertain­ments; or whether shee would thus ripen her hopes, by work­ing in the mind of king Ahasuerus a fore-conceit of the greatnesse, and difficulty of that suit, which was so loath to come forth; or, whether she meant thus to giue scope to the pride, and malice of Haman, for his more certaine ru­ine: Howsoeuer it were, to mor­row is a new day, set for Esthers second banquet, & third petition.

The King is not inuited with­out Haman; Fauors are sometimes done to men, with a purpose of [Page 510] displeasure; Doubtlesse Haman tasted of the same cates with his master; neither could hee in the forehead of Esther read any other characters, then of respect, and kind applause, yet had shee then, in her hopes, disigned him to a iust reuenge. Little do we know, by outward cariages, in what termes we stand with either God or men.

Euery little winde raiseth vp a bubble; How is Haman now exalted in himselfe with the sin­gular grace of Queene Esther; and begins to value himselfe so much more, as hee sees himselfe higher in the rate of others opi­nion.

Only surly, and sullen Mordecai is an allay to his happinesse; No [Page 511] edict of death can bow the knees of that stout Iew: yea the notice of that bloody cruelty of this A­gagite, haue stiffned them so much the more: Before, he lookt at Ha­man as an Amalekite, now, as a persecutor. Disdaine and anger looke out at those eyes, and bid that proud enemy doe his worst. No doubt, Mordecai had beene listening after the speed of Queen Esther; how shee came in to the King, how she was welcom'd with the golden scepter, and with the more precious words of A­hasuerus; how shee had intertai­ned the King, how shee pleased; the newes had quit his sackcloth, and raised his courage to a more scornfull neglect of his professed aduersary.

[Page 512] Haman comes home, I know not whether more full of pride, or of rage; calls an inward coun­sell of his choise friends, together with his wife; makes a glorious report of all his wealth, magnifi­cence, height of fauor, both with the King and Queene; and at last, after all his sun-shine, sets in this cloudy epilogue, Yet all this auai­leth me nothing, so long as I see Mor­decai the Iew sitting at the Kings gate. It is seldome seene that God allowes euen to the greatest dear­lings of the world, a perfect con­tentment; something they must haue to complaine of, that shall giue an vnsauory verdure to their sweetest morsels; and make their very felicity, miserable.

The wit of women hath wont [Page 513] to be noted for more sudden and more sharpe. Zeresh the wife of Haman sets on foot that motion of speedy reuenge, which is ap­plauded by the rest. Let a gallowes be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow, speake thou to the King, that Mordecai may be hanged thereon; then goe thou in merily with the King, vn­to the banquet. I doe not heare thē say; Be patient a while, thou hast already set Mordecai his last day; the month Adar will not be long in comming; the determination of his death hath made him de­sperate, let him in the meane time eate his owne heart in enuy at thy greatnesse; but they rather ad­uise of a quicke dispatch. Malice is a thing full of impatience, and hates delay of execution, next vn­to [Page 514] mercy. Whiles any grudge lies at the heart, it cannot bee freelie cheerfull. Forced smiles are but the hypocrisie of mirth. How happy were it for vs, if we could be so zealously carefull to remoue the hindrances of our true spi­rituall ioy, those stubborne corruptions, that will not stoope to the power of grace.

MORDECAI honored by HAMAN.

THe wit of Zeresh had like to haue Esther. 6. gone beyond the wit of Esther; had not the working prouidence of the Almighty con­triued these euents, beyond all hopes, all conceits, Mordecai had beene dispatched, ere Esters secōd banket. To morrow was the day pitched for both their de­signes; had not the streame beene inexpectedly turned, in vaine had the Queene blamed her delayes; [Page 516] Mordecaies breakfast had preuen­ted Esthers dinner: for certainly, hee that had giuen to Haman so many thousand liues, would ne­uer haue made dainty, vpon the same suit, to anticipate one of those, whom he had condemned to the slaughter: But, God meant better things to his Church, and fetches about all his holy purpo­ses, after a wonderfull fashion, in the very instant of oportunity: Hee that keepeth Israel, and neither slumbreth, nor sleepeth, causeth sleepe to depart that night from him that had decreed to root out Israel. Great Ahasuerus, that com­manded an hundred and seuen and twenty prouinces, cannot command an houres sleepe. Po­uerty is rather blessed with the [Page 517] freedome of rest, then vvealth, and power: Cares and surfet vvith-hold that from the great, vvhich presseth vpon the spare diet, and labour of the meanest. Nothing is more tedious then an eager pursuit of denied sleepe: vvhich (like to a shadow) flyes away so much faster, as it is more followed: Experience tels vs, that this benefit is best solicited by neglect; and soonest found when vve haue forgotten to seeke it.

Whether to deceiue the time, or to bestow it well; Ahasuerus shall spend his restlesse houres in the Chronicles of his time. No­thing is more requisite for Prin­ces, then to looke backe vpon their owne actions, and euents, and those of their predecessors; [Page 518] The examination of fore-past actions makes them wise, of e­uents, thankfull, and cautelous.

Amongst those voluminous registers of Acts & Monuments, which so many scores of prouin­ces must needs yeeld, the booke shall open vpon Mordecaies disco­uery of the late treason of the two Euruches: the reader is turned thither, by an insensible sway of prouidence: Our most arbitrary or casuall actions are ouer-ruled by an hand in heauen.

The King now feeles afresh the danger of that conspiracy; and (as great spirits abide not to smo­ther or bury good offices) in quires into the recompence of so loyall a seruice, What honour and dignity bath beene done to Mordecai for this? [Page 519] Surely Mordecai did but his duty; he had hainously sinned, if hee had not reuealed this wicked tre­chery; yet Ahasuerus takes thought for his remuneratiō: How much more carefull art thou, ô God of all mercies, to reward the weake obediences of thine (at the best) vnprofitable seruants?

That which was intended to procure rest, sets it off; King A­hasuerus is vnquiet in himselfe, to think that so great a merit should lye, but so long, neglected; nei­ther can he find any peace in him­selfe, till hee haue giuen order for a speedy retribution: hearing therefore by his seruants, that Ha­man was below in the Court, hee sends for him vp, to consult with him, What should be done to the man [Page 520] whom the King delighteth to honour: O maruellous concurrence of cir­cumstances, drawne together by the infinite vvisedome, and po­wer of the Almighty: Who but Haman should be the man? And vvhen should Haman bee called to aduise of Mordecaies honour, but in the very instant, vvhen hee came to sue for Mordecaies hang­ing? Had Ahasuerus but slept that night, Mordecai had beene that morning aduanced fifty cubits higher then the earth, ere the king could haue remembred to vvhō he vvas beholden.

What shall vvee say then to re­concile these crosse-passions in Ahasuerus? Before he signed that decree of killing all the Iewes, hee could not but know that a Iew [Page 521] had saued his life; and now, after that he hath enacted the slaughter of all Iewes, as rebels, he is giuing order to honour a Iew, as his pre­seruer. It were strange if great persons in the multitude of their distractions should not let fall some incongruities.

Yet, vvho can but think that king Ahasuerus meant vpon some second thoughts to make amends to Mordecai? neither can he choose but put these two together; The Iewes are appointed to death, at the suit of Haman; This Mordecai is a Iew; how then can I doe more grace to him, that hath saued my life, then to command him to be honored by that man who vvould spill his?

When Haman heard himselfe [Page 522] called vp to the bed-chamber of his master, he thinks himselfe too happy in so early an oportunity of presenting his suit; but yet more in the pleasing question of Ahasuerus; vvherein he could not but imagine that fauour forced it selfe vpon him vvith strange im­portunity; For how could hee conceiue that any intention of more then ordinary honor could fall besides himselfe? Selfe-loue, like to a good stomach, drawes to it selfe what nourishment it likes; and casts off that which of­fends it. Haman will bee sure to bee no niggard in aduising those ceremonies of honour, which he thinkes meant to his owne per­son. Could hee haue once drea­med that this grace had been pur­posed [Page 523] to any vnder heauen, be­sides himselfe, he had not beene so lauish in counselling so pom­pous a shew of excessiue magni­ficence. Now the Kings owne royall apparell, and his owne Steed is not sufficient, except the royall Crowne also make vp the glory of him, who shall thus tri­umph in the kings fauour. Yet all this were nothing in base hands: The actor shall be the best part of this great pageant. Let this appa­rell, and this horse, be deliuered to one of the Kings most noble Princes, that they may aray the man withall, whom the King delighteth to honour, and bring him on horse backe through the streets of the City, and proclaime be­fore him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the King delighteth to ho­nour. [Page 524] Honour is more in him that giues, then him that receiues it: To be honoured by the vnwor­thy is little better then disgrace; No meaner person will serue to attend this Agagite, in his suppo­sed greatnesse, then one of the noblest Princes. The ambition is too high flowne that seekes glory in the seruility of equals.

The place addes much to the act; There is small hart in a con­cealed honour; It is nothing vn­lesse the streets of the city Shushan be witnesses of this pompe, and ring with that gracious accla­mation.

The vaine harts of proud men can easily deuise those meanes, whereby they may best set out themselues. Oh that wee could [Page 525] equally affect the meanes of true and immortall glory. The heart of man is neuer so cold within him, as when from the height of the expectation of good, it falls into a sudden sense of euill: So did this Agagites. Then the King sayd to Haman, make hast, and take the apparell, and the horse, as thou hast said, and doe euen so to Mordecai the Iew, that sitteth at the Kings gate; Let nothing faile of all that thou hast said. How was Haman thunder­stricken with this killing word? Doe thou so to Mordecai? I dare say all the honors that Ahasuerus had heaped vpon Haman, cannot counteruaile this one vexation: Doubtlesse, at first, he distrusts his eare, and then muzes whether the King be in earnest; at last, when [Page 526] he heares the charge so seriously doubled, and findes himselfe for­ced to beleeue it, hee beginnes to thinke, What meanes this vncon­ceiuable alteration? Is there no man in all the Court of Persia to bee pickt out for extraordinary honor, but Mordecai? Is there no man to bee pickt out for the per­formance of this honour to him, but Haman? haue I but one proud enemie in all the world, and am I singled out to grace him? Did it gall me to the heart, and make all my happinesse tedious vnto mee, to see that this Iew would not bow to me, & must I now bow to him? That which he would rather dye, and forfait the life of all his nation, then doe to mee, notwithstanding the Kings com­mand; [Page 527] shall I bee forced by the Kings command to doe vnto him? Yea, did hee refuse to giue but a cap, and a knee to my great­nesse; and must I lacquay so base a fellow through the streets, must I be his herald to proclaime his honour through all Shushan? Why doe I not let the King know the insolent affronts that hee hath of­fered me? Why doe I not signifie to my Soueraigne, that my errand now was for another kinde of aduancement to Mordecai? If I obtaine not my desired reuenge, yet, at least, I shall preuaile so far, as to exempt my selfe from this officious attendance vpon so vn­equall an enemy. And yet, that motiō cānot be now safe; I see the Kings heart is (vpon what groūd [Page 528] so euer) bent vpon this action; should I flye off neuer so little (af­ter my word so directly passed) perhaps my coldnesse, or opposi­tion might be construed as some wayward contestation with my master: Especially, since the ser­uice that Mordecai hath done to the King, is of an higher nature, then the despight which he hath done to mee. I will, I must giue way for the time; mine humble yeeldance, (when all the cariage of this businesse shall bee vnder­derstood) shal (I doubt not) make way for mine intended reuenge: Mordecai, I will honor thee now, that by these steps, I may ere long raise thee many cubits higher. I will obey the command of my soueraigne in obseruing thee, that [Page 529] he may reward the merit of my loyalty, in thine execution.

Thus resolued, Haman goes forth, with a face and heart full of distraction, full of confusion; and addresses himselfe to the at­tyring, to the attending of his old aduersary, and new master, Mor­decai; What lookes doe we now think were cast vpō each other, at their first greeting? their eyes had not forgotten their old language; Certainly, when Mordecai saw Haman come into the roome where he was, he could not but thinke; This man hath long thir­sted for my blood, and now hee comes to fetch it; I shall not liue to see the successe of Esther, or the fatall day of my nation: It was knowne that morning in the [Page 530] Court, what a lofty gibbet Ha­man had prouided for Mordecai; and why might it not haue comne to Mordecaies eare? What could he therefore now imagine other, then that he was called out to that execution? But, when he saw the royall robe that Haman brought to him; he thinks, Is it not enough for this man to kill mee, but he must mock me too, What an addition is this to the former cruelty? thus to insult, and play vpon my last distresse? But, when he yet saw the royall crowne rea­dy to be set on his head, and the Kings owne horse richly furni­shed, at his gate, and found him­selfe raised by Princely hands, in­to that royall seat, he thinks; what may all this meane? Is it the pur­pose [Page 531] of mine aduersary that I shal dye in state? Would he haue me hangd in triumph? At last, when hee sees such a traine of Persian Peeres attending him, with a graue reuerence; and heares Ha­man proclaime before him, Thus shall it bee done to the man whom the King delighteth to honour; finding this pompe to be serious, & well meant, hee imagines (in all like­lihood) that this inexpected chāge proceeds from the suit of his Est­her; now, he begins to lift vp his head, and to hope well of him­selfe, and his people, and could not but say within himselfe, that he had not fasted for nothing. O the wondrous alteration that one morning hath made in the court of Persia; he that was yesternight [Page 532] despised by Hamans footmen, is now waited on by Haman, and all his fellow-Princes; Hee that yester-night had the homage of all knees but one, and was ready to burst for the lacke of that, now doth obeysance to that one, by whom hee was wilfully neglec­ted; It was not Ahasuerus that wrought this strange mutation, it was the ouer-ruling power of the Almighty, whose immediate hād would thus preuent Esthers suit, that he might challenge all the thanke to himselfe. Whiles Prin­ces haue their owne wills, they must doe his; and shall either ex­alt, or depresse according to di­uine appointment.

I should commend Hamans obedience in his humble condis­cent [Page 533] to so vnpleasing, and harsh a command of his master, were it not, that either he durst doe no other, or that hee thus stoopt for an aduantage. It is a thanklesse respect that is either forced, or for ends: True subiection is free and absolute; out of the con­science of duty, not out of feares, or hopes.

All Shushan is in an amaze at this sudden glory of Mordecai, and stu­dies how to reconcile this day with the thirteenth of Adar; Mor­decai had reason to hope well; It could not stand with the honour of the King, to kill him whom he saw cause to aduance; neither could this be any other, then the beginning of a durable promoti­on; otherwise, what recompence [Page 534] had at houres riding beene to so great a seruice?

On the other side, Haman droupes, and hath changed passi­ons with Mordecai; Neither was that Iew euer more deeply afflic­ted with the decree of his owne death, then this Agagite was with that Iewes honour. How heauy doth it lye at Hamans heart, that no tongue, but his, might serue to proclaime Mordecai happy: Euen the greatest mignons of the world must haue their turnes of sorrow.

With a couered head, and a de­iected countenance, doth hee ha­sten home, and longs to impart his griefe, where he had receiued his aduice: It was but cold com­fort that hee finds from his wife [Page 535] Zeresh, and his friends. If Morde­cai be of the seed of the Iewes, before whom thou hast begunne to fall, thou shalt not preuaile against him, but shalt surely fall before him: Out of the mouth of Pagans, O God, hast thou ordained strength, that thou maist still the enemy, and the auenger. What credit hath thy great name won with these bar­barous nations, that they can out of all experience make maximes of thine vndoubted protection of thy people, and the certaine ruine of their aduersaries? Men finde no difference in themselues; the face of a Iew lookes so like other mens, that Esther and Mordecai were not (of long) taken for what they were: He that made them, makes the distinction betwixt [Page 536] them; so as a Iew may fall before a Persian, & get vp, and preuaile; but if a Persian (or whosoeuer of the Gentiles) begin to fall before a Iew, he can neither stay, nor rise: There is an inuisible hand of om­nipotency that strikes in for his owne, and confounds their op­posites. O God, neither is thine hand shortned, nor thy bowels straitned in thee; thou art still and euer thy selfe; If wee be thy true spirituall Israel, neither earth nor hell shall preuaile against vs; we shall either stand sure, or surely rise, whiles our enemies shall lick the dust.

HAMAN hanged. MORDECAI aduanced.

HAmans day is now comne; That ven­geāce Esther 7. 8. which hath hitherto slept, is now awake, and rouzeth vp it selfe to a iust execu­tion; That heauy morning was but the preface to his last sorrow, and the sad presage of his friends is verified in the speaking; While the word was in their mouthes, the messengers were at the doore to fetch Haman to his funerall-banquet.

[Page 538] How little do we know what is towards vs? As the fishes that are taken in an euill net, and as the Eccles. 9. 12 birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sonnes of men snared in an euill time, when it falleth suddenly vpon them.

It was (as Haman conceiued) the onely priuiledge of his dear­nesse, and the comfort of his pre­sent heauinesse, that he only was called with the King, to Esthers banquet, when this onely was meant for his bane: The face of this inuitation was faire, and pro­mised much; and now the inge­nuous man begins to set good constructions vpon all euents. Surelv (thinkes he) the King was tyed in his honor to giue some publique gratification to Morde­cai; [Page 539] so good an office could de­serue no lesse, then an houres glo­ry; But little doth my master know what termes there are be­twixt me, and Mordecai; had he fully vnderstood the insolencies of this Iew, and should notwith­standing haue inioined me to ho­nour him, I might haue had iust cause to complaine of disgrace, and disparagement; but now, since all this businesse hath beene caried in ignorance, and casualty, vvhy doe I wrong my selfe in be­ing too much affected vvith that vvhich was not ill meant? Had either the King, or Queene, aba­ted ought of their fauour to mee, I might haue dined at home; now this renued inuitation argues me to stand right in the grace of both: [Page 540] And why may not I hope, this day, to meet with a good occa­sion of my desired reuenge? How iust will it seeme to the King, that the same man whō he hath pub­likely rewarded for his loyalty, should now bee publiquely pu­nished for his disobedience?

With such like thoughts Ha­man cheares vp himselfe; and ad­dresses himselfe to the royall ban­quet, with a coūtenāce that wold fain seem to forget his mornings taske: Esther workes her face to an vnwilling smile vpon that hatefull guest; and the King (as not guilty of any indignity that he hath put vpon his fauorite) frames himselfe to as much cheer­fulness, as his want of rest would permit. The table is royally fur­nished [Page 541] with all delicate confecti­ons, with all pleasing liquors: King Ahasuerus so eates, as one that both knew hee was, and meant to make himselfe, wel­come: Haman so poures in, as one that meant to drowne his cares; And now, in this fulnesse of cheere, the King hungers for that long-delayed suit of Queene Esther; Thrice, hath he graciously call'd for it; and (as a man constāt to his owne fauours) thrice hath he, in the same words vowed the performance of it, though to the halfe of his Kingdome: It falls out oftentimes, that when large promises fall suddenly from great persons, they abate by leisure; and shrinke vpon cold thoughts; here King Ahasuerus is not more libe­rall [Page 542] in his offer, then firme in his resolutions; as if his first word had beene, like his law, vnaltera­ble. I am ashamed to misse that steddinesse in Christians, which I finde in a Pagan. It was a great word that he had said, yet he eates it not, as ouer-lauishly spoken: but doubles, and trebbles it with hearty assurances of a reall prose­cution; whiles those tongues which professe the name of the true God, say, and vnsay at plea­sure; recanting their good purpo­ses, contradicting their owne iust ingagements vpon no cause, but their owne changeablenesse.

It is not for Queene Esther to driue off any longer, the same wisedome that taught her to de­ferre her suit, now teaches her to [Page 543] propound it; A well chosen sea­son is the greatest aduantage of a­ny action; which as it is seldome found in hast, so is too often lost in delay: Now therefore with an humble and gracefull obey­sance, and with a countenance ful of modest feare, and sad grauity, she so deliuers her petition, that the King might see, it was necessi­ty that both forc't it vpon her, & wrung it from her. If I haue found fauour in thy sight O King, and if it please the King, let my life bee giuen me at my petition, and my people at my request: Epectation is either a friend or an enemy, according to the occasion: Ahasuerus lookt for some high and difficult boon; now, that he heares his Queene beg for her life, it could not bee, [Page 544] but that the surplusage of his loue to her must be turned into fury against her aduersary; and his zeale must bee so much more to her, as her suit was more meek & humble. For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slaine, and to perish; but if we had beene sold for bondmen, & bondwome, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not counteruaile the Kings damage. Craf­ty men are sometimes choaked with their owne plots. It was the profer of ten thousand talents wherewith Haman hoped both to purchase his intended reuenge, and the reputation of a worthy patriot; that summe is now laid in his dish, for a iust argument of malicious corruption; for, well might Esther plead; If wee Iewes [Page 535] deserued death, what needed our slaughter to be bought out? and if we deserued it not, what hor­rible cruelty was it to set a price vpon innocent blood? It is not any offence of ours, it is the only despight of an enemy that hath wrought our destruction.

Besides, now it appeares the King was abused by mis-infor­mation; the aduersary suggested that the life of the Iewes could not stand with the Kings profit; whereas their very bondage should bee more damage to the state, thē all Hamans worth could counteruaile. Truth may bee smothered, but it cannot dye; it may be disguised, but it will bee knowne; it may bee suppressed, but it will triumph.

[Page 536] But what shall wee say to so harsh an aggrauation? Could Est­her haue beene silent in a case of decreed bondage; who is now so vehement in a case of death? Cer­tainly, to a generous nature, death is farre more easie then bondage; why would she haue indured the greater, and yet so abhorres the lesse? Was it for that the Iewes were already too well inured to captiuity; and those euils are more tolerable wherewith wee are ac­quainted: Or, was it, for that there may be hopes in bondage, none in death? Surely, either of them were lamentable, and such as might deserue her humblest de­precation.

The Queene was going on, to haue said, But, alas, nothing [Page 537] will satisfie our bloody enemie, saue the vtter extirpation of mee, and my nation; when the impa­tient rage of the King interrupts her sentence in the midst, and (as if he had heard too much already, and could too easily supply the residue of her cōplaint) snatches the word out of her mouth, with a furious demand; Who is he, and where is he that durst presume in his heart to doe so? It was the interest of Queene Esthers person that rai­sed this storme in Ahasuerus; set that aside, how quietly, how me­rily was the determined massacre of the Iewes formerly digested? Actions haue not the same face when we looke vpon them with contrary affections.

Now Queene Esther musters [Page 538] vp her inward forces, and with an vndaunted courage, fixing her angry eyes vpon that hated Aga­gite, shee saies, The aduersary, and enemy is this wicked Haman. The word was loath to come forth, but it strikes home at the last. Ne­uer till now did Haman heare his true title; Before some had stiled him, noble; others great; some, magnificent, and some perhaps, vertuous; onely Esther giues him his owne, wicked Haman; Ill-de­seruing greatnesse doth in vaine promise to it selfe a perpetuitie of applause: If our waies be foule, the time shall come, when after all vaine flattery, after all our mo­mentanie glory, our sins shall be ript vp; and our iniquities laid be­fore vs to our vtter confusion. [Page 539] With what consternation did Haman now stand? How doe we thinke he lookt to heare him­selfe thus enstyled, thus accused, yea, thus condemned? Certainly, death was in his face, and horror in euery of his ioynts; no sense, no limme knowes his office: Faine would he speake, but his tongue falters, and his lips tremble; faine would he make apologies vpon his knees, but his hart failes him; and tells him the euidence is too great, and the offence aboue all pardon: Onely guiltinesse, and feare look through his eyes vpon the enraged countenance of his master; which now bodes no­thing to him but reuenge, and death.

In what a passionate distem­per [Page 540] doth this banquet shut vp? King Ahasuerus flyes from the table, as if hee had beene hurried away with a tempest. His wrath is too great to come forth at his mouth; onely his eye tels Haman that he hates to see him, & vowes to see his dispatch: For solitari­nesse, and not for pleasure, doth hee now walke into his garden; and thinkes with himselfe; What a monster haue I fauoured? Is it possible that so much cruelty and presumption should harbour in a brest that I thought ingenuous? Could I bee so bewitched as to passe so bloody a decree? Is my credulity thus abused by the tre­cherous subtilty of a miscreant whom I trusted? I confesse it was my weake rashnesse to yeeld [Page 541] vnto so prodigious a motion, but it was the villany of this Agagite, to circumuent me by false sugge­stions; He shall pay for my error; the world shall see, that as I ex­ceeded in grace, so I wil not come short in iustice. Haman, thy guil­ty blood shall expiate that inno­cent blood, which thy malice might haue shed.

In the meane time, Haman, so soone as euer he could recouer the qualme of his astonishment, fin­ding himselfe left alone with Queene Esther, looseth no time, spareth no breath to mitigate her anger, which had made way to his destruction. Doubtlesse, with many vowes, and teares, and de­ierations, he labours to cleare his intentions to her person; bewai­ling [Page 542] his danger, imploring her mercy, confessing the vniust ex­tent of his malice, profering in­deauors of satisfaction: Wretched man that I am, I am condemned before I speake, and when I haue spoken, I am condemned: Vpon thy sentence, O Queene, I see death awaits for me, in vaine shall I seeke to auoid it; It is thy will that I should perish; but let that little breath I haue left, acquit me so farre with thee, as to call heauen and earth to record, that in regard of thee, I dye innocent: It is true that mine impetuous malice miscarried me against the nation of the Iewes, for the sake of one stubborne offender; but did I know there was the least drop of Israelitish blood in thy sa­cred [Page 543] person? could I suspect that Mordecai, or that people, did ought concerne thee? Let not one death be enough for me if I would euer haue entertained any thought of euill against nation, or man, that should haue cost but a frowne from thee: All the court of Persia can sufficiently witnesse how I haue magnified and ado­red thee, euer since the royall crowne was set on thy head; nei­ther did I euer faile to doe thee all good offices vnto that my Soue­raigne Master, whom thou hast now mortally incensed against me. O Queene, no hand can saue my life, but thine, that hath as good as bereaued it: show mercy to him, that neuer meant but loyalty to thee: As euer thou [Page 544] wouldst oblige an humble and faithfull vassall to thee, as euer thou vvouldst honour thy name, and sexe, with the praise of tender compassion, take pitty vpon me, and spare that life vvhich shall be vowed to thy seruice: and, wher­as thy displeasure may iustly al­ledge against mee that rancorous plot for the extirpation of that people, vvhom I, too late, know to be thine, let it suffice that I hate, I curse mine owne cruelty; and onely vpon that condition shall beg the repriuall of my life, that I shall worke, and procure by thy gracious ayd, a full defeazance of that vniust execution. O let fall vpon thy despairing seruant one word of fauour to my displeased Master, that I may yet liue.

[Page 545] Whiles hee vvas speaking to this purpose, hauing prostrate himselfe (for the more humilitie) before the queene, and spread his armes in a vehement imploration vp to her bed; the King comes in, and, as not vnwilling to mis­construe the posture of him, vvhom he now hated, saies, what, will hee force the Queene also before me in the house? That vvhich Ha­man meant as an humble suppli­ant, is interpreted as from a pre­sumptuous offender; How oft­might he haue done so, and more, vvhiles he vvas in fauour, vncen­sured? Actions are not the same vvhen the man alters. As charity makes a good sense of doubtfull occurrents, so preiudice and dis­pleasure takes all things (though [Page 546] well-meant) at the vvorst. It is an easie thing to picke a quarrell, vvhere vve intend a mischiefe.

The wrath of the King is as a messenger of death: Whiles these vvords were yet in the mouth of Ahasuerus, Haman, in turning his head towards the King, is sud­denly muffled for his execution; he shall no more see either face, or Sun: he shall bee seene no more but as a spectacle of shame, and horror: and now he thinkes, Wo is me whose eyes serue me onely to foresee the approch of a disho­nourable, and painfull death! what am I the better to haue been great? O that I had neuer beene, Oh that I could not be: How too truly haue Zeresh and my friends foretold me of this heauy destiny? [Page 547] Now am I ready to feele what it is that I meant to thousands of innocents; I shall dye with paine and ignominie: Oh that the con­science of mine intended murder could die with me. It is no maruel if wicked men find nothing but vtter discomforts in their end: rather then faile, their former hap­pinesse shall ioyne with their im­minent miseries, to torment thē. It is the iust iudgement of God that presumptuous sinners shold be swallowed vp of those euills, which they would not feare; Happy is that man, who hath grace to fore-see, and auoyd those waies, which will lead him to a perfect confusion. Happy is hee that hath so liued that hee can ei­ther welcome death as a friend, [Page 548] or defie it as an enemy.

Who was euer the better for fa­uour past? those that had before kissed the feet, and smiled in the face of Haman, are now as ready to couer his head, and helpe him to the gallowes. Harbonah one of the Chamberlaines, seasonably tells the King how stately a gib­bet Haman had newly set vp for well-deseruing Mordecai, within his owne palace.

I heare not one man open his mouth to intercede for the offen­der, to pacifie the King, to excuse or lesse the fact; euery one is ready to pull him down that is falling, to trample on him that is downe; yet no doubt, there were some of these Courtiers whom Haman had obliged; Had the cause been [Page 549] better, thus it would haue beene. Euery curre is ready to fall vpon the dog that he sees werryed; But here, it was the iust hand of God to set off all hearts from a man that had beene so vnreasonably mercilesse; and to raise vp ene­mies (euen among friēds) to him, that had professed enmity to Gods Church: So let thine ene­mies perish, ô Lord, vnsuccored, vnpitied. Then the King said, hang him thereon: There can bee no truer iustice then in retaliation; who can complaine of his own measure: Behold the wicked tra­uaileth Psal. 7. 14. with iniquity, and hath concei­ued mischiefe, and brought forth fals­hood. He made a pit and digged it, & is falne into the ditch that hee made. His mischiefe shall returne vpon his [Page 550] owne head, and his violent dealing shal come downe vpon his owne pate.

There hangs Haman, in more reproch, then euer he stood in ho­nor; and Mordecai (who is now first knowne for what hee was) succeeds his fauour, and changes inheritances with his enemy; for whiles Haman inherits the gibbet of Mordecai, Mordecai inherits the house and honor of Haman. O Lord, let the malice of the wic­ked come to an end, but establish thou the iust.

One houre hath changed the face of the Persian Court; what stability is there in earthly great­nesse? He who in the morning all knees bowed vnto, as more then a man, now hangs vp like a despised vermin, for a prey to the [Page 551] rauens: He, who this morning was destin'd to the gallowes, now rules ouer Princes; neither was it for nothing, that hee this day rode in triumph: The Kings ring that was taken from Haman, is now giuen to Mordecai, as the pledge of his authority; and hee that euen now sate in the gate, is called vp next to the throne. Wic­kednesse, and honest innocence haue now payd their debts to both their clients.

Little ioy would it yet haue been to Esther, that her enemy was dead, her kinsman aduanced, if still her people must for all this expect their fatall day: Her next suit therfore is for the safety of her nation, in the countermand of that bloody decree, which Ha­man [Page 552] had obtained against them: That which was surrepticiously gotten, and rashly giuen, is so much more gladly reuersed; by how much mercy is more plea­sing to a good nature, then cruell iniustice. Mordecai hath power to endite, seale, send out letters of fa­uor to the Iewes, which were causlesly sentenced to the slaugh­ter. If a Persian law might not be reuersed, yet it might be counter­charged: Mordecai may not write, Let no Iew be slaine, he may write, Let the Iewes meet, and stand for their liues against those that would slay them. This command flyes af­ter the former, so fast, as if it would ouer-take that, which it cannot recall; The Iewes are re­uiued with this happy tydings, [Page 553] that they may haue protection as well as enmity; that authority will not be their executioner; that their owne hands are allowed to be their auengers.

Who would imagine that af­ter publike notice of this alteratiō at the Court; when the world could not choose but know the malicious ground of that wrong­full edict, the shamefull death of the procurer, the power of the party opposite; any one should be found, throughout all the pro­uinces, that would once lift vp his hand against a Iew? that, with his owne danger, would indea­uor to execute a controlled de­cree? The Church of God should cease to bee it selfe, if it wanted malicious persecution; [Page 554] there needs no other quarrell thē the name, the religion of Israel.

Notwithstanding the known fauour of the King, and the pa­tronage of Mordecai, the thirteenth of Adar is meant to be a bloody day; Haman hath too many abet­tors in the Persian dominions; these ioyne together to performe that sentence, whereof the author repented: The Iewes take hart to defend themselues, to kill their murtherers. All the prouinces are turn'd into a field of ciuill war; wherein innocence vanquisheth malice. The Iewes are victors, & not onely are aliue, but are feared; the most resist them not, many as­sist them, & some become theirs: The countenance of the great leads the world at pleasure; feare [Page 555] of authority swayes thousands that are not guilty of a consciēce.

Yea, besides the liberty of de­fence, the Iewes are now made their owne Iusticers; That there may be none left from the loynes of that accursed Agagite, (who wold haue left none of the Iewish seed) they slay the ten sons of Ha­man; & obtaine new daies of fur­ther executions; Neither can death satisfie their reuēge; those ten sons of Haman shall, in their very car­casses beare the reproach of their father, and hang aloft vpon his gallowes.

Finally, no man doth, no man dares frowne vpon a Iew; they are now becomne Lords in the midst of their captiuity; no mar­uell if they ordaine, and celebrate [Page 556] their ioyfull Purim, for a perpetu­all memory, to all posterities, of their happy deliuerance. It were pity that the Church of God should not haue sun-shines, as well as stormes, and should not meet with interchanges of ioy in their warfare, before they enter vpon the vnchange­able ioy of their endlesse tri­umph.

FINIS.

Post-script to the READER.

I May not but tell my Reader, there was a mistaking in the Post-script of my late large volume; Wherein the Printer vndertooke the Authors promise, to publish no more, till he should finish his whole labour, in a full second Tome. Whereas I onely yeel­ded, for the incouragement of the buyer, to adde nothing to the first. Should these haue stayed the leasure of my meditations vpon the new Testament; Some readers would haue complained to bee held too long fasting; Euen this small intermissiō hath beene call'd on with no small impor­tunity of many; whose suggestion was no other then iust; that, as on the one side I might prouide for the ease of many buyers by an entire publication: So, on the o­ther side, I should discontent no fewer, [Page] who hauing furnished themselues with the seuerall volumes of my Contemplati­ons already published, should be forced to breake the sute, and to want the remai­ning parts. Out of these considerations, I was not vnwilling to send forth these thoughts, after their fellowes; beseeching my reader not to hasten his expectation of my labours vpon the residue of the new Testament, which, vpon some priuate reasons, haue resolued to pace more slow­ly towards the publike light. God make these, and them, as profitable, as they are well meant to the Common good.

Faults of the Presse.

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