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yard on earth, for a kingdom in heaven. Never any wicked man gained by the persecution of an innocent; never any innocent man was a loser by suffering from the wicked.
Neither was this judgment personal, but hereditary ; "I will take away thy posterity, and will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam.” Him that dieth of Ahab in the city, “the dogs shall eat:” and him that dieth in the field, “shall the fowls of the air eat.” Ahab shall not need to take thought for the traducing of this ill-gotten inheritance ; God hath taken order for his heirs, whom his sin hath made no less the heirs of his curse, than of his body. Their father's cruelty to Naboth hath made them, together with their mother Jezebel, dogs' meat. The revenge of God doth at last make amends for the delay. Whether now is Naboth's vineyard paid for ?
The man that had sold himself to work wickedness, yet rues the bargain. I do not hear Ahab, as bad as he was, revile or threaten the prophet, but he rends his clothes, and wears and lies in sackcloth, and fasts, and walks softly. Who that had seen Ahab would not have deemed him a true penitent? All this was the vizor of sorrow, not the face ; or if the face, not the heart; or if the sorrow of the heart, yet not the repentance; a sorrow for the judgment, not a repentance for the sin. The very devils howl to be tormented. Grief is not ever a sign of grace. Ahab rends his clothes, he did not rend his heart; he puts on sackcloth, not amendment; he lies in sackcloth, but he lies in his idolatry; he walks softly, he walles not sincerely. Worldly sorrow causeth death : happy is that grief for which the soul is the holier.
Yet what is this I see? this very shadow of repentance carries away mercy. It is no small mercy to defer an evil: even Ahab's humiliation shall prorogue the judgment : such as the penitence was, such shall be the reward; a temporary reward of a temporary penitence. As Ahab might be thus sorrowful, and never the better ; so he may be thus favoured, and never the happier. O God, how graciously art thou ready to reward a sound and holy repentance, who art thus indulgent to a carnal and servile dejection!
AHAB AND MICAIAH ; OR, THE DEATH OF AHAB. Who would have looked to have heard any more of the wars of the Syrians with Israel, after so great a slaughter, after so firm a league; a league not of peace only, but of brotherhood ? The halters, the sackcloth of Benhadad's followers were worn out, as of use, so of memory, and now they are changed for iron and steel. It is but three years that this peace lasts; and now that war begins which shall make an end of Ahab. The king of Israel rues his unjust mercy : according to the word of the prophet, that gift of a life was but an exchange ; because Ahab gave Benhadad his life, Benhadad shall take Ahab's; he must forfeit in himself what he hath given to another. There can be no better fruit of too much kindness to infidels. It was one article of the league betwixt Ahab and his brother Benhadad, that there should be a speedy restitution of all the Israelitish cities; the rest are yielded, only Ramoth-gilead is held back, unthankfully, injuriously. He that begged but his life, receives his kingdom, and now rests not content with his own bounds. Justly doth Ahab challenge his own, justly doth he move a war to recover his own from a perfidious tributary; the lawfulness of actions may not be judged by the events, but by the grounds. The wise and holy Arbiter of the world knows why, many times, the better cause hath the worst success. Many a just business is crossed for a punishment to the agent. Yet Israel and Judah were now pierced in friend
ship. Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah, had made affinity with Ahab the idolatrous king of Israel: and, besides a personal visitation, joins his forces with his new kinsman, against an old confederate. Judah had called in Syria against Israel ; and now Israel calls in Judah against Syria: thus rather should it be ; it is fit that the more pure Church should join with the more corrupt, against a common paganish enemy.
Jehoshaphat hath matched with Ahab; not with a divorce of his devotion. He will fight, not without God; “Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord to-day.” Had he done thus sooner, I fear Athaliah had never called him father : this motion was news in Israel. It was wont to be said, Inquire of Baal. The good king of Judah will bring religion into fashion in the court of Israel. Ahab had inquired of his counsellors; what need he be so devout, as to inquire of his prophets ? Only Jehoshaphat's presence made him thus godly. It is a happy thing to converse with the virtuous; their counsel and example cannot but leave some tincture behind them of a good profession, if not of piety. Those that are truly religious dare not but take God with them in all their affairs; with them they can be as valiant, as timorous without him.
Ahab had clergy enough, such as it was; four hundred prophets of the groves were reserved from appearing to Elijah's challenge: these are now consulted by Ahab: they live to betray the life of him who saved theirs. These care not so much to inquire what God would say, as what Ahab would have them say; they saw which way the king's heart was bent, that way they bent their tongues ; “Go up, for the Lord shall deliver it into the hands of the king.” False prophets care only to please ; a plausible falsehood passes with them above a harsh truth. Had they seen Ahab fearful, they had said, “Peace, peace;" now they see him resolute, “War and victory.” It is a fearful presage of ruin, when the prophets conspire in assentation.
Their number consent; confidence hath easily won credit with Ahab; we do all willingly believe what we wish. Jehoshaphat is not so soon satisfied; these prophets were, it is like, obtruded to him (a stranger) for the true prophets of the true God. The judicious king sees cause to suspect them, and now, perceiving at what altars they served, hates to rest in their testimony; “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?" One single prophet, speaking from the oracles of God, is more worth than four hundred Baalites: truth may not ever be measured by the poll. It is not number, but weight, that must carry it in a council of prophets. A solid verity in one mouth is worthy to preponderate light falsehood in a thousand.
Even king Ahab, as bad as he was, kept tale of his prophets, and could give account of one that was missing; “ There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” It is very probable that Micaiah was that disguised prophet, who brought to Ahab the fearful message of displeasure and death for dismissing Benhadad, for which he was ever since fast in prison, deep in disgrace. O corrupt heart of selfcondemned Ahab! If Micaiah spake true to thee, how was it evil ? If others said false, how was it good? And if Micaiah spake from the Lord, why dost thou hate him? This hath wont to be the ancient lot of truth, censure and hatred ; censure of the message, hatred of the bearer. To carnal ears the message is evil, if unpleasing; and, if plausible. good; if it be sweet, it cannot be poison ; if bitter it cannot be wholesome. The distemper of the receiver is guilty of this misconceit: in itself, every truth, as it is good, so amiable; every falsehood loathsome, as evil. A sick palate cries out of the
taste of those liquors which are well allowed of the healthful. It is a sign of a good state of the soul, when every vendure can receive his proper judgment.
Wise and good Jehoshaphat dissuades Ahab from so hard an opinion, and sees cause so much more to urge the consultation of Micaiah, by how much he finds him more unpleasing. The king of Israel, to satisfy the importunity of so great and dear an ally, sends an officer for Micaiah: he knew well, belike, where to find him : within those four walls, where unjust cruelty had disposed of that innocent seer; out of the obscurity of the prison, is the poor prophet fetched in the light of so glorious a confession of two kings, who thought this convocation of prophets not unworthy of their greatest representation of state and majesty: there he finds Zedekiah, the leader of that false crew, not speaking only, but acting his prediction. Signs were no less used by the prophets, than words; this arch flatterer hath made him horns of iron; the horn is forcible, the iron irresistible; by an irresistible force shall Ahab push the Syrians, as if there were more certainty in this man's hands, than in his tongue. If this son of Chenaanah had not had a forehead of brass for impudency, and a heart of lead for flexibleness to humours and times, he had never devised these horns of iron wherewith his king was gored unto blood. However, it is enough for him that he is believed, that he is seconded. All the great inquest of these prophets gave up their verdict to this foreman ; not one of four hundred dissented. Unanimity of opinion in the greatest ecclesiastical assemblies, is not ever an argument of truth; there may be as common, and as firm agreement in error.
The messenger that came for Micaiah, like a carnal friend, sets him in a way of favour; tells him what the rest had said, how they pleased; how unsafe it would be for him to vary, how beneficial to assent. Those that adore earthly greatness think every man