Imágenes de páginas

and the rule of Solomon is true: ' Is there any

• tiling whereof one may say, behold, this is new ?—

* It hath been already in the old time that was be4 fore us V That a king might shed his brother's blood, was proved by Solomon upon Adonijah; that he might alienate the crown from his natural heirs, David had given proof; but these had good ground of their doings. They which follow examples which please them, will neglect the reasons of those examples if they please them not, and rest contented with the practice, as more willingly shewing what they may do, than acknowledging why Solomon slew his brother that had begun one rebellion, and was entering into another. 'Jehoram slew all 'his brethren, which were better than he3.' David purchased the kingdom, and might the more freely dispose of it, yet he disposed of it as the Lord appointed. If Jehoram, who had lost much and gotten nothing, thought that he might alienate the remainder at his pleasure; or if Ahaziah sought to cut off the succession of his brethren, or of their issue,— either of these was to be answered with the words which Jehoiada the priest used afterwards, in declaring the title of Joash: * Behold, the king's son must 'reign ; as the Lord hath said of the sons of Da'vid.' Wherefore, though I hold it very probable, that Athaliah did pretend some title, whatsoever it might be, to the crown of Judah, yet it is most certain that she had thereunto no right at all, but only got it by treachery, murder, and open violence ; and so she held it six whole years, and a part of the seventh, in good seeming security.

Sect. II.

How Jehu spent his time in Israel, so that he could not molest Athaliah. In all this time Jehu did never go about to disturb her; which, in reason he was likely to desire,

t Ecclcs. i. 10, 3 2 Chron. xxi. 13.

being any enemy to her whole house. But he was occupied at the first in establishing himself, rooting out the posterity of Ahab, and reforming somewhat in religion; afterwards in wars against the Aramite, wherein he was so far overcharged, that hardly he could retain his own, much less attempt upon others. Of the line of Ahab there were seventy living in Samaria, out of which number Jehu, by letter, advised the citizens to set up some one as king, and to prepare themselves to fight in his defence. Hereby might they gather how confident he was, which they well understood to proceed from greater power about him than they could gather to resist him. Wherefore they took example by the two kings whom he had slain, and being exceedingly afraid of him, they offered him their service; wherein they so readily shewed themselves obedient, that in less than one day's warning, they sent him the heads of all those

{>nnees, as they were enjoined by a second letter from rim. After this, he surprised all the priests of Baal by a subtlety, feigning a great sacrifice to their god, by which means he drew them altogether into one temple, where he slew them; and, in the same zeal to God, utterly demolished all the monuments of that impiety.

Concerning the idolatry devised by Jeroboam, no king of Israel had ever greater reason than Jehu to destroy it. For he needed not to fear lest the people should be allured unto the house of David; it was (in appearance) quite rooted up, and the crown of Judah in the possession of a cruel tyranness ; he had received his kingdom by the unexpected grace of God; and further, in regard of his zeal expressed in destroying Baal out of Israel, he was promised, notwithstanding his following the sin of Jeroboam, that the kingdom should remain in his family to the fourth generation. But all this would not serve; he would needs help to piece out God's providence with his own circumspection; doing therein like a foolish greedy gamester, who, by stealing a needless card to assure himself of winning a stake, forfeits his whole test. He had questionless displeased many, by that which he did against Baal; and many more he should offend by taking from them the use of a superstition so long practised as was that idolatry of Jeroboam. Yet all these, how many soever they were, had never once thought upon making him king, if God, whom (to retain them) he now forsook, had not given him the crown, when more difficulties appeared in the way of getting it than could at any time after be found in the means of holding it.

This ingratitude of Jehu drew terrible vengeance of God upon Israel, whereof Hazael king of Damascus was the executioner. The cruelty of this barbarous prince we may find in the prophecy of Elizeus, who foretold it, saying: ' Their strong cities shalt

* thou set on fire; and their young men shalt thou

* slay with the sword, and shaft dash their infants a.' gainst the stones, and rend in pieces their women

* with child." So did not only the wickedness of Ahab cause the ruin of his whole house, but the obstinate idolatry of the people bring a lamentable misery upon all the land. For the fury of Hazael's victory was not quenched with the destruction of a few towns, nor wearied with one invasion; but he 'smote them in all the coasts of Israel,*' and wasted all the country beyond the river of Jordan. Notwithstanding all these calamities, it seems that the people repented not of their idolatry, (' for in those days the Lord began to loath Israel';) but'rather it is likely, that they bemoaned the noble house of Ahab, under which they had beaten those enemies to whom they were now a prey, and had bravely fought for the conquest of Syria, where they had enlarged their border, by winning Ramoth-Gilead, and compelled Benhadad to restore the cities which his father had

[blocks in formation]

-won: whereas now they were fain to make woeful shifts, living under a lord that had better fortune and courage in murdering his master that had put him in trust, than in defending his people from their cruel enemies. Thus it commonly falls out, that they who can find all manner of difficulties in serving him to whom nothing is difficult, are, instead of the ease and pleasure to themselves propounded by contrary courses, overwhelmed with the troubles which they sought to avoid; and therein byGod whom they first forsook, forsaken, and left unto the wretched labours of their own blind wisdom, wherein they had reposed all their confidence.

These calamities falling upon Israel, kept Athaliah safe on that side, giving her leisure to look to things at home; as having little to do abroad, unless it were so that she held some correspondency with Hazael,

father king Asa, who had done the like. And some probability that she did so, may be gathered out of that which is recorded of her doings. For we find, that this * wicked Athaliah and her children broke 4 up the house of God; and all things that were de4 dicated for the house of the Lord, did they bestow • upon Baalim." Such a sacrilege, though it proceeded from a desire to set out her own idolatry, with such pomp as might make it the more glorious in the people's eyes, was not likely to want some fair pretext of necessity of the state so requiring: in which case others before her had made bold with that holy place, and her next successor was fain to do the like, being thereunto forced by Hazael, who perhaps was delighted with the taste of that which was formerly thence extracted for his sake,

Sect. III.

Of Athaliah's government.

pretending therein to imitate

[ocr errors]

Under this impious government of Athaliah, the devotions of the priests and Levites was very notable, and served (no doubt) very much to retain the people in the religion taught by God himself, howsoever the queen's proceedings advanced the contrary. For the poverty of that sacred tribe of Levi must needs have been exceeding great at this time; all their lands and possessions in the ten-tribes being utterly lost, the oblations and other perquisites, by which they lived, being now very few, and small, and the store laid up in better times under godly kings, being all taken away by shameful robbery. Yet they upheld in all this misery the service of God, and the daily sacrifice, keeping daily their courses, and performing obedience to the high priest, no less than in those days wherein their entertainment was far better.

Sect. IV.

Of the preservation of Joash.

Jehoiada then occupied the priesthood, an honourable, wise, and religious man. To his carefulness it may be ascribed, that the state of the church was in some slender sort upheld in those unhappy times. His wife was Jehoshabeth, who was daughter of king Jehoram, and sister to Ahaziah, a godly lady and virtuous, whose piety makes it seem that Athaliah was not her mother, though her access to the court argue the contrary; but her discreet carriage might more easily procure her welcome to her own father's house, than the education under such a mother could have permitted her to be such as she was. By her care Joash the young prince that reigned soon after, was conveyed out of the nursery, when Athaliah destroyed all the king's children, and was carried secretly into the temple, where as secretly he was brought up. How it came to pass, that this young Child was not hunted out, when his body was missing;

« AnteriorContinuar »