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Baal, why didst thou give way to this last sacrifice? why didst not thou cut off these idolaters, before this upshot of their wickedness? was it, that thou mightest be sure of their guiltiness ? was it, that their number, together with their sin, might be coinplete? What acclamations were here to Baal ! what joy in the freedom of their revived worship! when all on the sudden, those, that had sacrificed, are sacrificed. The soldiers of Jehu, by his appointment, rush in with their swords drawn, and turn the temple into a slaughter-house. How is the tune now changed ! what shrieking was here! what out-cries ! what running from one sword to the edge of another ! what scrambling up the walls and pillars ! what climbing into the windows ! what vain endeavours to escape that death which would not be shunned! whether running, or kneeling, or prostrate, they must die.
The first part of the sacrifice was Baal's, the latter is God's. The blood of beasts was offered in the orie, of men in the other: the shedding of this was so much the more acceptable to God, by how much these men were more beasts than those they sacrificed. O happy obedience! God was pleased with a sacrifice from the house of Baal: the idolaters are slain, the idols burnt, the house of Baal turned to a draught, though even thus less unclean, less noisome, than in the former perfumes; and, in one word, Baal is destroyed out of Israel.
Who, that had seen all this zeal for God, would not have said, Jehu is a true Israelite? Yet he, that rooted out Ahab, would not be rid of Jeroboam : he, that destroyed Baal, maintained the two calves of Dan and Bethel. That idolatry was of a lower rank, as being a mis-worship of the true God; whereas, the other was a worship of the false. Even the easier of both is heinous, and shall rob Jehu of the praise of his uprightness.
A false heart may laudably quit itself of some one gross sin, and in the mean time hug some lesser evil that may demn it ; as a man recovered of a fever may die of a jaundice, or a dropsy: we lose the thank of all, if we wilfully fail in one.
It is an entire goodness that God cares for: perhaps such is the bounty of our God, a partial obedience may be rewarded with a temporal blessing (as Jehu's severity to Ahab shall carry the crown to his seed for four generations); but we can never have any comfortable assurance of an eternal retribu
tion, if our hearts and ways be not perfect with God. Woe be to us, O God, if we be not all thine! we cannot but everlastingly depart from thee, if we depart not from every sin. Thou hast purged our hearts from the Baal of our gross. idolatries; 0 clear us from the golden calves of our petty corruptions also, that thou mayest take pleasure in our uprightness, and we may reap the sweet comforts of thy glorious remuneration !
Athaliah and Joash. On the woeful ruins of the house of good Jehoshaphat! Jehu hath slain two and forty of his issue; Athaliah hopes to root out the rest. This daughter of Ahab was not like to be other than fatal to that holy line; one drop' of that wicked blood was enough, both to impure and spill all the rest, which affinity had mixed with it.
It is not unlike, that Ahaziah, betaking himself to the society of Jehoram's wars, committed the sway of his sceptre to his mother Athaliah. The daughter of Jezebel cannot but be plotting : when she hears of the death of Ahaziah and his brethren, inflicted by the heavy hand of Jehu, she straight casts for the kingdom of Judah. The true heirs are infants : their minority gives her both colour of rule, and opportunity of an easy extirpation. Perhaps her ambition was not more guilty, than her zeal of Baalism: she saw Jehu, out of a detestation of idolatry, trampling on the blood of Jehoram, Jezebel, Ahaziah, the sons of Ahab, the brethren of Ahaziah, the priests and prophets of Baal, and, in one word, triumphing in the destruction both of Ahab and his gods out of Israel ; and now she thinks, Why should not I destroy Jehoshaphat and his God out of Judah?
Whoever saw an idolater that was not cruel ? Athaliah must needs let out some of her own blood out of the throat of Ahaziah's sons; yet she spares not to shed it out of a thirst of sovereignty. O God, how worthy of wonder are thy just and merciful dispensations ! in that thou sufferest the seed of good Jehoshaphat to be destroyed by her hand, in whose affinity he offended, and yet savest one branch of this stock of Jehoshaphat, for the sake of so faithful a progenitor.
Wicked Athaliah, couldst thou think God would so far forget his servant David, though no other of those loins had seconded his virtues, as to suffer all his seed to be rooted out of the earth? This vengeance was for thy father Ahab. The man, according to God's own heart, shall have a lineal heir to succeed in his throne, when thou and thy father's house shall. have yanished into forgetfulness.
For this purpose hath the wise Providence of God ordained a Jehosheba, and matched her in the priestly tribe. Such reverence did Jehoram king of Judah, though degenerated into the idolatry of his father-in-law Ahab, bear to this sacred function, that he marries his daughter to Jehoiada the priest. Even princesses did not then scorn the bed of those that served at God's altar. Why should the gospel pour contempt upon that which the law honoured ?
The good lady had too much of Jehoshaphat in her, to suffer the utter extirpation of that royal seed : she could not,, doubtless, without the extreme danger of her own life, save the life of her nephew Joash : with what a loving boldness doth she adventure to steal him from amongst those bleeding carcasses in the chamber of death! Her match gave her opportunity to effect that, which both nature and religion moved her to attempt: neither know I, whether more to wonder at the cunning of the device, or the courage of the enterprise ; or the secrecy of the concealment, or the happiness of the success. Certainly Athaliah was too cruelly careful to forget this so late born son of Ahaziab; of all the rest, his age would not suffer him to be out of her eye. In all likelihood therefore she must needs have missed so noted a corpse, had there not been a substitution of some other dead child in his room : in that age, the favour is not so distinguishable, especially of a dead face. Without some pious deceit, this work could never have been effected; else had the child been secretly subduced, and missed by his bloody grandmother: her perpetual jealousy had both expected a surviving heir, and continued a curious and unavoidable search ; both which were now shunned at once, whilst Athaliah reckons him for dead, whom Jehosheba bath preserved. Mischief sometimes fails of those appointments, wherein it thinks to have made the surest work; God laughs in heaven at the plots of tyrants, and befools them in their deepest projects. He had said to David, “Of the fruit of thy body will I set
upon thy seat;” in vain shall earth and hell conspire to frustrate it.
Six years bath Joash and his nurse becn hid in a close cell of the temple : those rooms were destined only to the holy tribe; yet now rejoice to harbour such a guest : the rigour of the ordinary law must yield to cases of so important necessity.
All this could not possibly be done, and continued, without the privity of many faithful priests and Levites, who were as careful to keep this counsel, as hopeful of the issue of it. It is not hard for many honest hearts to agree in a religious secrecy; needs must those lips be shut, which God hath
Judah hath not been used to such a yoke ; long had it groaned under the tyranny, not of a woman only, but of an idolatrous Sidonian; if any of that sex might have claimed that sceptre, none had so much right to it as Jehosheba herself. But good Jeboiada the priest, who had rather to be a loyal guardian to the king, than an husband to a queen, now finds. time to set on foot the just title of Joash, and to put him into the misusurped throne of his father Ahaziah.
In the seventh year, therefore, he sends for the captains, and the guard; and, having sworn them secrecy, by undoubted witnesses, makes faith unto them of the truth of their native prince, thus happily rescued from the bloody knife of his merciless grandmother, marshals the great business of bis inaugus ration, gives every one his charge, sets every one his station, and so disposes of his holy forces, as was most needful for the safety of the king, the revenge of the usurper, the prevention of tumults, the establishment of the crown upon the owner's head in peace and joy.
There was none of all these agents, who did not hold the business to be his own; every true subject of Judah was feelingly interested in this service; neither was there any of them, who was not secretly heartburned, all this while, with the bateful government of this idolatrous tyranness: and now this inward fire is glad to find a vent; how gladly do they address themselves to this welcome employment! The greatest part of this secret band were Levites, who might therefore both meet together with least suspicion, and be more securely trusted by Jehoiada, under whom they served. Even that holy priest of God, instead of teaching the law, sets the guard, orders the captains, ranges the troops of Judah; and, instead of a censer, brings forth the spears and shields of David ; the temple is for the present a field, or an artillery-yard; and the ephods are turned into harness. That house, in the rearing whereof not the noise of an hammer might be heard, now admits of the clashing of armour, and the secret murmurs of some military achievement. No circumstances, either of place or calling, are so punctual, as that public necessity may not dispense with their alteration.
All things are now ready for this solemnity: each man rejoices to fix upon his own footing, and longs to see the face of their long-concealed sovereign, and vows his blood to the vindication of the common liberty, to the punishment of a cruel intruder. Now Jehoiada brings forth unto them the king's son, and presents bim to the peers and people; hardly can the multitude contain itself from shouting out too soon; one sees in his countenance the features of his father Ahaziah, another of bis grandfather Jehoram, a third professes to discern in him some lines and fashion of his great grandfather Jehoshaphat; all find in his face the natural impressions of majesty, and read in it the hopes, yea, the prophecies, of their future happiness. Not with more joy than speed doth Jehoiada accomplish all the rites of the coronation. Before that young king could know what was done to bin, he is anointed, crowned, presented with the book of the law. Those ceremonies were instructive, and no doubt Jehoiada failed not to comment upon them in due time to that royal pupil.
The oil wherewith he was anointed, signified his designation to that high service; and those endowments from heaven, that might enable him to so great a function.
The crown, wherewith he was adorned, signified that glory and majesty which should both encourage and attend his princely cares.
The book of the testimony signified the divine rules and directions, whereto he must frame his heart and actions, in the wielding of that crown, in the improvement of that oil.
These three, the oil, the crown, the testimony, that is, inward powers, outward magnificence, true piety and justice, make up a perfect prince; none of these may be wanting : if there be not a due calling of God, and abilities meet for that greatness, the oil faileth; if there be not a majestic grace and royalty that may command reverence, the crown is missing; if there