nothing but the very words which the prophets of candour had dropped. "And Micaiah said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills as sheep that have not a shepherd; and the Lord said, These have no master," their king was killed; "let them return every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? And Micaiah said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the hosts of heaven standing by him, on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up, and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner and another said on that manner."

Now we come to the fountain-head of candour, where all false prophets and false prophetesses fill their pitchers, to supply and entertain the minds of a candid public. "And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, wherewith? and he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets; and he said, thou shalt persuade him and prevail also ; go forth and do so." This was the spirit that clothed them all with bowels of mercy, and that filled their hearts with that candour and sweetness which entertained not only the king and his nobles, but a candid public at large; they were in the sweetest union, unanimous in their predictions, and prophesied good with one mouth. But Mi

caiah, with his rancour, spleen, and bitterness, persists in his singularity. "Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee." Who could have thought that a lying spirit could be in the mouth of four hundred prophets, whose mouth prophesied nothing but good? Here is Micaiah, who is said to prophesy nothing but evil, opposing four hundred prophets, who are said to prophesy good with one consent; now, how is a candid public to judge? why this pudding must be proved by its spending. If the good prophecies are true, the victory will be given to Ahab, and if Micaiah's evil prophecies be true, then Ahab loses his life, and Israel is scattered, having no master; but as it may be some time before God decides the point, it will be necessary to give Micaiah a good drubbing, if it is but to caution others. "But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?" This man had got the Spirit of the Lord, according to his own account, and he prophesied good to a candid public; but as Micaiah did not belong to the public, he had no part of the candour; all that he got was a knock on the head to extort a confession; "Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. And the king of Israel said,

take Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace." If Micaiah has nothing but these bitter herbs to live on till the king returns in peace, he will have a starving and long imprisonment. But the prophet knew better; "If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me; and he said, hearken O people, every one of you;" read 1 Kings twenty-second chapter. Micaiah stuck to his text, and the Lord preached the sermon, the application of which was the death of Ahab, of Jezebel, of the royal family, and of all the prophets, who fell by the sword; and so they arrived at the eternal habitations, and in the good company of that spirit from which all their candour, sweetness, and good prophecies came Thus it often happens, that men of candour perish in their sweetness, while those that are said to prophesy no good, but evil, prolong their lives and die in peace; and what shall we say to these things? why, if God be for these bitter prophets, who can be against them? Those that prophesied nothing but good to men, prophesied nothing but lies, and God was against them; the other prophesied nothing but evil, and yet he prophesied nothing but truth, and God was with him: therefore I conclude, that it is better to prophesy evil by the Spirit of truth from God, though false prophets smite us and a candid public con

demn us, than to prophesy good by the spirit of lies from the devil, though all the world approve and admire the moderation, openness, sweetness, compassionate bowels, tender pity, and candid disposition of the prophet: it is not what men call good, for they sometimes call evil good, Isaiah v. 20; but what God calls truth, that must make people free.

The river Thames, which is of inestimable worth to this metropolis, being composed of the Thame and the Isis; Rickmansworth, the river Mole, &c. &c. may remind thee of that river the streams whereof make glad the city of God, Psalm xlvi. 4. You may embark at the Tower and sail to the Nore, to the Downs, and into the English channel, and so round the world, if you keep a proper distance from the poles; nor will you feel much want of either light or heat if you keep under the torrid or temperate zone. So every vessel of mercy that embarks in the river of the waters of life shall make a glorious and eternal voyage; he shall sail in his God, and end in an eternity of pleasure that knows neither bottom nor shore: the river of regeneration, but no other, leads to this: "There the glorious Lord will be to us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ships pass thereby; then is the prey of a great spoil divided, the lame take the prey. And the inhabitants shall not say I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity."

This is the glorious end we have in view; pos

sessed by our covenant head and representative, who in our nature, name, and persons has taken possession, and appears in the presence of God for us, who are kept by Almighty power through faith to the same. It is secured by promise, by oath, by covenant, by the blood of the testator, by the broad seal of heaven, and by the omnipotence and faithfulness of divine, immutable, and infinite veracity; the firstfruits are gathered by the hand of faith, and are a satisfactory earnest or sweet foretaste to the expectation of hope; we are predestinated and called, and shall therefore be glorified; we are ransomed, and shall return with songs and everlasting joy upon our head, Isaiah xxxv. 10; we are enabled to believe, and shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end; we are loved with an everlasting love; partakers of everlasting life; clothed with an everlasting righteousness; saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; we shine in everlasting light; are heirs of an eternal inheritance; and shall possess an everlasting kingdom. O what has grace done for us! we are wooed and espoused, and shall therefore be wedded and enjoyed; we shall bear the image and likeness of our royal head; possess a mansion of his own preparing; and be no less than heirs of God and joint heirs with the King of kings, and Lord of lords! This world is our furnace, the angels are our guard, regeneration is our road, Christ is our end, and heaven our home.

I hope thou wilt not be offended at this public present. I know alms ought to be given in secret,

« VorigeDoorgaan »