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· BOOK XII.
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE, MY SINGULAR GOOD LORD,
, THE LORD HAY, BARON OR SALEY, ONE OF AIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE
RIGHT HONOURABLE : UPON how just reason these my Contemplations go forth so late after their fellows, it were needless to give account to your Lordship, in whose train I had the honour, since my last, to pass both the Sea and the Tweed. All my private studies have gladly vailed to the public services of my sovereign master. No sooner could I recover the happiness of my quiet thoughts, than I renewed this my divine task ; wherein I cannot but profess to place so much contentment, as that I wish not any other measure of my life than it. What is this, other than the exaltation of Isaac's delight, to walk forth into the pleasant fields of the Scriptures, and to meditate of nothing under heaven ? Fea, what other than Jacob's sweet vision of angels, climbing up and down that sacred ladder, which God hath set between heaven and earth? Yea, to rise yet higher, what other than an imitation of holy Moses, in his conversing with God himself, on the Horeb of both Testaments? And if I may call your Lordship forth a little from your great affairs of court and state, to bless your eyes with this prospect, how happy shall you confess this change of objects ! and how unwillingly shall you obtain leave of your thoughts, to return unto these sublunary employments !
Our last discourse left God's ark amongst the Philistines; now we return to see what it doth there, and to fetch it thence : wherein your Lordship shall find the revenges of God never so deadly, as when he gives most way unto men; the vain confidence of wickedness ending in a late repentance ; the fearful plagues of a presumptuous sauciness with God, not prevented with the honesty of good intentions ; the mercy of God accepting the services of an humble faithfulness in a meaner dress. From thence you shall see the dangerous issue of an affected innovation, although to the better; the errors of credulity and blind affection in the holicst governors, guilty of the people's discontentment; the stubborn headiness of a multitude that once finds the reins slack in their necks, not capable of any pause, but their own fall; the untrusty promises of a fuir outside, and a plausible entrance, shutting up in a woeful disappointment. What do I forem
stall a discourse so full of choice? Your Lordship shall find every line useful; and shall willingly confess that the story of God can make a man not less wise than good. ,
Mine humble thankfulness knows not how to express itself otherwise, than in these kind of presents, and in my hearty prayers for the increase of your honour and happiness, which shall never be wanting from Your Lordship's sincerely and
thankfully devoted, .. JOSEPH HALL.
THE ARK AND DAGON.
Iemen did not mistake God, they could not arise to such height of impiety.' The acts of his just judgment are imputed to impotence: that God would send his ark captive to the Philistines, is so construed by them, as if he could not keep it. The wife of Phineas cried out, that glory was departed from Israel; the Philistines dare say in triumph, that glory is departed from the God of Israel.
The ark was not Israel's, but God's: this victory reaches higher than to men. Dagon had never so great a day, so many sacrifices, as now, that he seems to take the God of Israel prisoner: where should the captive be bestowed, but in custody of the victor? It is not love, but insult, that lodges the ark close beside Dagon, What a spectacle was this, to see uncircumcised Philistines laying their profane hands upon the testimony of God's presence! to see the glorious mercy-seat under the roof of an idol! to see the two cherubims spreading their wings under a false god!
Oh the deep and holy wisdom of the Almighty, which overreaches all the finite conceits of his creatures; who, while he seems most to neglect himself, fetches about most glory to his own name. He winks and sits still on purpose, to see what men would do, and is content to suffer indignity from his creature for a time, that he may be everlastingly magnified in his justice and power: that honour pleaseth God and men best, which is raised out of contempt.
The ark of God was not used to such porters. The Philistines carry it unto Ashdod, that the victory of Dagon may be more glo. rious. What pains superstition puts men unto, for the triumph of a false cause! And if profane Philistines can think it no toil to carry the ark where they should not, what a shame is it for us, if we do not gladly attend it where we should! How justly may God's truth scorn the imparity of our zeal!
If the Israelites did put.confidence in the ark, can we marvel that the Philistines did put confidence in that power, which, as they thought, had conquered the aik? The less is ever subject unto the greater : what could they now think, but that heaven and earth were
theirs? Who shall stand out against them, when the God of Israel hath yielded ? Security and presumption attend ever at the threshold of ruin.
God will let them sleep in this confidence; in the morning they shall find how vainly they have dreamed. Now they begin to find they have but gloried in their own plague, and overthrown nothing but their own peace. Dagon hath' a house, when God hath but a tabernacle: it is no measuring of religion by outward glory, Into this house the proud Philistines come, the next morning, to congratulate unto their god, so great a captive, such divine spoils; and in their early devotions, to fall down before him, under whoin the God of Israel was fallen; and lo, where they find their god, fallen down on the ground upon his face, before whom they thought both his prisoner and theirs: their god is forced to do that, which they should have done voluntarily, although God cast down that dumb rival of his for scorn, not for adoration, ( ye foolish Philistines, could ye think that the same house could hold God and Dagon ? Could ye think a senseless stone a fit companion and guardian for the living God! Had ye laid your Dagon upon his face prostrate before the ark, yet would not God have endured the indignity of such a lodging ; but now that ye presume to set up your carved stone, equal to his cherubims, go read your folly in the floor of your temple, and know that he, which cast your god so low, can cast you lower."
The true God owes a shame to those, which will be making matches betwixt himself and Belial.
But this perhaps was only a mischance, or a neglect of attendance; lay to your hands, Oye Philistines, and raise up Dagon into his place. It is a miserable god that needs helping up : had ye not been more senseless than that stone, how could you choose but think, “ How shall he raise us abore our eneniies, that cannot rise alone? How shall he establish us in the station of our peace, what cannot hold his own foot ? If Dagon did give the foil unto the God of Israel, what power is it, that hath cast him upon his face, in his own temple ?" It is just with God, that those which want grace shall want wit too: it is the power of superstition, to turn men into those stocks and stones which they worship: They that make them, are like unto them.
Doubtless, this first fall of Dagon was kept as secret, and excused as well as it might, and served rather for astonishment than conviction. There was more strangeness than horror in that accident; that whereas Dagon had wont to stand and the Philistines tall down, now Dagon fell down and the Philistines stood, and must become the patrons of their own god. Their god worships them upon his face, and craves more help from them, than ever he could give: but if their sottis'iness can digest this, all is well. ,. Dagon is set in his place; and now those hands are lift up to bim, which helped to lift him up; and those faces are prostrate unto him, before whom he lay prostrate. Idolatry and superstition are not easily put out of countenance; but will the jealousy of the
mortow shell be establishi saigon
true God put it up thus ? Shall Dagon escape with a harmless fall? Surely, if they had let him lie still upon the pavement, perhaps that insensible statue had found no other revenge; but now, they will be advancing it to the rood-loft again, and affront God's ark with it, the event will shame them, and let them know how much God scorns a partner, either of his own making or theirs..
The morning is fittest for devotion; then do the Philistines flock to the temple of their god. What a shame is it for us to come late to ours! Although not so much piety as curiosity did now hasten their speed, to see what rest their Dagon was allowed to get in his own roof; and now behold their kind god is come to meet them in the way: some pieces of him salute their eyes upon the threshold. Dagon's head and hands over-run their fellows, to tell the Philistines how much they were mistaken in a god.
This second fall breaks the idol in pieces, and threats the same confusion to the worshippers of it. Easy warnings neglected end ever in destruction.
The head is for devising, the hand for execution: in these two powers of their god, did the Philistines chiefly trust; these are therefore laid under their feet, upon the threshold, that they might afar off see their vanity, and that, if they would, they might set their foot on that best piece of their god, whereon their heart was set.
There was nothing wherein that idol resembled a man, but in his head and hands; the rest was but a scaly portraiture of a fish; God would therefore separate from this stone, that part which had mocked man, with the counterfeit of himself, that man might see what an unworthy lump he had matched with himself, and set up above himself. The just quarrel of God is bent upon those means and that parcel, which have dared to rob him of his glory.
How can the Philistines now miss the sight of their own folly? How can they be but enough convicted of their mad idolatry, to see their god lie broken to morsels, under their feet; every piece whereof proclaims the power of him that brake it, and the stupidity of those that adored it? Who would expect any other issue of this act, but to hear the Philistines say, “ We now see how superstition hath blinded us :-Dagon is no god for- us; our hearts. shall never more rest upon a broken statụe : that only true God, which hath beater ours, shall challenge us by the right of conquest.”
But here was none of this; rather a further degree of their dotage follows upon this palpable conviction : they cannot yet suspect that god whose head they may trample upon; but, instead of hating their Dagon, that lay broken upon their threshold, they honour the threshold, on which Dagon lay, and dare not set their foot on that place which was hallowed by the broken head and hands of their deity. Oh the obstinacy of idolatry ; which, where it hath got hold of the heart, knows neither to blush nor yield, but rather gathers strength from that which might justly confound it! ....
The hand of the Almighty, which moved them not in falling upon their god, falls now nearer them upon their persons, and
strikes them in their bodies, which would not feel themselves stricken in their idol. Pain shall humble them whom shame can not. Those, which had entertained the secret thoughts of abominable idolatry within them, are now plagued in the inwardest and most secret part of their bodies, with a loathsome disease ; and now grow weary of themselves, instead of their idolatry.
I do not hear them acknowledge it was God's hand which had stricken Dagon their god, till now, they find themselves stricken. God's judgments are the rack of godless men: if one strain make them not confess, let them be stretched but one wrench higher, and they cannot be silent. The just avenger of sin will not lose the glory of his executions, but will have men know from whom they smart.
The emerods were not a disease beyond the compass of natural causes ; neither was it hard for the wiser sort, to give a reason of their complaint, yet they ascribe it to the hand of God. The knowledge and operation of secondary causes should be no prejudice to the first: they are worse than the Philistines, who, when they see the means, do not acknowledge the first Mover; whose active and just power is no less seen in employing ordinary agents, than in raising up extraordinary; neither doth he less smite by a common fever, than a revenging angel.
They judge right of the cause; what do they resolve for the cure? Let not the ark of the God of Israel abide with us ; where : they should have said, “ Let'us cast out Dagon, that we may pami cify and retain the God of Israel.” They determine to thrust out, the ark of God, that they might peaceably enjoy themselves and Dagon, Wicked men are upon all occasions glad to be rid of God, but they can with no patience endure to part with their sins; and while they are weary of the hand that punisheth them, they hold: fast the cause of their punishment.
Their first and only, care is to put away him, who, as he hath corrected, so can ease them. Folly is never separated from wick> edness. ; .
*. i. Their heart told them, that they had no right to the ark. A coun-, cil is called of their princes and priests. If they had resolved to send it home, they had done wiselý; now they do not carry it away, but they carry it about from Ebenezer to Ashdod, from Ashdod to Gath, from Gath to Ekron. Their stomach was greater than their conscience. The ark was too sore for them, yet it was too good for Israel; and they will rather die than make Israel happy. '
Their conceit, that the change of air could appease the ark, God useth to his own advantage; for by this means his power is known, and his judgment spread over all the country of the Phi. listines. What do these men now, but send the plague of God to their fellows? The justice of God can make the sins of men their mutual executioners. It is the fashion of wicked men, 'to draw their neighbours into the partnership of their condemnation. a
Wherésoever the ark goes, there is destruction. The best of YOL. I
' ., T. , IV.