In those days there was no King in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
This chapter, the seventeenth of Judges, is the chapter which by the course of the calendar is proper to this very day. Not as now it is, for now by reason this day God sent us a King in Israel it hath a select service, both of Psalms and of chapters. But by order of the Church-service this chapter is for this day; and so it was this time four years, I am sure we all that then heard it have good cause to remember it. And though we have got us a new, it will not be amiss to call ourselves back to our old chapter, being this day come hither to render our thanks even for this very thing, that in these days it is not with us as in those days it was with them, but that to the joy and comfort of us all there is a King in Israel.
This, how great a benefit it is, it is not it may be the best way simply to inform ourselves, by Non erat Rex. Not simply, but sure to us as our nature is, to us I say, there is no way better. It is an old observation, but experience daily reneweth [169/170] it, that of Carendo magis quam fruendo; 'What is it to have, no better way to make us truly to value, than by feeling awhile how great a plague it is to be without.' Our nature surely is more sensible that way, and never taketh perfect impression of that we enjoy, but by the privation or want; nor understandeth thoroughly, in his diebus est, now there is one, but by those, in illis non erat. And that is our verse.
Of which this is the occasion. The book of the Judges, and the estate of the Judges now growing to an end, the Holy Ghost here beginneth to make a passage to the estate and book of the Kings. To which state this chapter (and so to the end of the book) is a preparative or introduction, to shew that now the time was at hand.
There should be Kings of his race, God first told Abraham by way of promise. That those Kings should come of Judah and the sceptre be his, Jacob foretold by way of prophecy. The duty of those Kings against the time came, was set down by Moses by way of provision long before. This shewed, Kings there should be.
But all things have a time, saith Solomon; and time hath a 'fulness' saith St. Paul. And till that time, it is not only a folly but a fault to press things out of season. We see, offer was twice made to Gideon to take it; by Abimelech, to get it; both came to nothing, the time was not yet come. But still as the time drew near every thing did co-operate, every thing made way and gave occasion to the purpose of God.
And now here, in this chapter, is set down the very first occasion on which God first misseth Kings; that for all the Judges one Micah, a private man of Mount Ephraim, he and his old mother, it took them in the heads they would have a new religion by themselves, and that was plain idolatry; and up with an idol they went. And because they lacked a priest, it came into Michah's head to give orders, and so he did. Why, could he be suffered? It was, and then cometh in this verse, This was all for want of a King. And when he had done with this, he goeth to another; and when with that to a third, disorder upon disorder. And still at the end of every one this cometh in, All these, because there was no King. Which all is nothing else but a preparative against the time came that God should give Kings; that they might [170/171] with joy receive that His gift, and with thanks celebrate it from year to year, do as we do now. And this is the sum.
Three points there are in it. Two are ad oculum, 'apparent,' the third by necessary inference. 1. The want of a King. 2. For want of a King what mischief ensued, 'Every man did what he thought good;' this in general. And thirdly, every man, but namely Micah; he went up with idols. For Micah's fact it was begat this verse, and so of necessity falleth into it. Those two, both general and particular disorder, are linked to the first as to the efficient cause, or rather deficient. For evil it is, et malum non habet efficientem sed deficientem causam, 'evil hath a deficient but no efficient cause.' For the want of some notable good, as here a King, is the cause of some notorious evil, as greater evil cannot possibly come to a people than to be in this case, every one to do what he lists.
For the handling of these, though in nature the cause be first (and so standeth it ever) to us, the effect first offereth itself, and through it as through the veil we enter into the cause; and so erunt novissimi primi, 'the last shall be first.' 1. First then, of Fecit quisque; 2. And then, of Non erat Rex.
In the former of these we have two parts: 1. The eye, rectum in oculis; 2. the hand, Fecit quique; 3. And then together, that what seemed to the eye the hand did, and that was mischief enough.
In the latter likewise three, 1, There was no King--in opposition to other estates; they had judges and priests, but no King. 2. No King in Israel, with reference to other nations. Not in Canaan, nor in Edom, but not in Israel; even there it is a want to want a King. 3. And then out of these, Quid faciat nobis Rex, 'what a King hath to perform.' To repress all insolencies, not only in general, but particularly this of Micah. Where will fall in, that the good or evil estate of religion doth much depend on the having or not having a King. For it is as if he should say, Had there been a King, this of Micah had never been endured. Now because there was not, religion first, and after it all went to wrack.
And last, we shall see how far all this doth touch us in matter of our bounden duty of thanks to God for this day.
'In those days when,' &c. What 'days' were those? were [171/172] they good or evil days? And this whole verse, is it set down by way of liking or complaint? At the first one would think that it were a merry world, if every man might do what he listed, that there were no harm in the world; they be fair words all. Right, and doing right, and the eye, the fairest member, not an evil word amongst them.
But yet sure those days were evil. This a complaint. Quasi ingeniscit super hæc Scriptura, 'the Scripture doth as it were fetch a deep sigh so often as it repeateth this verse,' and saith thus in effect; Tantu mala conciliat non habere Regem, so much mischief cometh there in Israel, or any where where there is no King, saith Theodoret.
I . To let you see then what a monster lurketh under these smooth terms, 'doing that which is right in our eyes.' Two parts there be, 1. The eye, 2. And the hand. To begin with the eye, and that which is right in the eye. There began all evil in the first tentation; even from this persuasion, they should need no direction from God or from any, their own eye should be their director to what was right, they should do but what was 'right in their own eyes.'
Three evils are in it. It is not safe to commit the judgment of what is right to the eye; and yet I know it is our surest sense, as that which apprehendeth greatest variety of differences. But I know withall, the optics, the masters of that faculty, reckon up twenty several ways, all which it may be and is deceived. The object full of deceit; things are not as they seem. The medium is not evenly disposed. The organ itself hath his suffusions. Take but one; that of the oar in the water. Though the oar be straight, yet if the eye be judge it seemeth bowed. And if that which is right may seem crooked, that which is crooked may seem right; so the eye no competent judge. The rule is the judge of right: if it touch the rule and run even with it, it is right; if it vary from the rule, let it seem to the eye as it will, it is awry. God saw this was not good; an express countermand we have from Him in Deuteronomy, 'You shall not do every man that which is right in his eyes;' that is, you shall have a surer rule of right than your eyes.
But admit we will make the eye judge, yet I hope not quisque, not every man's eye; that were too much. Many [172/173] weak and dim eyes there be, many goggle and mis-set, many little better than blind; shall all and every of these be allowed to define what is right? Some it may be, perhaps the eagle's; but shall the owl and all? I trow not. Many misshapen kinds of right shall we have if that be suffered; yea, otherwhile, divers of them contrary one to the other.
To go yet further. Say we would allow every eye his privilege--it were great folly to do it, but say we should--if we would allow it every one, yet not every one in suis. Not his own eye to direct his own doings, or as we say to sit judge in his own right. No not the eagle, not the best eye to be allowed to right itself. The judge himself cometh down from the bench, when his own right is in hearing. We all know, self-love, what a thing it is, how it dazzleth the sight; how every thing appeareth right and good, that appeareth through those spectacles. Therefore, 1. Not right by the eye; 2. At least, not every man's eye; 3. Nay, not any man's right by his own eye.
We shall never see this so well in the general, as if we look in some few examples upon it, in individuo. And that can we no where better than in this chapter, and those that follow it to the end of the book. They be nothing else but a commentary at large upon these words, 'Right in every man's eyes,' &c.
1.What say you to making and worshipping a graven image? Lay it to the rule: the rule is, Non facis, non adorabis. Then it is crooked and nought. Yet to Micah's eyes, and his mother's, a goodly graven image sheweth fair and well.
2. Go to the next chapter. What say you to burglary, robbing and rifling of houses, yea whole cities of harmless poor people, and cutting all their throats? Fie upon it, it is crooked. Put it to the men of Dan, they saw nothing but it was right enough.
3. Go the next of that. How think you by ravishing of women, and that to death? How? Away with that, let it not be once named; no man will think that right. Yes, they of Gibeah, in the nineteenth chapter, did, and stood to maintain it. You see a good gloss of this text. Upon the matter, there are no worse things in the world than these [173/174] were: if these seem straight, there is nothing but will seem so to the eye. There is no trusting in oculis.
2. But this is not all. I now pass to the next point; here is a hand too, Fecit quisque. Fecit is but one word; but there is more in this one than in all the former. For here at this breaketh in the whole sea of confusion, when the hand followeth the eye, and men proceed to do as lewdly as they see perversely. And sure the hand will follow the eye, and men do as it seemeth right to them, be it never so absurd that so seemeth. To die for it, Eve if her eye like it, her hand will have it: and Eve's children that have no other guide but their eye, if their eye rove at it, their hand will reach at it; there is no parting them. Therefore if a bad eye light upon a hand that hath strength, and there be not Rex, or the stronger bar, it will be done. You will see it in all the former. 1. Micah liked an idol well, Micah had a good purse; he told out two hundred shekels, and so up went the idol. 2. The men of Dan liked well of spoiling; they were well appointed, their swords were sharp, fecerunt, 'they did it.' 3. They of Gibeah: to their lust, rape seemed a small matter; they were a multitude, no resisting them; and so they committed that abominable villainy.
By this time we see what a mass of mischief there is on these few words. For sure if these all seemed right, and so seeming were done, then are we come to quidlibet a quolibet, any man do any thing; which is the next door to confusion, nay confusion itself. For so no man's soul shall be safe, if idolatry go up. Alas, what talk we of the soul they have least sense of it; talk to them of that they have feeling. No man's goods, or wife, or life, in safety, if this may go on thus. If robbery, rape, and murder be right, what is wrong?
See then now, what a woeful face of a commonwealth is here! Idols and murder seen and allowed for good, done and practised for good. Again, Micah, a private man, Gibeah a city, Dan a whole tribe; tribes, cities, families, all out of course. Out of course in religion, and not in religion alone but in moral matters; and so that the like never heard of, no not among the heathen.
Last, this was now not in a corner, but all over the land. Micah was at mount Ephraim, in the midst; Gibeah was at [174/175] one end, and Dan at the other. So in the midst and both ends, all were wrapped in the same confusion.
But what, shall this be suffered, and no remedy sought? God forbid.
First, the eye; error in the eye is harm enough, and order must be taken even for that. For men do not err in judgment but with hazard too their souls; very requisite therefore that men be travailed with, that they may see their own blindness. Then that the counsel be followed that 'eye-salve' be bought of Him and applied to the eyes, that that may seem to them right that is so indeed. This, if it may be, is best.
But if they be strongly conceited of their own sight, and marvel at Christ, (as they, John 9.4, 'What, are we blind trow?') and will not endure any to come near their eyes; if we cannot cure their eyes, what, shall we not hold their hands neither? Yes, in any wise. So long as they but see, though they see amiss, they hurt none but themselves, it is but suo damno, 'to their own hurt;' and that is enough, nay too much, it may be as much as their souls be worth; but that is all, if it stay there, and go no further than the eye. But when they see amiss, and that grossly; what, shall their hand be suffered to follow their eye? Their hand to be as desperate in misdoing as their eye dark in mistaking, to the detriment of others, and the scandal of all? That may not be.
We cannot pull men's eyes out of their heads, nor their opinions neither; but shall we not pinion their hands, or bind them to the peace? Yes, whatsoever become of rectum in oculis, order must be taken with fecit, or else farewell all. Foul rule we are like to have, even for all the world such as was here in Israel.
II. We see then the malady; more than time we sought out a remedy for it. That shall we best do, if we know the cause. The cause is here set down, and this it, Non erat Rex. Is this the cause? We would perhaps imagine many causes besides, but God passeth by them all and layeth it upon none but this, Non erat Rex. And seeing He hath assigned that only for the cause, we will not be wiser than He, but rest ourselves in it. The rather, for that ex ore inimici we have as much. For these miscreants whom he sets on work to bring [175/176] realms to confusion and to root out religion, that 'every one may do that is good in their own eyes,' to this point they all drive, ut ne sit Rex. Away with the King, that is their only way. Heaven and hell both are agreed, that is the cause.
To make short work then. If the cause be, There is no King, let there be one, that is the remedy: A good King will help all. If it be of absolute necessity, that neither Micah for his wealth, nor Dan for all their forces, nor Gibeah for all their multitude, do what they list; and if the miss of the Kings were the cause that all this were amiss; no better way to cease it, no better way to keep religion from idolatry, men's lives and goods in safety, their vessels in honour, than by Kings. No more effectual bar to Fecit quisque quod rectum in oculis, than Rex in Israel.
This will better appear if we take it in sunder: 'There was no King.' He doth not charge them with a flat anarchy, that there were no estates, no kind of government among them; but this only, 'There was no King.' What then? There were Priests: would they not serve? It seemed they would not. Phinehas was to look to their eyes: but somewhere there be such as Osee speaks of; Populus hic quasi qui contradicit Sacerdoti, This people will look to Phinehas' eyes; set their priests and preachers to school, and not learn of them but learn them divinity. The judges are to look to their hands: but there are too somewhere such as he speaketh of, Devorabunt judices; such as, if it take them in the head, will not stick to sup up, and swallow down their judges; specially, inter arma. How then, shall we have military government? Nay, that is too violent; and if it lie long, the remedy proves as ill as the disease. To me a plain evidence, that although all these were, all these were not perfect. There was one yet missing, that was to do this to better purpose than yet it had been done; and still he were had, they were not where they should be.
This is then God's means. We cannot say His only means, in that we see there are states that subsist without them. But this we may say, His best means. The best, saith the philosopher, for order, peace, strength, steadiness, and proves them all one by one. But best, say the Fathers, [176/177] for that had there been a better than this, God would not last have resolved on this. This is the most perfect. He last brought them to. Hither till they came, He changed their government: from Joshua a captain, to the Judges; from the Judges, to Eli and Samuel, Priests. But here when He had settled them, He changed no more. And this act of God in this change is enough to shew, where it is not, there is a defect certainly, and such a state we may repute defective.
Besides, you shall observe; of those three estates, which swayeth most, that in a manner doth overtop the rest, and like a foregrown member depriveth the other of their proportion of growth. The world hath seen it in two already, and shall daily more and more see it in the third. Requisite therefore there be one over all, that is, none of all, but a common Father to all, that may poise and keep them all in equilibrio, that so all the estates may be evenly balanced.
This act then of God in this change is enough to teach, that this Non erat Rex is a defect certainly; and where there is not one, we may report the estate for deficient. At least thus far, that God yet may change it into a more perfect, as He did His own. And again this, that it is not conformed to the government, simply the most perfect of all, the government of the whole; when as the inferior bodies are ruled by the superior, so a multitude by unity, that is, all by one. Thus far on these words, 'There was no King,' howsoever other states there were.
The next point is, 'No King in Israel.' That this is not noted as a defect in gross or at large, but even in Israel, God's own chosen people. It is a want, but even in Israel too, the want of a King. Truly Israel being God's own peculiar might seem to claim a prerogative above other nations in this, that they had the knowledge of His laws, whereby their eyes were lightened and their hands taught, and so the most likely to spare one. Others had not like light; yet this, non obstante their light and their law, and that they were God's own people, is no supersedeas for having a King. Of which there needeth no reason but this, that a King is a good means to keep them God's Israel. Here, for want of a King, Israel began and was fair onward to be no longer Israel, but even Babel; when [177/178] Micah, and by good reason any other as well as he, might set up religions and give orders themselves, as it were in open contempt of God and His law. So that the people of God can plead no exemption from this, since it is His own ordinance to make them and keep them the people of God.
Was it thus here in the Old Testament, and is it not so likewise in the New? Yea, even in the New too. For there St. Peter willeth them, that they be subject to 'the King,' as to the sovereign, or most excellent. And St. Paul goeth further, and expresseth it more strongly, in the style of parliament, and like a law-giver saith, Øpotass_sqw, Be it enacted that they submit themselves. And when St. Paul there had in his act said, omnis anima, that this act reacheth to 'every soul,' which was enough, yet because that seemed too general, St. Peter came after, and goeth to the very point and saith, gens sancta must do thus too; that is, there must be a King even on God's Israel. And what would we more?
I come to the third part. And to what end a King? Quid faciet nobis? 'What will a King do unto us?' It hath been said already; he will look that every one do not that which is good in his own, and evil in God's eyes. He will in his general care look to both parts, the eye and the hand. The eye, that men sin not blindly, for want of direction. The hand, that men sin not with a high hand, that is wilfully, for want of correction. He will there be good ophthalmists, with right eye-salve, that the sight may be cured, and things seem as they be, and not be as they seem. At the hardest, Si noluerunt intelligere, but the eye will rove and run astray, that the hand be bound to the good abearing. That they do it not; or if they do it, as do it they will, yea though there be a King, yet that they may not do it they will, yea though there be a King, yet that they may not do it impune, do it and nothing done to them for it, and scape the punishment due unto it. For that is the case, when there is no King in Israel. And if when there is one that be the case too, where have we been all this while? For if so, etiam non est Rex cum est Rex, 'then when there is a King there is no King,' or one in name but none in deed. Which as it is not good for the state, so neither is it safe for themselves. [178/179] To this, special regard will be had. Non enim frustra, saith St. Paul, 'for they bear not the sword in vain.'
2. That every one do not thus. Every one, but namely, which is the occasion of this text, that not Micah. For Micah's fact brought forth this first sight; that they were now come to this pass, that he or any such as he was might set up in his house any religion he would, and no man control him for it.. To look to every one therefore, but specially to Micah; and to care for all, but above all the matter of religion. Ne quisque videat quod rectum est there, that every one be not allowed to see visions there; at least, Ne quisque faciat, that see what they list they be not suffered to set them up; but if the eye will not be rectified, the hand be restrained.
And sure, no where doth the eye more miss, nor the hand swerve, than in this; and therefore no where more cause to call for a King than for this. One would think this were impertinent, and we were free enough from Micah. We are not. Even to this day do men still cast images or imaginations (all is one) in the mould of their conceits, and up they set them, at least for their own household to adore. And then if they can get such a fellow as is hereafter described, a Levite for ten shekels and a suit, (or because now the world is harder, ten pounds) they are safe, and there they have and hold a religion by themselves.
3. For evident it is by this text, setting up of false worship is the cause why Kings were missed, and the redress of it the cause why they were placed. The cause I say, and the first cause of their placing; and therefore this a part, and a principal part of this charge. I will touch them severally. 1. A part, to look to Micah and his false worship. Why this is matter ecclesiastical? It is so, and thereby it appeareth I think, that Kings have, and are to have a hand in matters of that nature; if religion were at a fault because there was no King, and that one there must be to set it right again. For is it once to be imagined that the cause of corrupt religion is laid on the want of a King, and yet when there is one he should not meddle with it? Rather the consequence is strong on the other side. Micah thus did, because there was then no King; therefore when there is one, he will look [179/180] better to it, that never a Micah of them all shall do the like. Thus it went when there was no king; after, when there was one, I find again the not taking away the high places, which were places merely religious, where the people did sacrifice, imputed still to the King as his fault; and yet shall he have nothing to do with high places, or sacrificing either there or any where else?
Very strange it were, that they who are by God Himself, by an express Ego dixi, termed 'gods,' should yet have nothing to do with God's affairs! And no less, than being termed by say nutritii, 'foster-fathers,' to whose care the Church is committed, to cherish and bring up, should yet be forbidden to intermeddle with the Church, in that which is of all fostering the principal part! Verily, when the Apostle speaketh of the service that Kings do unto God, he doth not only use the term of leitourgÕj, that is, 'public officer,' but di£konoj to, as it were God's 'deacon' or servitor, by a name peculiar to the Church offices; and this he useth twice for one other. It can therefore neither be denied nor doubted of, in that idolatry came up by defect of Kings, but that Kings were placed to pull down idolatry, and to plant and preserve the true service of god. In a word, there is a King in Israel that there may not be a Micah in Israel.
But this is not all, the text carrieth us yet further; that it is not only the charge of the King, but the very first and chief article in his charge. For this mark I pray you, that this is the first place in all the Scripture where, and the first cause why, Kings were missed; this the very first occasion, that drew this complaint from God. Being set down the disorders that then multiplied, other there were besides this; yet this He beginneth with, not with the outrage of Gibeah, or the riot of Dan, but with Micah's idoltary; as that which He chiefly misliked, and therefore would have first and chiefest care to see it reformed. This with God is first, and God was not well pleased it was not so with them. It is that wherewith God upbraideth them, Osee the tenth, with their hot taking the matter of Gibeah. Why were they to blame for it, being so villainous an act? No indeed, it was so good a piece of justice. This only it is God findeth fault with, that they could be so forward and fervent in the case of [180/181] wrong offered to a woman, and so cold and careless when his worship received so great a wound; so sensible of their own wrong, so past all feeling in His. For when injury was offered one of their concubines, they cry, 'The like was never seen in Israel.' They were all up in arms, and upon the point to root out the whole tribe of Benjamin. But when idolatry was set up, first here in a house, after in a whole tribe, even as it were in open defiance of God and His law, no man drew a sword; nay, no man so much as spake a word in reproof of it; not cry then, 'The like was never seen in Israel.' Their fathers were more tender in this point. They, upon the erecting of a thing but like an altar, but no altar indeed, were all ready to have bidden battle, till they were sufficiently satisfied that no such thing was meant. Here there is not a show of an altar, but (past a show) very idols, a whole house full of them, and no man saith to Micah so much as, What doest thou? This is that He blameth them for there. This it which He taketh in evil part and saith, He will trust them no longer with His worship; He will have one who shall look better to His worship than they had done.
One, that seeing that was the first cause that made God think of setting up Kings, will therefore think it his first duty, primum et ante omnia, to have regard of that point.
To conclude, if the want of Kings, Kings in Israel, be evil, as evil it is, being the cause of so much evil, it is God's will there should be remedy for it. That remedy is a King; it is God's will therefore there be Kings. St. Peter speaketh it totidem verbis. This is the will of God that ye be subject to your Kings.
Then secondly, being evil, it is God's will that Israel be not only kept from it at sometime, but at all. Evil is not to be allowed any, though never so short a time; but it agreeth well with his pleasure, that once and ever it be kept from Israel. Consequently, that there never be a time wherein it may be said, Non erat Rex. That there be not only Kings, but a succession of Kings; not only Rex, but sanguis, semen, stirps Regis, (they be all in Scripture) 'the blood,' the 'seed,' the 'race.' It is among other one, of the differences of the state of Kings and Judges; and a main inconvenience [181/182] of the state of Judges, (and so is it of all elective kingdoms) the interregnum as we term them; times between the old judge's death and the raising up a new; in which times all ran to riot, and much disorder got head. To the end then there be no such inconvenience. No interregna at all, not so much as a minute of time wherein it may be said, Non est Rex in Israel, it agreeth with His will there be not only Kings but a race of Kings; that so soon as the breath is gone from one, instantly it may be rested in another; that so the good may ever be, and the evil never, found in Israel.
Thus have we gone through the matter of instruction, and now come to the matter of our own thanksgiving rising out of it.
As there cannot be a greater plague to a land than to be in that case, so is there not a higher benefit than God bestoweth on any people, to be fairly blessed from in it, than for the removing from us so many mischiefs, and for the preserving to us the opposite blessings; for freeing us from that misery, and not only conveying, but entailing to us and ours this happiness. For this are we all now met here, in His presence every man to put in his thanks into one common stock, and so all jointly to offer it up unto God That at this day sent us a King in Israel.
We come not for this alone to thank Him, (yet well might we come for this, if there were none but this) but there is more besides; and even seven times are we bound this day to praise God for so many benefits, and yet go not out of the text.
1. Our first thanks then shall be for this first, the ground of all the rest, for a King. This very thing, that there is one, and that this defect, Non erat Rex, hath not taken hold on us. 'The shout of a King' is a joyful shout, was a true saying out of the mouth of a false prophet, Balaam, but forced thereto by God. That a joyful shout, and this a woeful cry, Nonne ideo nobis nullus Rex, quia non timemus Dominum? 'Are we not therefore without any King at all, because we feared not God?' And our fear to God was not such, but He might justly have brought us to that miserable plight. The more cause have we to thank Him that we have one. And when [182/183] I say one, I mean first, have any one. For he be Nebuchadnezzar, yet must we pray for him; or be it Jeroboam, him though, 'God gave in His wrath,' yet, 'He took away in His fury,' the worst wrath of the twain. Or, be he who he will, to have one, though but such an one, is a matter of thanksgiving. For better any than an anarchy; better any one a King, than every one a King; and every one is more than a King, if he do what he lists. It calleth to mind the cry of the beasts in the fable when they were in consultation, to submit themselves to the lion as to their king. For when it was alleged, it was like enough he would do they knew not well what, what he listed which they had cause to fear, they all cried, Præstat unum timere quam multos, 'Better one lion do so than all the bears and wolves and wild beasts of the forest, as before they did.' First then for this, that there is a King.
Secondly for this, that a King, not many. For to have many, is a plague for the people's sins. Not many, nay not two, as of late, but now Rex indeed, one King over all Israel. We know when there were two Kings, one in Judah and the other in the ten tribes, two in one territory, it was a maim and a blemish both; that there was not Rex, one entire King, but two diverse Kings, as it were, over two halves of a country. The like imperfection was it, even the dividing this one island under two sovereigns. The reducing of both those under one, was promised Israel as a high favour. The same to us performed can be no less, even that now there is a King indeed. Rex, one King; one, and no more, absolute entire King over all the tribes, over all Israel. Let this be the second.
And this our third. That not only over Israel, but, as the words are, 'in Israel.' These are two different things. To speak as the Prophet doth, that this King is not Ashur. 'For thus cause Ashur shall be your King,' is a fearful threat God useth to His people for their unkindness. To have a mere alien, one from beyond the water, as Nebuchadnezzar was, out of a people whose speech they did not understand. One not in but extra Israelem, that is, over Israel, but neither in it nor of it. That this is not our case, as it is well known some would have had it. Therein then must we also acknowledge, God hath dealt graciously with [183/184] us, sending us such an one as by more than one or two, before this very last of all, is come of the race royal, and is by due and undoubted right a King, not only every, but in and of Israel. Is not this a third?
And sure this fourth. That as He sent us not Ashur a stranger, so neither sent He a Jeroboam. No stranger in birth he, but one addicted to strange worship, a stranger in religion; (and it was even Micah's religion just; as Micah's countryman he was, for both were of Ephraim) who did that which was evil in God's eyes, by doing that which was good in his own, and so 'made Israel to sin.' Such an one He hath not sent us, but one that knoweth, since that was a principal cause why there is a King in Israel, that Micah's idols might not be set up.
And then, fifthly. As not a Jeroboam favouring Micah, not a Rehoboam neither, who was indeed well for his religion, but otherwise not able to advise himself, and so ready to be advised for the worse. One that was full of great words, but so faint-hearted as not able to resist ought; that under him every one did what he would, for all the King. It was, as in another case the Prophet speaketh, Rex, Rex, et non est Rex. It is otherwise where princes are intelligent, learned and as David was, both religious and wise; wise as 'an angel of God,' to discern good and evil. Such a King as David, a special blessing; not omnibus data, not 'given to every people,' nay many times not to Israel itself. May we not report this for a fifth?
And for a sixth, this. That not as David neither, though he were both gentle and wise, which Rehoboam was not. For though he were both, yet was he so entangled with wars all his time, and forced still by continual effusion of blood, first to recover and then to maintain his right, as that he was rather Dux than Rex in Israel, a general of an army rather than a King. No, but (that which addeth still to the heap of our blessings) like Solomon, more happy than his father, as one that procureth to his people peace with all the nations round about. Of him, of such an one as he, saith the queen of Sheba, 'because the Lord thy God loved Israel, to establish it for ever, therefore hath He set thee King over [184/185] them, to bring them to, and to preserve them in, the happy days of peace.' That is indeed the right King, to be as Melchisedek 'King of Salem, that is, King of peace.' To be as the great King of Israel, Whose style is Princeps pacis.
And last of all, which is the complete perfection of all, that in and by him God hath not only sent us a King, but a race and succession of Kings. A blessing yet further, a greater hope, by blessing him, and in him us all, with an issue of such hope, by blessing him, and in him us all, with an issue of such hope, and with hope still of more. Who shall (we trust, and pray they may) stretch their line to the world's end, and ever keep this land from this plague here mentioned, from days whereof it may be said, Non erat Rex in Israel. Even so Lord Jesus, so be it
And thus seven times this day praise we God for this His sevenfold goodness. 1. For a King, 2. an absolute entire King, 3. a king both in and of Israel, 4. a King neither favouring nor favoured by Micah, 5. a King too wise to endure Fecit quisque quod rectum, 6. a King of peace, 7. a King who hath already by himself, and shall for ever by his seed preserve this land from the evil days wherein Israel was without a King. There is not any one of these seven but we owe our special thanks for it; but for them all, all that every we have or can make.
And these now we offer and present to the Divine Majesty, all; and together with our thanks a commixtion of prayers, that this blessing of a King in Israel, and of this King in Israel, may to us and our posterity long and many years, yea many times many be continued, and we or they often see the renewing of this blessed day. Which Almighty God grant, &c.