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Therefore the king of Israel gathered together, of prophets, four hundred men, and said unto them ; shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, go up, for God will deliver it into the king's hand." These were, doubtless, Ahab's own false prophets, or the priests of Baal, whom he had under his control, and who were ready to prophesy whatever he should wish ; that, under the pretence of divine authority, he might have more influence with his subjects, and be enabled to carry his points. They were, probably, those very four hundred prophets of the groves, whom Jezebel had preserved from slaughter, according to the account in 1 Kings, xviü. And yet, it seems, that they gave in their answer, upon this occasion, in the name of Jehovah, and not of Baal ; doubtless, by Ahab's direction, that good Jehoshaphat might be deceived by them into a good opinion of the war.
“ But Jehosaphat,” not satisfied with the answer of Ahab's prophets, “ said, Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him ? And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may enquire of the Lord : but I hate him, for he never prophesieth good unto me, but always evil : the same is Micaiah, the son of Imla. And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, “ Fetch quickly Micaiah, the son of Imla."
When Micaiah came, he plainly and faithfully, in the name of the Lord, warned the king, that the enterprise would be defeated, and that, if he attempted it, he would himself fall, in battle, before his enemies. “ And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee, that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil ? Then the king of Israel said Take ye 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 af
fliction, and with water of affliction, until I return in peace.”
This abandoned prince, no doubt, revealed the thoughts of many hearts, when he thus, by his words and conduct, discovered his enmity against the faithful man, who dared to announce the punishment. which awaited him, from the hand of a righteous God.
What I propose, in discoursing from this text, is,
I. To show, that true prophets or teachers can never promise any good to the wicked, while impenitent, but must always prophesy evil :
II. That, like wicked Ahab, sinners, generally dislike, and harbour a persecuting spirit towards, those who faithfully reprove them, and warn them of their sin and danger : And,
III. To suggest some practical inferences.
I. The true prophets, or teachers of God, can never promise any good to the wicked, while impenitent, but must always prophesy evil. For, 1. True teachers, those who
are friends to God and his cause, and are approved and sent by him, will ever make the word of God their standard. To this they will strictly adhere, as the only source from which they are to draw all their doctrines. Upon this they will ground all the warnings, exhortations, and promises, which they address to their hearers. They will make it their great object to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men receive it well or ill.
However compassionate they may be towards their hearers, and how much soever they would rejoice, if able to prophesy good respecting them, and to say such things as would be acceptable and approved, yet, true fait
ness to God, and true coinpassion
and benevolence to men, will not permit them to disguise or soften the truth, or handle the word of God deceitfully. They are ready to adopt, though with much greater cordiality than he did, the words of Balaam, to Balak, the king of Moab, who requested him to curse Israel for him, and to prophesy smooth things : “Lo ! I am come unto thee : Have I any power, at all to say any thing? The word that God putteth in my mouth, that will I speak.”
2. In the word of God, encouragement or promise of good to the wicked, while impenitent or unrenewed, can be found. Throughout the scriptures, a line is drawn, and there are but two classes of characters, the righteous and the wicked. And the divine command, to his prophets and ministers, is,
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him;" but, “ Woe unto the wicked.” It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." From Genesis to Revelation we find nothing but woe for the wicked. We find, that the end, the last, the final state of those, who die impenitent, shall be a state of destruction indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" being heaped upon them.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied respecting the final judgment of the wicked : “Behold, the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all ; and to convince all, that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed; and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Noah, in the old world, and Lot, in Sodom, were preachers of righteousness. They warned the people around them of the divine vengeance against sin, Their deliverance, and the destruction of the wicked around them, are represented by the apostlc, 2 Pet. ii. as a proper example to be held up in every age, to warn sinners of their liability to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
Moses represents the Most High as saying ; If I whet my my glittering sword, and my hand take hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me."
The Psalmist pronounces the righteous to be truly blessed, but adds: “ The ungodly are not 80, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment. The way of the ungodly shall perish. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. The Lord trieth the righteous, but the wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest. This shall be the portion of their cup.”
And, speaking of the outward prosperity which the wicked often have in this life, he says : “ When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places ; thou didst cast them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment? They are utterly consumed with thy terrors. As a dream when one awaketh, so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image."
The testimony of the wise Man is : “ Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged ; yet surely I know, that it shall be well with them that fear God : But it shall not be woll with the wicked.” The idea is, that, however prosperous the wicked may be in this life, yet, that it shall not be finally well with them. Their existence, taken together, shall be a curse to them. " It had been good for them never to have been born.”
Would the time permit, and were it necessary, I might adduce numerous passages also from Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the prophets, in which they assert, that God will judge the wicked, and retribute to them according to their deserts, which will be infinite evil.
In the New Testament we find, that Christ, the great head and teacher of the church, dwelt particularly and pointedly on this subject. He frequently brought into view and asserted the depravity, the dependence, and the consequent danger of sinners, and that “ the wrath of God abideth on them.” The following are some of his words : “ Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. No man can come unto me except the Father, who sent me, draw him. Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life. Except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish. Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widows' houses, and, for a pretence, make long prayers. Ye serpents, ye genea ration of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ? The hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." His express direction to his apostles, when he commissioned them, was, “ Preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
Speaking of the nature and duration of the punishment of the wicked, he says, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels. with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory ; and before him shall be gathered all nations ; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats ; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the king say to them on his right hand ; Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation