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that are near to God in his immediate services, must go before others, no less in believing, than they do in example.
The waters know their Maker. That Jordan, that flowed with full streams when Christ went into it to be baptized, now gives way, when the same God must pass through it in state. Then there was use of his water, now of his sand. I hear no news of any rod to strike the waters; the presence of the ark of the Lord God, the Lord of all the world, is sign enough to these waves, which now, as if a sinew were broken, run back to their issues, and dare not so much as wet the feet of the priests that bore it. “What aileth thee, O sea, that thou fleddest, and thou, Jordan, that thou wert driven back! Ye mountains, that ye leaped like rams, and ye little hills, like lambs! The earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” How observant are all the creatures to the God that made them! How glorious a God do we serve! whom all the powers of the heavens and elements are willingly subject unto, and gladly take that nature which he pleases to give them. He could have made Jordan like some solid pavement of crystal, for the Israelites' feet to have trode upon; but this work had not been so magnificent. Every strong frost congeals the water, in a natural course : but for the river to stand still, and run on heaps, and to be made a liquid wall for the passage of God's people, is for nature to run out of itself, to do homage to her Creator. Now must the Israelites needs think, how can the Canaanites stand out against us, when the seas and rivers give us way? With what joy did they now trample upon the dry channel of Jordan, while they might see the dry deserts overcome, the promised land before them, the very waters so glad of them that they ran back to welcome them into Canaan? The passages into our promised land are troublesome and perilous, and even at last offer themselves to us the main hindrances of our salvation, which, after all our hopes, threaten to defeat us: for what will it avail us to have passed a wilderness, if the waves of Jordan should swallow us up? But the same band that hath made the way hard, hath made it sure; he that made the wilderness comfortable, will inake Jordan dry: he will master all difficulties for us; and those things which we most feared, will be make most sovereign and beneficial to us. O God, as we have trusted thee with the beginning, so will we with the finishing of our glory! YOL, I. i
Faithful art thou that hast promised, which wilt also do it.
He that led them about, in forty years' journey, through the wilderness, yet now leads them the nearest cut to Jericho; he will not so much as seek for a ford for their passage, but divides the waters. What a sight was this to their heathen adversaries, to see the waters make both a lane and a wall for Israel! Their hearts could not choose but be broken, to see the streams broken off for a way to their enemies. I do not see Joshua hastening through this channel, as if he feared lest the tide of Jordan should return; but, as knowing that watery wall stronger than the walls of Jericho, he paces slowly; and, lest this miracle should pass away with themselyes, he commands twelve stones to be taken out of the channel of Jordan, by twelve selected men from every tribe, which shall be pitched in Gilgal; and twelve other stones to be set in the midst of Jordan, where the feet of the priests had stood with the ark; that so both land and water might testify the miraculous way of Israel: while it should be said of the one, These stones were fetched out of the pavement of Jordan; of the other, There did the ark rest while we walked dry-shod through the deeps of Jordan : of the one, Jordan was once as dry as this Gilgal; of the other, Those waves which drown these stones, liad so drowned us, if the power of the Almighty had not restrained them. Many a great work lad God done for Israel, which was now forgotten : Joshua therefore will have monuments of God's mercy, that future ages might be both witnesses and applauders of the great works of their God.
The Siege of Jericho. Joshua begins his wars with the circumcision and passover; he knew that the way to keep the blood of his people from shedding, was to let out that paganish blood of their uncircumcision. The person must be in favour, ere the work can hope to prosper. His predecessor Moses had like to have been slain for neglect of this sacrament, when he went to call the people out of Egypt: he justly fears his own safety, if now he omit it, when they are brought into Canaan. We have no right of inheritance in the spiritual Canaan, the church of God, till we have received the sacrament of our matriculation. So soon as our covenants are renewed with our Creator, we may well look for the vision of God for the assurance of victory.
What sure work did the king of Jericho think he had made! -he blocked up the passages, barred up the gates, defended the walls, and did enough to keep out a common enemy. If we could do but this to our spiritual adversaries, it were as impossible for us to be surprised, as for Jericho to be safe. Methinks I see how they called their council of war, debated of all means of defence, gathered their forces, trained their soldiers, set strong guards to the gates and walls; and now would persuade one another, that, unless Israel could fly into their city, the siege was vain. Vain worldlings think their rampires and barricadoes can keep out the vengeance of God; their blindness suffers them to look no further than the means. The supreme hand of the Almighty comes not within the compass of their fears. Every carnal heart is a Jericho shut up; God sits down before it, and displays mercy and judgment in sight of the walls thereof: it hardens itself in a wilful security, and saith, “Tush, I shall never be moved.”
Yet their courage and fear fight together within their walls, within their bosoms. Their courage tells them of their own strength; their fear suggests the miraculous success of this (as they could not but think) enchanted generation, and now, while they have shut out their enemy, they have shut in their own terror. The most secure heart in the world hath some flashes of fear; for it cannot but sometimes look out of itself, and see what it would not. Rahab had notified that their hearts fainted ; and yet now their faces bewray nothing but resolution. I know not whether the heart or the face of an hypocrite be more false ; and as each of them seeks to beguile the other, so both of them agree to deceive the beholders. In the midst of laughter their heart is heavy. Who would not think him merry that laughs ? yet their rejoicing is but in the face. Who would not think a blasphemer, or profane man, resolutely careless? If thou hadst a window into his heart, thou shouldst see him tormented with horrors of conscience.
Now the Israelites see those walled cities and towers, whose height was reported to reach to heaven, the fame whereof had so affrighted them, ere they saw them, and were ready, doubtless, to say, in their distrust, Which way shall we scale these invincible fortifications ? What ladders, what engines shall we use to so great a work? God prevents their infidelity; “ Behold, I have given Jericho into thine hand.” If their walls had their foundations laid in the centre of the earth; if the battlements had been so high built, that an eagle could not soar over them; this is enough, “I have given it thee.” For, on whose earth have they raised these castles? out of whose treasure did they dig those piles of stone? whence had they their strength and time to build? Cannot he that gave, recall his own? O ye fools of Jericho! what if your walls be strong, your men valiant, your leaders skilful, your king wise, when God hath said, “I have given thee the city!” What can swords or spears do against the Lord of hosts! Without him means can do nothing; how much less against him! How vain and idle is that reckoning, wherein God is left out! Had the captain of the Lord's host drawn his sword for Jericho, the gates might have been opened; Israel could no more have entered, than they can now be kept from entering when the walls were fallen. What courses soever we take for our safety it is good making God of our side. Neither men nor devils can hurt us against him; neither men nor angels can secure us from him. There was never so strange a siege as this of Jericho: here was no mount raised, no sword drawn, no engine planted, no pioneers undermining; here were trumpets sounded, but no enemy seen; here were armed men, but no stroke given : they must walk and not fight; seven several days must they pace about the walls, which they may not once look over, to see what was within. Doubtless these inhabitants of Jericho made themselves merry with this sight: when they had stood six days upon their walls, and beheld none but a walking enemy; What, say they, could Israel find no walk to breathe them with, but about our walls? Have they not travelled enough in their forty years' pilgrimage, but they must stretch their limbs in this circle? Surely if their eyes were engines, our wall could not stand : we see they are good footmen; but when shall we try their hands ? What, do these vain men think Jericho will be won with looking at? or do they only come to count how many paces it is about our city? If this be their inanner of siege, we shall have no great cause to fear
the sword of Israel. Wicked men think God in jest, when he is preparing for their judgment. The Almighty hath ways and counsels of his own, utterly unlike to ours; which, because our reason cannot reach, we are ready to condemn as foolishness and impossibility. With us, there is no way to victory but fighting, and the strongest carries the spoil: God can give victory to the feet, as well as to the hands; and, when he will, makes weakness no disadvantage. What should we do but follow God through by-ways, and know that he will, in spite of nature, lead us to our end?
All the men of war must compass the city; yet it was not the presence of the great warriors of Israel that threw down the walls of Jericho. Those foundations were not so slightly laid, as that they could not endure either a look, or a march, or a battery. It was the ark of God whose presence demolished the walls of that wicked city. The same power that drave back the waters of Jordan before, and afterwards l'aid Dagon on the floor, cast down all those forts. The priests bear on their shoulders that mighty engine of God, before which those walls, if they had been of molten brass, could not stand. Those spiritual wickednesses, yea, those gates of hell, which to nature are utterly invincible, by the power of the word of God (which he hath committed to the carriage of his weak servants) are overthrown, and triumphed over. Thy ark, O God, hath been long amongst us; how is it that the walls of our corruptions stand still unruined ? It hath gone before us, his priests have carried it; we have not followed it, our hearts have not attended upon it; and therefore, how mighty soever it is in itself, yet to us it hath not been so powerful as it would.
Seven days together they walked this round; they made this therefore their Sabbath-day's journey; and who knows whether the last and longest walk, which brought victory to Israel, were not on this day? Not long before, an Israelite is stoned to death, for but gathering a few sticks that day: now, all the host of Israel must walk about the walls of a large and populous city, and yet do not violate the day. God's precept is the rule of the justice and holiness of all our actions. Or was it, for that revenge upon God's enemies is an holy work, and such as God vouchsafes to privilege with his own day? or, because when we have undertaken the exploits of God, he will abide no intermission tillwe have fulfilled them?