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Ifs all done. inhem, and
He allows us not to breathe, not to break off, till we have finished.
It had been as easy for God to have given this success to their first day's walk; yea, to their first pace, or their first sight of Jericho; yet he will not give it, until the end of their seven days' toil. It is the pleasure of God to hold us both in work, and in expectation; and though he require our continual endeavours for the subduing of our corruptions, during the six days of our life, yet we shall never find it perfectly effected till the very evening of our last day. In the mean time, it must content us that we are in our walk, and that these walls cannot stand, when we come to the measure and number of our perfections. A good heart groans under the sense of his infirmities, fain would be rid of them, and strives and prays : but, when he hath all done, until the end of the seventh day it cannot be. If a stone or two moulder off from these walls, in the meantime, that is all; but the foundations will not be removed till then.
When we hear of so great a design as the miraculous winning of a mighty city, who would not look for some glorious means to work it? When we hear that the ark of God must besiege Jericho, who would not look for some royal equipage? But behold here seven priests must go before it, with seven trumpets of rams' horns. The Israelites had trumpets of silver, which God had appointed for the use of assembling and dissolving the congregation, for war, and for peace : now I do not hear them called for; but instead thereof, trumpets of rams' horns, base for the matter, and not loud for sound; the shortness and equal measure of those instruments could not afford either shrillness of noise, or variety. How mean and homely are those means which God commonly uses in the most glorious works! No doubt, the citizens, of Jericho answered this dull alarm of theirs, from their walls, with other instruments of louder report and more martial ostentation : and the vulgar Israelites thought, we have as clear and as costly trumpets as theirs; yet no man dares offer to sound the better, when the worse are commanded. If we find the ordinances of God poor and weak, let it content us that they are of his own choosing, and such as whereby he will so much more honour himself, as they in themselves are more inglorious. Not the outside, but the efficacy, is it that God cares for.
No ram of iron could have been so forcible for battery, as these rams' horns : for when they sounded long, and were seconded with the shout of the Israelites, all the walls of Jericho fell down at once. They made the heavens ring with their shout : but the ruin of those walls drowned their voice, and gave a pleasant kind of horror to the Israelites. The earth shook under them with the fall; but the hearts of the inhabitants shook yet more. Many of them, doubtless, were slain with those walls wherein they had trusted. A man might see death in the faces of all the rest that remained, who now, being half dead with astonishment, expected the other half from the sword of their enemies. They had now neither means nor will to resist; for if only one breach had been made (as it uses in other sieges) for the entrance of the enemy, perhaps new supplies of defendants might have made it up with their carcasses : but now that, at once, Jericho is turned to a plain field, every Israelite, without resistance, might run to the next booty; and the throats of their enemies seemed to invite their swords to a dispatch.
If but one Israelite had knocked at the gates of Jericho, it might have been thought their hand had helped to the victory. Now, that God may have all the glory, without the show of any rival, yea, of any means, they do but walk and shout, and the walls give way. He cannot abide to part with any honour from himself. As he doth all things, so he would be acknowledged. · They shout all at once. It is the presence of God's ark, and our conjoined prayers, that are effectual to the beating down of wickedness. They may not shout till they be bidden. If we will be unseasonable in our good actions, we may hurt and not benefit ourselves.
Every living thing in Jericho, man, woman, child, cattle, must die. Our folly would think this merciless; but there can be no mercy in injustice, and nothing but injustice in not fulfilling the charge of God. The death of malefactors, the condemnation of wicked men, seem harsh to us; but we must learn of God, that there is a punishing mercy. Cursed be that mercy that opposes the God of mercy.
Yet was not Joshua so intent upon the slaughter, as not to be mindful of God's part and Rahab’s. First, he gives charge, under a curse, of reserving all the treasure for God; then of preserving the family of Rahab. Those two spies that received life from her, now return it to her, and hers: they call at the window with the red cord, and send up news of life to her, the saine way which they received theirs. Her house is no part of Jericho; neither may fire be set to any building of that city, till Rahab and her family be set safe without the host. The actions of our faith and charity will be sure to pay us; if late, yet surely. Now Rabab finds what it is to believe God; while out of an impure idolatrous city, she is transplanted into the church of God, and made a mother of a royal and holy posterity.
Of Achan. When the walls of Jericho were fallen, Joshua charged the Israelites but with two precepts ; of sparing Rahab's house, and of abstaining from that treasure which was anathematized to God; and one of them is broken. As in the entrance to Paradise, but one tree was forbidden, and that was eaten of. God had provided for our weakness in the paucity of commands; but our innocency stands not so much in having few precepts, as in keeping those we have. Şo inuch more guilty are we in the breach of one, as we are more favoured in the number.
They needed no command to spare no living thing in Jericho; but to spare the treasure, no command was enough. Impartiality of execution is easier to perform, than contempt of these worldly things; because we are more prone to covet for ourselves, than to pity others. Had Joshua bidden save the men, and divide the treasure, his charge had been more plausible, than now to kill the men and save the treasure ; or, if they must kill, earthly minds would more gladly shed their enemies' blood for a booty, than out of obedience, for the glory of their Maker. But now it is good reason, since God threw down those walls, and not they, that both the blood of that wicked city should be spilt to him, not to their own revenge; and that the treasure should be reserved for his use, not for theirs. Who but a miscreant can grudge that God should serve himself of his own? I cannot blame the rest of Israel, if they were well pleased with their conditions ; only one Achan troubles the peace, and his sin is imputed to
Israel. The innocence of so many thousand Israelites is not so forcible to excuse his one sin, as his one sin is to taint all Israel.
A lewd man is a pernicious creature : that he damns his own soul, is the least part of his mischief; he commonly draws vengeance upon a thousand, either by the desert of his sin, or by the infection. Who would not have hoped that the same God, which for ten righteous men would have spared the five wicked cities, should not have been content to drown one sin in the obedience of so many righteous ? But so venomous is sin, especially when it lights among God's people, that one drachm of it is able to infect the whole mass of Israel.
O righteous people of Israel, that had but one Achan ! How had their late circumcision cut away the unclean foreskin of their disobedience! How had the blood of their paschal lamb scoured their souls from covetous desires! The world was well mended with them, since their stubborn mur-, murings in the desert. Since the death of Moses, and the government of Joshua, I do not find them in any disorder. After that the law hath brought us under the conduct of the true Jesus, our sins are more rare, and ourselves are more conscionable. While we are under the law, we do not so keep it, as when we are delivered from it; our Christian freedom is more holy than our servitude. Then bave the sacraments of God their due effect, when their receipt purgeth us from our old sins, and makes our conversation clean and spiritual.
Little did Joshua know that there was any sacrilege committed by Israel. That sin is not half cunning enough, that hath not learned secrecy. Joshua was a vigilant leader, yet some sins will escape him. Only that eye which is every where, finds us out in our close wickedness. It is no blame to authority, that some sins are secretly committed: the holiest congregation or family may be blemished with some malefactors. It is just blame, that open sins are not punished : we shall wrong government, if we shall expect the reach of it should be infinite. He therefore, which, if he had known the offence, would have sent up prayers and tears to God, now sends spies for a further discovery of Ai; they return with news of the weakness of their adversaries; and, as contemning their paucity, persuade Joshua that a wing of Israel is enough to overshadow this city of Ai. The Israelites were so flushed with their former victory, that now they think no walls or men can stand before them. Good success lifts up
the heart with too much confidence; and, while it dissuades men from doing their best, ofttimes disappoints them. With God, the mean can never be too weak; without him, never strong enough. • It is not good to contemn an impotent enemy. In this second battle, the Israelites are beaten. It was not the fewness of their assailants that overthrew them, but the sin that lay lurking at home. If all the host of Israel had set upon this poor village of Ai, they had been all equally discomfited : the wedge of Achan did more fight against them, than all the swords of the Canaanites. The victories of God go not by strength, but by innocence, · Doubtless these men of Ai insulted in this foil of Israel, and said, Lo, these are the men, from whose presence the waters of Jordan ran back ; now they run as fast away from ours. These are they, before whom the walls of Jericho fell down; now they are fallen as fast before us. And all their neighbours took heart from this victory. Wherein, I doubt not, but, besides the punishment of Israel's sin, God intended the further obduration of the Canaanites : like as some skilful player loses on purpose at the beginning of the game, to draw on the more abetments. The news of their overthrow spread as far as the fame of their speed; and every city of Canaan could say, Why not we as well as Ai?
But good Joshua, that succeeded Moses, no less in the care of God's glory than in his government, is much dejected with this event. He rends his clothes, falls on his face, casts dust upon his head, and, as if he had learned of his master how to expostulate with God, says, “ What wilt thou do to thy mighty name?”.
That Joshua might see God took no pleasure to let the Israelites lie dead upon the earth before their enemies, bimself is taxed for but lying all day, upon his face, before the ark. All his expostulations are answered in one word, “Get thee up, Israel hath sinned.” I do not hear God say, Lie still, and mourn for the sin of Israel. . It is to no purpose to pray against punishment, while the sin continues. And though God loves to be sued to, yet he holds our requests unseasonable, till there be care had of satisfaction. When we have risen, and redressed sin, then may we fall down for pardon.
Victory is in the free hand of God, to dispose where he will; and no man can marvel, that the dice of war run ever with