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amongst us.” If Joshua had continued this doubt, the Gibeonites had torn their bottles in vain. In cases and persons unknown, it is safe not to be too credulous. Charity itself will allow suspicion, where we have seen no cause to trust.
If these Hivites had not put on new faces with their old clothes, they had surely changed countenance when they heard this argument of the Israelites, “ It may be thou dwellest amongst us; how then can I make a league with thee?" They had, perhaps, hoped their submission would not have been refused, wheresoever they had dwelt : but, lest their neighbourhood might be a prejudice, they come disguised; and now hear, that their nearness of abode was an unremoveable bar of peace. It was quarrel enough that they were Canaanites : God had forbidden both the league and the life of the native inhabitants. He that calls himself the God of peace, proclaims himself the God of hosts : and not to fight where he hath commanded, is to break the peace with God, while we nourish it with men. Contention with brethren is not more hateful to him, than leagues with idolaters. The condition that he hath set to our peace, is our possibility and power: that falls not within the possibility of our power, which we cannot do lawfully.
What a smooth tale did these Gibeonites tell for themselves, of the remoteness of their country, the motives of their journey, the consultation of their elders, the ageing of their provisions by the way : that it might seem not only safe, but deserved on their parts, that they should be admitted to a peace so far sought, and purchased with so much toil and importunity. Their clothes and their tongues agreed together; and both disagree from the truth. Deceit is ever lightly wrapped up in plausibility of words; as fair faces oftentimes hide much unchastity. But this guile sped the better, because it was clad with much plainness : for who would have suspected, that clouted shoes and ragged coats could have covered so much subtilty? The case seemed so clear, that the Israelites thought it needless to consult with the mouth of the Lord. Their own eyes and ears were called only to counsel ; and now their credulity hath drawn them into inconvenience.
There is no way to convince the Gibeonitish pretences of antiquity, but to have recourse to the oracle of God. Had this been advised with, none of these false rags had shamed the .church of God. Whether in our practice or judgment, this
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direction cannot fail; whereas what we take upon the words of men proves ever either light or false wares.
The facility of Israel had led them into a league, to an oath, for the safety of the Gibeonites : and now, within three days, they find both their neighbourhood and deceit. Those old shoes of theirs would easily hold to carry them back to their home. The march of a great army is easy; yet within three days the Israelites were before their cities. Joshua inight now have taken advantage of their own words, to dissolve his league, and have said, Ye are come from a far country, these cities are near: these are not therefore the people to whom we are engaged by our promise and oath : and if these cities be yours, yet ye are not yourselves. Ere while we were strangers, now ye are Hivites born, and dwelling in the midst of Canaan : we will therefore destroy these cities near hand, and do you save your people afar off. It would seem very questionable, whether Joshua needed to hold himself bound to this oath; for fraudulent conventions oblige not; and Israel had put in a direct caveat of their vicinity: yet dare not Joshua and the princes trust to shifts, for the eluding their oath, but must faithfully perform what they have rashly promised.
Joshua's heart was clear from any intention of a league with a Canaanite, when he gave his oath to these disguised strangers : yet he durst neither repeal it himself, neither do I hear him sue to Eleazar the high-priest to dispense with it, but takes himself tied to the very strict words of his oath, not to his own purpose. His tongue had bound his heart and hands, so as neither might stir; lest, while he was curious of fulfilling the will of God, he should violate the oath of God. And if the Gibeonites had not known these holy bonds indissoluble, they neither had been so importunate to obtain their vow, nor durst they have trusted it, being obtained. If either dispensation with oaths, or equivocation in oaths, had been known in the world, or at least approved, these Gibeonites had not lived, and Israel had slain them without sin. Either Israel wanted skill, or our reservers honesty.
The multitude of Israel, when they came to the walls of these four exempted cities, itched to be at the spoil. Not out of a desire to fulfil God's commandment, but to enrich theinselves, would they have fallen upon these Hivites: they thought all lost that fell beside their fingers. The wealthy city of Jericho was first altogether interdicted them; the walls and
houses either fell or must be burnt, the men and cattle killed, the goods and treasure confiscate to God. Achan's booty shews, that city was both rich and proud; yet Israel might be no whit the better for them, carrying away nothing but empty, victory: and now four other cities must be exempted from their pillage. Many an envious look did Israel therefore cast upon these walls; and many bitter words did they cast out against their princes, the enemies of their gain, whether for swearing, or for that they would not forswear. But, howsoever, the princes knight have said, in a return to their fraud, We swore indeed to you, but not the people; yet, if any Israelite had but pulled down one stone from their walls, or shed one drop of Gibeonitish blood, he had no less plagued all Israel for perjury than Achan had before plagued them for sacrilege. The sequel shews how God would have taken it ; for when, three hundred years after, Saul (perhaps forgetting the vow of his forefathers) slew some of these Gibeonites, although out of a well-meant zeal, all Israel smarted for the fact, with a three years' famine, and that in David's reign, who received this oracle from God; “ It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” Neither could this wrong be expiated, but by the blood of Saul's seven sons, hanged up at the very court-gates of their father.
Joshua and the princes had promised them life, they promised them not liberty: no covenant was passed against their servitude. It was just therefore with the rulers of Israel, to make slavery the price both of their lives and their deceit. The Israelites had themselves been drudges, if the Gibeonites had not beguiled them, and lived. The old rags therefore, wherewith they came disguised, must now be their best suits, and their life must be toilsomely spent in hewing of wood, and drawing of water for all Israel. How dear is life to our nature, that men can be content to purchase it with servitude! It is the wisdom of God's children to make good use of their oversights. The rash oath of Israel proves their advantage. Even wicked men gain by the outside of good actions ; good men make a benefit of their sins.
ing of water be toilsome must now
The Rescue of Gibeon.
The life of the Gibeonites must cost them servitude from Israel, and dangers from their neighbours. If Joshua will but sit still, the deceit of the Gibeonites shall be revenged by his enemies. Five kings are up in arms against them, and are ready to pay their fraud with violence. What should these poor men do? If they make not their peace, they die by strangers; if they do make their peace with foreigners, they must die by neighbours. There is no course that threatens not some danger. We have sped well, if our choice hath light upon the easiest inconvenience.
If these Hivites have sinned against God, against Israel ; yet what have they done to their neighbours? I hear of no treachery, no secret information, no attempt. I see no sin but their league with Israel, and their life; yet, for ought we find, they were free men, no way either obliged or obnoxious. As Satan, so wicked men cannot abide to lose any of their community. If a convert come home, the angels welcome him with songs, the devils follow him with uproar and fury, his old partners with scorns and obloquy.
I find these neighbour princes half dead with fear, and yet they can find time to be sick of envy. Malice in a wicked heart, is the king of passions : all other vail and bow when it comes in place. Even their own life was not so dear to them as revenge. Who would not rather have looked that these kings should have tried to have followed the copy of this league? Or, if their fingers did itch to fight, why did they not rather think of a defensive war against Israel, than an offensive against the Gibeonites? Gibeon was strong, and would not be won without blood; yet these Ainorites, which, at their best, were too weak for Israel, would spend their forces before-hand on their neighbours. Here was a strong hatred in weak breasts ; they feared, and yet began to fight; they feared Israel, yet began to fight with Gibeon. If they
IX. had sat still, their destruction had not been so sudden. The malice of the wicked hastens the pace of their own judgment. No rod is so fit for a mischievous man as his own.
Gibeon, and these other cities of the Hivites, had no king; and none yielded and escaped but they. Their elders consulted before for their league ; neither is there any challenge sent to the king, but to the city. And now these five kings of the Amorites have unjustly compacted against them. Sovereignty abused is a great spur to courage. The conceit of authority, in great persons, many times lies in the way of their own safety, while it will not let them stoop to the ordinary courses of inferiors. Hence it is, that heaven is peopled with so few great ones. Hence it is, that true contentment seldom dwells high, while meaner men of humble spirits enjoy both earth and heaven.
The Gibeonites had well proved, that though they wanted an head, yet they wanted not wit; and now the same wit that won Joshua and Israel to their friendship and protection, teacheth them to make use of those they had won. If they had not more trusted Joshua than their walls, they had never stolen that league; and when should they have use of their new protectors, but now that they were assailed? Whither should we fly, but to our Joshua, when the powers of darkness, like mighty Amorites, have besieged us? If ever we will send up our prayers to him, it will be when we are beleagured with evils. If we trust to our own resistance, we cannot stand; we cannot miscarry, if we trust to his. In vain shall we send to our Joshua in these straits, if we have not before come to him in our freedoin.
Which of us would not have thought Joshua had a good pretence for his forbearance, and have said, You have stollen your league with me; why do you expect help from bim whom ye have deceived? All that we promised you was a sufferance to live. Enjoy what we promised, we will not take your life from you. Hath your faithfulness deserved to expect more than our covenant? We never promised to hazard our lives for you, to give you life with the loss of our own. But that good man durst not construe his own covenant to such an advantage. He knew little difference betwixt killing them with his own sword, and the sword of an Amorite : whosoever should give the blow, the murder would be his. Even permission, in those things we may remedy, makes us no less