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and, if they may cleanly escape, will be gone early from Mount Gilead. Can any man be offended at the number of these shrinkers, when he sees but' ten thousand Israelites left of two and thirty thousand in a morning? : 'n 3. These men, that would have been ashamed to go away by day, now drop away by night: and if Gideon should have called any one of them back, and said, Wilt thou fly? would have made an excuse: the darkness is a' fit veil for their paleness, or blushing; fearfulness cannot abide the light: None of these thousands of Israel but would have been toath Gideon should have seen his face, whilst he said, I'am fearful! Very shame holds some in their station, whose hearts are already fled. And if we cannot endure that men should be witnesses of that fear, which we might live to correct, how shall we abide once to shew our fearful heads before that terrible Judge, when he calls us forth to the punishment of our fear? ( the vanity of foolish 'hypocrites, that run upon the terrors of God, whilst they would avoid the shame of men!
How do we think the small remainder of Israel looked, when, in the next morning-muster, they found themselves but ten thousand left? How did they accuse their timorous countrymen, that had left but this' handful to encounter the millions of Midian? And yet still God complains of too many; and, upon his trial, dismisses nine thousand seven hundred more. His first trial was of the valour of their minds;' his next is of the ability of their bodies. Those which, besides boldness, are not strong, patient of labour and thirst, willing to stoop, content with a little, (such were those that took up water with their hands), are not for the select band of God. The Lord of Hosts will serve himself of 'none but able champions. If he have therefore singled us into his combat, this very choice argues, that he finds that strength in us, which we cannot confess in ourselves. How can it but comfort us in our great trials, that if the Searcher of hearts did not find us fit, he would never honour us with so hard an employment. .
Now, when there is not scarce left one Israelite to every thousand of the Midianites, it is seasonable with God to join battle. When God hath stripped us of all our earthly confidence, then doth he find time to give us victory, and not till then, lest he should be a loser in our gain: like as at last he unclothes us of our body, that he may clothe us upon with glory. ; ; ii.
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If Gideon feared when he had two and thirty thousand Israelites at his heels, is it any wonder if he feared, when all these were shrunk unto three hundred?'. Though his confir: mation were more, yet his means were abated. Why was not Gideon rather the leader of those two and twenty thous sand run-aways, than of these three hundred soldiers ? O infinite mercy and forbearance of God, that takes not advantage of so strong an infirmity, but, instead of casting, encou: rages him! That wise providence hath prepared a dream in the head of one Midianite, an interpretation in the mouth of another, and hath brought Gideon to be an auditor of both; and hath made his enemies prophets of his victory, encouragers of the attempt, proclaimers of their own confusion: A Midianite dreams, a Midianite interprets. Our very dreams inany times are not without God; there is a providence in our sleeping fancies. Even the enemies of God may have visions, and power to construe them aright. How usually are wicked men forewarned of their own destruction ? To foreknow, and not avoid, is but an aggravation of judgment.
When Gideon heard good news, though from an enemy, he fell down and worshipped. To hear himself but a barleycake troubled him not, when he heard withal that his rolling down the bill should break the tents of Midian. It matters not how base we be thought, so we may be victorious. The soul that hath received full confirmation from God in the assurance of his salvation, cannot but bow the knee, and by all gestures of body tell how it is ravished. I would have thought Gideon should rather have found full confirmation in the promise and act of God, than in the dream of the Midianite. Dreams may be full of uncertainty; God's undertakings are infallible. Well therefore might the miracle of God give strength to the dream of a Midianite; but what strength could a pagan's dream give to the miraculous act of God? yet by this is Gideon thoroughly settled. When we are going, a little thing drives us on; when we are come near the shore, the very tide, without sails, is enough to put us into the harbour We shall now hear no more of Gideon's doubts, but of his achievements. And though God had promised by these three hundred to chase the Midianites, yet he neglects not wise stratagems to effect it. To wait for God's performance in doing nothing, is to abuse that divine providence, which will so work, that will not allow us idle.
Now, when we would look that Gideon should give charge of whetting their swords, and sharpening their spears, and fitting their armour, he only gives order for empty pitchers, and lights, and trumpets. The cracking of these pitchers shall break in pieces this Midianitish clay; the kindling of these lights shall extinguish the light of Midian; these trumpets sound no other than a soul-peał to all the host of Midian : there shall need nothing but noise and light to confound this innumerable army.
And if the pitchers, and brands, and trumpets of Gideon, did so daunt and dismay the proud troops of Midian and Amalek, who can we think shall be able to stand before the last terror, wherein the trumpet of the archangel shall sound, and the heaven shall pass away with a noise, and the elements shall be on a flame about our ears?
Any of the weakest Israelites would have served to have broken an empty pitcher, to have carried a light, and to have sounded a trumpet, and to strike a flying adversary. Not to the basest use will God employ an unworthy agent: he will not allow so much as a cowardly torch-bearer.
Those two-and-twenty thousand Israelites that slipped away for fear, when the fearful Midianites fled, can pursue and kill them, and can follow them at the heels, whom they durst not look in the face. Our flight gives advantage to the feeblest adversary, whereas our resistance foileth the greatest. How much more, if we once turned our backs upon a temptation, shall our spiritual enemies, which are ever strong, trample us in the dust? Resist, and they shall fly. Stand still, and we shall see the salvation of the Lord,
The Revenge of Succoth and Penuel. GIDEON was of Manasseh : Epbraim and he were brothers, sons of Josepb. None of all the tribes of Israel fall out with their victorious leader but he. The agreement of brothers is rare; by how much nature hath more endeared them, by so much are their quarrels more frequent and dangerous. I did not hear the Ephraimites offering themselves into the front of the army before the fight, and now they are ready to fight with Gideon, because they were not called to fight with
Midian: I hear them expostulating after it. After the exploit done, cowards are valiant. Their quarrel was, that they were not called. It had been a greater praise of their valour to have gone unbidden. What need was there to call them, when God complained of multitude, and sent away those which were called ? None spake so big in the end of the fray, as the fearfullest.
Ephraim flies upon Gideon, whilst the Midianites fly from bim; when Gideon should be pursuing his enemies, he is pursued by brethren, and now is glad to spend that wind in pacifying of his own, which should have been bestowed in the slaughter of a common adversary. It is a wonder if Satan. suffer us to be quiet at home, whilst we are exercised with wars abroad. Had not Gideon learned to speak fair, as well. as to smite, he had found work enough from the swords of Joseph's sons: his good words are as victorious as his sword; his pacification of friends, better than his execution of enemies.
For ought I see, the envy of Israelites was not more troublesome to Gideon, than the opposition of Midian. He hath left the envy of Ephraim behind him; before him, he finds the envy of Succoth and Penuel. The one envies that he should overcome without them; the other, that he should say he had overcome. His pursuit leads him to Succoth; there he craves relief, and is repelled. Had he said, Come forth, and draw your sword with me against Zeba and Zalmunna, the motion had been but equal. A common interest challenges an universal aid. Now he says but “Give morsels of bread to my followers," he is turned off with a scorn; he asks bread, and they give him a stone. Could he ask a more slender recompense of their deliverance, or a less reward of his victory? “ Give morsels of bread.” Before this act, all their substance had been too small an hire for their freedom froin Midian ; now, when it is done, a morsel of bread is too much. Well might he challenge bread, where he gave liberty and life. It is hard, if those which fight the wars of God, may not have necessary relief; that whilst the enemy dies by. them, they should die by famine. If they had laboured for God at home in peace, they had been worthy of maintenance; how much more now, that danger is added to their toil? Even very executioners look for fees; but here were not malefactors, but adversaries to be slain; the sword of power and revenge was now to be wielded, not of quiet justice,
Those that fight for our souls against spiritual powers, may challenge bread from us; and it is shameless unthankfulness to deny it. When Abraham had vanquished the five kings, and delivered Lot and his family, the king of Salem met him with bread and wine; and now these sons of Abraham, after an equal victory, ask dry bread, and are denied by their brethren. Craftily yet, and under pretence of a false title, had they acknowledged the victory of Gideon; with what forehead could they have denied him bread ?
Now, I know not whether their faithlessness, or envy, lies in their way; “ Are the hands of Zeba and Zalmunna in thy hands ?" There were none of these princes of Succoth and · Penuel, but thought themselves better men than Gideon;
that he therefore alone should do that, which all the princes of Israel durst not attempt, they hated and scorned to hear. It is never safe to measure events by the power of the instrument; nor, in the causes of God (whose calling makes the difference), to measure others by themselves. There is nothing more dangerous, than in holy businesses to stand upon comparisons, and our own reputation; since it is reason God should both choose and bless where he lists.
To have questioned so sudden a victory had been pardonable; but to deny it scornfully, was unworthy of Israelites. Carnal men think that impossible to others, which themselves cannot do: from hence are their censures, hence their exclamations.
Gideon hath vowed a fearful revenge, and now performs it; the taunts of his brethren may not stay him from the pursuit of the Midianites : common enmities must first be opposed, domestical at more leisure. The princes of Succoth feared the tyranny of the Midianitish kings, but they more feared Gideon's victory. What a condition hath their envy drawn them into, that they are sorry to see God's enemies captive, that Israel's freedom must be their death, that the Midianites and they must tremble at one and the same revenger! To see themselves prisoners to Zeba and Zalmunna had not been so fearful, as to see Zeba and Zalmunna prisoners to Gideon. Nothing is more terrible to evil minds, than to read their own condemnation in the happy success of others. Hell itself would want one piece of its torment, if the wicked did not know those, whom they contemned, glorious.