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duty, cannot want a reward. Godliness / should not, thinks he, sacred also ? It is a never disappointed any man's hopes, oft dangerous indiscretion for a man not to hath exceeded them. If Uzziah fight against know the bounds of his own calling. What the Philistines, if against the Arabians, and confusion doth not follow upon this breakMehunims (according to his names), the ing of the ranks! strength, the help of the Almighty is with Upon a solemn day, king Uzziah clothes him. The Ammonites come in with pre- himself in pontifical robes, and, in the view sents, and all the neighbour nations ring of of that populous assembly, walks up in state the greatness, of the happiness of Uzziah : into the temple of God, and boldly aphis bounty and care make Jerusalem both proaching to the altar of incense, offers to strong and proud of her new towers; yea, | burn sweet odours upon it to the God of the very desert must taste of his muni. heaven. Azariah the priest is sensible of ficence.
so perilous an encroachment; lie therefore, The outward munificence of princes can- | attended with fourscore valiant assistants not stand firm, unless it be built upon the of that holy tribe, hastens after the king, foundations of providence and frugality. and finding him with the censer in his Uzziah had not been so great a king, if he hand, ready addressed to that sinful dehad not been so great a husband; he had votion, stays him with a free and grave his flocks in the deserts, and his herds in expostulation. There is no place wherein the plains ; his ploughs in the fields, his I could be sorry to see thee, O king, but vine-dressers upon the mountains, and in where thou art ; neither is there any act Carmel; neither was this more out of pro- that we should grudge thee so much, as fit than delight, for he loved husbandry. this which is the most sacred. Is it possible Who can contern those callings for mean- | that so great an oversight should fall into ness, which have been the pleasures of such wisdom? can a religious prince, trained princes?
up under a holy Zechariah, after so many Hence was Uzziah so potent at home, so years' zealous profession of piety, be either dreadful to his neighbours. His wars had ignorant or regardless of those limits, which better sinew than theirs. Which of his pre. God hath set to his own services ? decessors was able to maintain so settled an | O! what means this uncouth attempt ? army, of more than three hundred and ten Consider, O dear sovereign, for God's sake, thousand trained soldiers, well furnished, for thy soul's sake, consider where thou art, well fitted for the suddenest occasions? | what thou dost! it is God's house wherein Thrift is the strongest prop of power. thou standest, not thine own! Look about
The greatness of Uzziah, and the rare de- thee, and see, whether these vails, these vices of his artificial engines for war, have tables, these pillars, these walls, these pavenot more raised his fame than his heart : ments, have any resemblance of earth:so is he swollen up with the admiration of there is no place in all the world, whence his own strength and glory, that he breaks thy God hath excluded thee, but only this: again. How easy it is for the best man to this he hath reserved for his own use; and doat upon himself, and to be lifted up so canst thou think much to allow one room high, as to lose the sight both of the ground as proper to him, who hath not grudged all whence he rises, and of the hand that ad- the rest to thee? But if it be thy zeal of a vanced him! How hard it is for him that personal service to God that hath carried hath invented strange engines for the bat. / thee thither, alas ! how canst thou hope to tering bis enemies, to find out any means please the Almighty with a forbidden sacri. to beat down his own proud thoughts ! fice? which of thine holy progenitors ever Wise Solomon knew what he did, when he dared to tread where thy foot now standeth? prayed to be delivered from too much : which of them ever put forth their hand to “Lest," said he, “I be full, and deny thee, touch this sacred altar? Thou knowest that and say, Who is the Lord?" Upon this God hath set apart, and sanctified his own rock did the son of Solomon run, and split attendants. Wherefore serves the priesthimself. His full sails of prosperity carried hood, if this be the right of kings ? Were him into presumption and ruin. What may it not for the strict prohibition of our God, he not do? what may he not be ? Because it could seem no other than an honour to he found his power otherwise unlimited, our profession, that a king should think to overruling in the court, the cities, the fields, dignify himself by our employment. But the deserts, the armies, and magazines, now, knowing the severe charge of the great therefore he thinks he may do so in the King of heaven, we cannot but tremble to temple too. As things royal, civil, hus- see that censer in thine hand: who ever, bandry, military, passed his hands : so why out of the holy tribe, hath wielded it in
revenged? This affront is not to us, it is to | into the affairs, into the presence of God, the God whom we serve. In awe of that unwarranted. There cannot be a more terrible Majesty, as thou wouldst avoid some foolish misprision, than, because we are exemplary judgment, О king, withdraw thy- great on earth, to think we may be bold with self, not without humble deprecations, from Heaven. When God's messengers cannot this presence, and lay down that interdicted prevail by counsels, entreaties, threats, it handful, with fear and trembling. Be thou | is time for God to show his immediate judgever a king; let us he priests: the sceptrements. Wilful offenders can expect nothing is thine, let censers be ours.
| but a fearful revenge. What religious heart could do other, than Now begins Uzziah to be confounded in relent at so faithful and just an admonition? himself; and shame strives with leprosy for but how hard is it for great persons to yield a place in his forehead: the hand of God they have offended! Uzziah must not be hath done that in an instant, which all faulty : what is done rashly, shall be borne the tongues of men had attempted in vain. out with power; he was wroth, and thus There needs no farther solicitor of his expresseth it: “What means this saucy ex egress; the sense of his plague sends him postulation, O ye sons of Levi? how dare forth alone. And now he thinks, Wretched ve thus malapertly control the well-meant man that I am, how bave I angered God, actions of your sovereign? If ye be priests, and undone myself! I would needs come remember that ye are subjects; or if ye will in like a priest, and now go forth a leper : needs forget it, how easy is it for this hand the pride of my heart made me think myself to awake your memory. What such offence worthy the presence of a God; God's just can it be for me to come into that house, displeasure hath now made me unworthy of and to touch that altar, which my royal the presence of men: while I affected the progenitors have made, beautified, conse- | altar, I have lost my throne; while I scorn. crated? Is the God of this place only yours? | fully rejected the advice and censures of Why do ve thus ambitiously engross re. God's ministers, I am now become a specligion? If princes have not intermeddled tacle of horror and deformity to my own serwith these holy affairs, it was because they vauts; I, that would be sending up perfumes would not-not because they might not. to heaven, have made my nastiness hateful When those laws were made for the sanc- to my own senses. What do I under this tuary, there were no kings to grace these sacred roof? neither is God's house now divine ceremonies; yet even then, Moses for me, nor mine own: what cell, what dun. was privileged. The persons of princes, geon is close enough for me, wherein to if ye know not, are no less sacred than your wear out the residue of mine unhappy ard own. It is your presumption to account uncomfortable days? O God, thou art just, the Lord's anointed profane. Contest with and I am miserable ! those, whose dry and unballowed heads are Thus, with a dejected countenance, and subject to your power; for me, I will not sad heart, doth Uzziah hasten to retire himask your leave to be devout. Look ye to self; and wishes that he could be no less your own censers, presume not to meddle hid from himself, than from others. How with mine: in the meantime, can ye think easy is it for the God of heaven to bring this insolence of yours shall escape unre down the highest pitch of earthly greatness, venged? Can it stand with the honour of and to humble the stubbornest pride! my sovereignty, to be thus proudly checked Upon the leisure of second thoughts, by subjects? • God do so to me, and more Uzziah cannot but acknowledge much fa. also, it" - While Uzziah yet speaks, God vour in this correction, and confess to have strikes : ere the words of fury can come escaped well : others, he knew, had been forth of his mouth, the leprosy appears in struck dead, or swallowed up quick, for so his forehead. Leprosy was a most loath-presumptuous an intrusion. It is happy for some disease: the forehead is the most him, if his forehead may excuse his soul. conspicuous part. Had this shameful scurf Uzziah ceased not to be a king, when he broken forth upon his hand, or foot, or / began to be a leper; the disease of his forebreast, it might have been hid from the head did not remove his crown: his son eyes of men : now the forehead is smitten | Jotham reigned for him, under him; and with this judgment, that God may proclaim while he was not seen, yet he was obeved. to all beholders, Thus shall it be done to i The character of sovereignty is indelible, the man, whose arrogance hath thrust him whether by bodily infirmity, or by spiritual upon a sacred charge. Public offences censure. Neither is it otherwise, O God, must have open shame.
betwixt thee and us; if we be once a royal It is a dangerous thing to put ourselves i generation unto thee, our leprosies may AHAZ WITH HIS NEW ALTAR. deform us, they shall not dethrone us; still | rivality. This Assyrian king prevails against shall we have the right, still the possession the king of Syria, kills him, and takes his of that glorious kingdom, wherein we are chief city Damascus. The quarrel of the invested from eternity.
king of Judah hath enlarged the territories of his assistant beyond hope: and now,
while this Assyrian victor is enjoying the CONTEMPLATION VII. --- AHAZ WITH HIS NEW | possession of his new-won Damascus, Ahaz ALTAR.
goes up thither to meet him, to congratulate
the victor, to add unto those triumphis, AFTER many unhappy changes of the two which were drawn on by his solicitation. thrones, Ahaz succeeds Jotham in the king. There he sees a new-fashioned altar, that dom of Judah, an ill son of a good father; pleases his eye; that old form of Solomon's, not more the heir of David's seat, than of which was made by the pattern showed to
Jeroboam's sin. Though Israel play the Moses in the mount, is now grown stale and harlot, yet who can abide that Judah should despicable: a model of this more exquisite sin? It is hard not to be infected with a frame is sent to Urijah the priest, and must contagious neighbourhood: who ever read be sampled in Jerusalem. that the kingdom of Israel was seasoned! It is a dangerous presumption to make with the vicinity of the true religion of Ju- innovations, if but in the circumstances of dah? Goodness, such our nature is, is not God's worship. Those human additions, so apt to spread. A tainted air doth more which would seem to grace the institution easily affect a sound body, than a whole of God, deprave it: that infinite wisdom some air can clear the sick. Superstition knows best what will please itself, and prehath ever been more successful than truth : scribes accordingly. The foolishness of God the young years of Ahaz are soon misled to is wiser than the wisdom of men. Idolatry a plausible misdevotion.
and falsehood are commonly more gaudy A man that is once fallen from truth, and plausible than truth. That heart which knows not where he shall stay. From the can, for the outward homeliness, despise calves of Jeroboam is Ahaz drawn to the the ordinances of God, is already alienated gods of the heathen; yea, now bulls and from true religion, and lies open to the goats are too little for those new deities ; grossest superstition. his own flesh and blood is but dear enough: Never any prince was so foully idolatrous, “ He made his son to pass through their as that he wanted a priest to second him : fire.” Where do we find any religious Is- An Urijah is fit to humour an Abaz. Greatraelite thus zealous for God! Neither doth ness could never command any thing, which the holiness and mercy of our God require some servile wits were not ready both to so cruel a sacrifice; neither is our dull and applaud and justify. niggardly hand ready to gratify him with Ere the king can be returned from Da. more easy obediences. O God, how gladly mascus, the altar is finished. It were happy should we offer into thee our souls and if true godliness could be so forward in bodies, which we may enjoy so much the | the prosecutions of good. Neither is this more, when they are thine; since zealous strange pile reared only, but thrust up bepagans stick not to lose their own flesh and twixt God's altar and the temple, in an blood in an idol's fire!
| apparent precedency, as if he had said, Let He, that hath thus shamefully cast off the God of Judah come behind the deities the God of his fathers, cannot be long with- of Syria. out a fearful revenge. The king of Israel And now, to make up the full measure galls bim on the one side, the king of Syria of his impiety, this idolatrous king will liimon the other. To avoid the shock of both, self be sacrificing upon bis new altar, to Ahaz doth not betake himself to the God his new gods, the gods of Damascus. An whom he had offended, who was able to usurped priesthood well becomes a false make his enemies at peace with him, but deity: “ Because,” saith he, “the gods of to Tiglath-pileser king of Ashur: him doth the kings of Syria help them, therefore he woo with suits, with gifts, and robs Godwill I sacrifice to them, that they may help of those presents, which may endear so me." strong a helper. He that thought not his! O blind superstition! How did the gods son too dear for an idol, thinks not God's of Syria help their kings, when both those silver and gold too dear for an idolatrous kings and their gods were vanquished and abettor.
taken by the king of Assyria ? Even this O the infinite patience of the Almighty! | Damascus and this altar were the spoil of God gives success awhile to so offensive a a foreign enemy: how then did the gods of Syria help their kings, any other than to , sacrilegious pillage of the house of God, intheir ruin? What dotage is this, to make stead of an aid, he proves a burden: lios. choice of a foiled protection? But had the ever he sped in his first onsets, now “ he Syrians prospered, must their gods have the distressed Judah, but strengthened it not." thanks? Are there no authors of good but The charge was as great as the benefit blocks or devils ? or is an outward prospe- small; sooner shall he eat them out, than rity the only argument of truth, the only rescue them. No arm of flesh can shelter motive of devotion ? O foolish Ahaz! it is | Abaz from a vengeance. the God thou hast forsaken that plagues “ Be wise, o ye kings ; be instructed, thee, under whose only arm thou mightst ye judges of the earth: serve the Lord have prevailed. His power beats those with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss pagan stocks one against another, so as, the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish one while, one seems victorious, another from the way, when his wrath is kindled vanquished ; and at last he confounds both but a little.” together with their proudest clients. Thy. His subjects complain, that he died so selt shall be the best instance.
late ; and, as repenting that he ever was, Of all the kings of Judah hitherto, there denying him a room in the sepulchres of is none so dreadful an example, either of kings; as if they had said, The common sin or judgment, as this son of good Jotham. earth of Jerusalem is too good for him that I abhor to think that such a monster should | degenerated from his progenitors, spoiled descend from the loins of David. Where i his kingdom, depraved his people, forsook should be the period of this wickedness: his God. He began with the high places; thence he descends to the calves of Dan and Bethel ;
CONTEMPLATION VIII.—THE UTTER DESTRUCthe Syrian god ; then, from a partnership, TION OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL. he falls to an utter exclusion of the true God, and blocking up his temple; and then Judah was at a sore heave; yet Israel to the sacrifice of his own son; and, at last, shall miscarry before it; such are the sirs as if hell were broken loose upon God's of both, that they strive whether shall fall inlieritance, every several city, every high first; but this lot must light upon the ten place of Judah, hath a new god. No mar- | tribes. Though the late king of Judah were vel if he be branded by the Spirit of God, personally worse than the most of Jerowith, « This is that king Ahaz."
boam's successors, yet the people were What a fearful plague did this noisome generally less evil, upon whom the endeluge of sin leave behind it in the land of croachments of idolatry were more by obJudah! Who can express the horror of trusion, than by consent: besides that the God's revenge upon a people that should thrones of Judah had some interchanges have been his ? Pekah the king of Israel of good princes; Israel none at all. The slew a hundred and twenty thousand of same justice, therefore, that made Israel a them in one day, amongst whom was scourge to Judah, made Assyria a scorpion Maaseiah the son of Ahaz. ( just judg- to Israel. ment of the Almighty! Ahaz sheds the It was the quarrel of Judah that first enblood of one son to an idol : the true God gaged the king of Ashur in this war against sheds the blood of another of his sons in Israel: now he is not so easily fetched off. revenge.
So we have seen some eager mastiff, that Yet the hand of the Lord is stretched hath been set on by the least clap of the out still. Two hundred thousand of them hand, but could not be loosened by the were carried away, by the Israelites, cap- | force of staves. tive to Samaria. The Edomites came, and Salmaneser king of Assyria comes up carried away another part of them for bond against Hoshea king of Israel, and subdues slaves to their country. The Philistines him, and puts him to his tribute. This came up and shared the cities of the south yoke was uncouth and unpleasing: the vanof Judah, and the villages thereof: shortly, quished prince was neither able to resist, what other is miserable Judah, than the nor willing to yield: secretly, therefore, he prey and spoil of all the neighbouring na- treats with the king of Egypt for assistance, tions! “For the Lord brought Judah low as desiring rater to hazard his liberty by because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he the hand of an equal, than to enjoy a quiet made Judah naked, and transgressed sore subjection under the hand of an overruling against the Lord.” As for the great king power. We cannot blame princes to be of Ashur, whom Ahaz purchased with the jealous of their sovereignties. The detain.
ing of his yearly tribute, and the whisper- | challenge an indefeasible interest in God, ings with new confederates, have drawn up when Israel itself is cast off? what church the king of Ashur to perfect his own vic. in the world can show such dear love-tokens tories. He returns, therefore, with a strong from the Almighty, as this now abhorred power, and, after three years' siege, takes and adulterous spouse ? He, that spared Samaria, imprisons Hoshea, and, in the not the natural olive, shall he spare the exchange of a woful captivity, he peoples wild ? It is not for us sinners of the Gentiles Israel with Assyrians, and Assyria with Is. to be high-minded, but awful. raelites. Now that abused soil hath, upon The Israelites are carried captive into a surfeit of wickedness, cast out her per-| Assyria. These goodly cities of the ten fidious owners, and will try how it can fare tribes may not lie waste and unpeopled ; with heathenish strangers. Now the As- the wisdom of the victor finds it fit to transsyrian gallants triumph in the palaces of plant his own colonies thither, that so he Samaria and Jezreel, while the peers and may raise profit thence, with security. From captains of Israel are driven manacled | Babylon, therefore, and Guthalı, and Ava, through the Assyrian streets, and billeted and Hamath, and Sepharvaim, doth he send to the several places of their perpetual ser- of his own subjects, to possess and inhabit vitude. Shortly now the flourishing king. the cities of Samaria. The land doth not dom of the ten tribes is come to a final and brook her new tenants ; “ They feared not shameful end, and so vanished in this last the Lord :" how should they? they knew dissipation, that, since that day, no man him not; “ Therefore the Lord sent lionis could ever say, this was Israel.
amongst them, which slew some of them." O terrible example of vengeance, upon Not the veriest pagan can be excused for that peculiar people, whom God hath bis ignorance of God: even the most de. chosen for himself out of all the world! praved nature might teach us to tremble All the world were witnesses of the favours at a Deity. It is just with the Almighty not of their miraculous deliverances and pro- to put up with neglect, where he hath be. tections; all the world shall be witnesses stowed reason. of their just confusion.
The brute creatures are sent to revenge It is not in the power of slight errors to the quarrel of their Maker, upon worse set off that infinite mercy. What was it, beasts than themselves. Still hath God () God, what was it that caused thee to left himself champions in Israel: lions tear cast off thine own inheritance? what but the Assyrians in pieces, and put them in the same that made thee to cast the angels mind, that, had it not been for wickedness, out of heaven, even their rebellious sins ? that land needed not to have changed mas,
Those sins dared to emulate the greatness ters. The great Lord of the world cannot of thy mercies, no less than they forced the want means to plague offenders: if the men severity of thy judgments : “They left all be gone, yet the beasts are there ; and if the commandments of the Lord their God; the beasts had been gone, yet, so long as and made them molten images, even two there were stones in the walls, in the calves; and made a grove, and worshipped quarries, God would be sure of avengers. all the host of heaven, and served Baal, | There is no security but in being at peace and caused their sons and daughters to pass with God. through the fire, and used divinations and The king of Assyria is sued to for remedy. enchantments, and sold themselves to do Even these pagans have learned to know evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke that these lions were sent from a God; that him to anger.”
this punishment is for sin: “ They know Neither were these slips of frailty, or not the manner of the God of the land; ignorant mistakings, but wilful crimes, ob therefore he hath sent lions among them." stinate impieties, in spite of the doctrines, These blind heathens, that think every reproofs, menaces, miraculous convictions land hath a several god, yet hold that god of the holy prophets, which God sent worthy of his own worship ; vet hold, that amongst them. Thy destruction is of thy worship must be grounded upon knowledge, self, O Israel! What could the just hand the want of that knowledge punishable, the of the Almighty do less than consume a punishment of that want just and divine. nation so incorrigibly flagitious-a nation How much worse than Assyrians are they so unthankful for mercies, so ir patient of that are ready to ascribe all calamities to remedies, so incapable of repentance-So nature, to chance! that, acknowledging but obliged, so warned, so shamelessly, so law. one God of all the world, are yet careless lessly wicked :
to know him, to serve him? What nation under heaven can now One of the priests of Israel is appoir ted