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to be carried back to Samaria, to teach the his own house. Ahay was not more the ill Assyrian colony the fashions of the god of son of a good father, than he was the ill the land; not for devotion, but for impunity. father of a good son; he was the ill son Vain, politicians think to satisfy God by of good Jotham, the ill father of good He. patching up religions : any forms are good zekiah. Good Hezekian makes amends for enough for an unknown deity. The As- | his father's impiety, and puts a new life into syrian priests teach and practise the worship the heartless remnant of God's people. of their own gods. The Israelitish priest The wisdom of our good God knows prescribes the worship of the true God. when bis aid will be most seasonable, most The people will follow both; the one out welcome, which he then loves to give, when of liking, the other out of fear. What a he finds us left of our hopes. That merci prodigious mixture was here of religions ! ful hand is reserved for a dead lift; then true with false, Jewish with paganish-di-le fails us not. vine with devilish! Every division of these! Now ye might have seen this pious prince transplanted Assyrians had their several busily bestirring himself, in so late and need. deities, high places, sacrifices. This bighful a reformation ; removing the high places, priest of Israel intercommunes with every battering and burning the idols, demolishing one of them : so that now these fathers of their temples, cutting down their groves, Samaritanism are in at all : “ They fear the opening the temple, purging the altars and Lord, and serve their idols." No beggar's vessels, sanctifying the priests, rekindling cloak is more pieced, than the religion of the lamps, renewing the incense, re-instithese new inhabitants of Israel. I know tuting the sacrifices, establishing the order not how their bodies sped for the lions; I of God's service, appointing the courses, am sure their souls fared the worse for this settling the maintenance of the ministers, medley. Above all things, God hates a publishing the decrees of the long-neglected mongrel devotion : if we be not all Israel, passover, celebrating it and the other feasts it were better to be all Ashur. It cannot | with due solemnity, encouraging the people, so much displease God to be unknown or contributing bountifully to the offerings; and, neglected, as to be consorted with idols. in one word, so ordering all the affairs of
God as if he had been sent down from hea.
ven to restore religion, as if David himself CONTEMPLATION IX. - HEZEKIAH AND had been alive again in this blessed heir, not SENNACHERIB.
so much of his crown, as of his pietv. (Ju
dah! happy in thy Hezekiah! O Hezekiah! Israel is gone, Judah is left standing; or happy in the gracious restoration of the rather, some few sprigs of those two tribes. Judah! Ahaz shall have no thanks for such So we have seen, in the shredding of some a son: the God, that is able of the very large timber-tree, one or two boughs left at stones to raise children to Abraham, raises the top to hold up the sap. Who can but a true seed of David, out of the corrupt lament the poor remainders of that langnish loins of an idolater. That infinite mercy ing kingdom of David !
is not tied to the terms of an immediate Take out of the two tribes of Judah and propagation: for the space of three hundred Benjamin one hundred and twenty thou. years, the man after God's own heart had sand, whom Pekah the king of Israel slew no perfect heir till now. Till now did the in one day; take out two hundred thousand | high places stand: the devotions of the best that were carried away captive to Samaria ; princes of Judah were blemished with some take out those that were transported into weak omissions. Now, the zeal of good the bondage of the Edomites, and those Hezekiah clears all those defects, and works that were subdued in the south parts by the an entire change. Philistines : alas! what a handful was left! How seasonably hath the providence of to the king of Judah! scarce worth the name God kept the best man for the worst times! of a dominion ! Yet, even now, out of the When God hath a great work to do, he gleeds of Judah, doth God raise up a glo- | krows to fit himself with instruments. rious light to bis forlorn church ; vea, from No marvel if the paganish idols go to the wretched loins of Ahaz, doth God fetch wreck, when even the brazen serpent, that a holy Hezekiah. It had been hard to con- Moses had made by God's own appoint ceive the state of Judah worse than it was; ment, is broken in pieces. The Israelites neither was it more miserable than sinful, were stung with fiery serpents; this brazen and, in regard of both, desperate. When serpent healed them, which thev did no beyond hope, God revives this dying stock sooner see than they recovered. But now, of David, and, out of very ruins, builds up such was the venom of the Israelitish ido
latry, that this serpent of brass stung worse acquitted him ; if upon covenants of aid, than the fiery; that which first cured by the cessation therefore acquitted him ; if the eye, now buy the eye poisoned the soul; the reforming of religion, and banishment that which was at first the type of a Sa- of idolatry, ran under the censure of rebel. viour, is now the deadly engine of the lion, the quarrel on Hezekiah's part was enemy: while it helped, it stood; it stood holy, on Sennacherib's unjust: but if the while it hurt not: but when once wicked re-stipulation were absolute, and the withabuse had turned it into an idol, what was drawing of this homage upon none but civil it but Neliushtan?
grounds, I cannot excuse the good king from The holiness of the first institution can. a just offence. It was a human frailty in not privilege aught from the danger of a an obliged prince, by force to effect a free future profanation; nor, as the case may and independevt sovereignty. stand, from an utter abolition. What an- What! do we mince that fact, which holy tiquity, what authority, what primary ser- Hezekiah himself censures ? “ I have of. vice, might this serpent have pleaded? All fended, return from me ; what thou puttest that cannot keep it out of the dust. Those on me will I bear.” The comfort of liberty things which are necessary in their being, may not be had with an unwarranted viobeneficial in their continuance, may still re lence. Holiness cannot free us from infire main when their abuse is purged: but thosemity. It was a weakness to do that act, things whose use is but temporary, and which must be soon undone with much whose duration is needless and unprofitable, repentance, and more loss; this revolt shall may cease with the occasion, and much cost Hezekiah, besides much humiliation, more perish with an inseparable abuse. three hundred yearly talents of silver, thirty Hezekiah willingly forgets who made the talents of gold. How much better had it serpent, when he sees the Israelites make been for ihe cities of Judah to have pur. it an idol. It is no less intolerable for God chased their peace with an easy tribute, to have a rival of his own making. | than war with intolerable taxation.
Since Hezekiah was thus, above all his Fourteen years had good Hezekiah fed ancestors, upright with the Lord, it is no upon a sweet peace, sauced only with a set marvel if the Lord were with bim, if he pension; now he must prepare bis palate prospered whithersoever he went: the same for the bitter morsels of war. The king of God, that would have his justice magnified Assyria is come up against all the defenced in the confusion of the wicked princes of cities of Judah, and bath taken them. Israel and Judalı, would have his mercy no Hezekiah is fain to buy him out with too less acknowledged in the blessings of faith many talents; the poor kingdom of Judah ful Hezekiah.
is exhausted with so deep a payment, inThe great king of Assyria had, in a sort, somuch that the king is forced to borrow swallowed up both the kingdoms of Judah I of God himself, for “ Hezekiah gave him and Israel ; yet not with an equal cruelty: 1 all the silver that was found in the house he made Israel captive; Judah, upon a will of the Lord; yea, at that time did Hezeing composition, tributary. Israel is va- kiah cut off the gold from the doors of the nished in a transportation ; Judah conti. temple of the Lord, and from the pillars nues under the homage wherein Ahaz left it. which he had overlaid, and gave it to the Hezekiah had reigned but six years, when king of Assrria." How hard was good he saw his neighbours of Israel packing into Hezekiah dnven, ere he would be thus bold a miserable captivity, and the proud Assy with his God! Surely if the mines or coffers rians lording in their cities; yet, even then, of Judah could have yielded any supply, when he stood alone, in a corner of Judah, this shift had been hateful; to fetch back durst Hezekiah draw his neck out of the for an enemy that which he had given to yoke of the great and victorious monarch his Maker. Only necessity excuses that of Assyria; and, as if one enemy had not from sacrilege in the son, which will make been enough, at the same time he falls up-sacrilege in the father : that which is once on the encroaching Philistines, and prevails.devoted to a sacred use, may not be called It is not to be asked what powers a man back to a profane. But He, whose the can make, but in what terms he stands with earth is, and the fulness of it, is not so Heaven. The unworthy father of Hezekiah taken with our metals, that he should more had clogged Judah with this servile fealty regard our gold than our welfare: his goodto the Assyrian; what the conditions of ness cannot grudge any outward thing for that subjection were, it is too late, and need- | the price of our peace. To rob God, ont less for us to inquire. If this payment were of covetousness, or wantonness, or neglect, limited to a period of time, the expiration is justly damnable; we cannot rob him ou.
of our need; for then he gives us all we | it." How fearful a word was this! the rest take, and bids us ransom our lives, our li- were but vain cracks; this was a thunder. berties. The treasures of God's house were | bolt to strike dead the heart of Hezekiah. precious, for his sake, to whom they were If Rabshakeh could have been believed, Je. consecrated; but more precious in the sight rusalem could not but have flown open : of the Lord was the life of any one of his how could it think to stand out no less saints.
against God than men? Even thus doth Every true Israelite was the spiritual the great enemy of mankind : if he can dishouse of God. Why should not the door hearten the soul from a dependence upon of the material temple be willingly stripped, the God of mercies, the day is his. Lewd to save the whole frame of the spiritual miscreants care not how they belie God, for temple? Take therefore, O Hezekiah, what i their own purposes. thou hast given; no gold is too holy to re- Eliakim, the steward of Hezekiah, well deen thy vexation. It matters not so much knew how much the people must needs be how bare the doors of the temple be, in a affected with this pernicious suggestion; case of necessity, as how well the insides and fain would, therefore, if not stop that be furnished with sincere devotion. O the wicked mouth, yet divert these blasphemies cruel hard-heartedness of those men, which into a foreign expression. I wonder that will rather suffer the living temples of God any wise man should look for favour from to be ruined, than they will ransom their an enemy: “ Speak, I pray thee, to thy lives with farthings.
servants in the Syrian language.” What It could not be, but that the store of was this, but to teach an adversary how to needy Judah must soon be drawn dry with do mischief? Wherefore came Rabshakeh so deep an exaction. That sum cannot be thither, but to gall Hezekiah, to withdraw sent, because it cannot be raised. The his subjects? That tongue is most proper cruel tyrant calls for his bricks, while he | for him which may hurt most. Deprecations allows no straw: his anger is kindled, be- of evil, to a malicious man, are no better canse Hezekiah's coffers have a bottom. than advices. An unknown idiom is fit to With a mighty host doth he come up against keep counsel : they are familiar words that Jerusalem; therefore shall that city be de- | must convey aught to the understanding. stroyed by him, because by him it hath Lewd men are the worse for admonitions. been impoverished: the inhabitants must Rabshakeh had not so strained his throat, be slaves, because they are beggars. to corrupt the citizens of Jerusalem, had it
O lamentable, and, in sight, desperate not been for the humble obtestation of Eliacondition, of distressed Jerusalem! Wealth kim. Now he rears up his voice, and holds it had none; strength it had but a little : his sides, and roars out his double blas. all the country round about was subdued phemies : one while affrighting the people to the Assyrian; that proud victor hath be with the great power of the mighty king of girt the walls of it with an innumerable ar. Assyria ; another while debasing the con. my, scorning that such a shovelful of earth temptible force of Hezekiah: now smoothly should stand out but one day. Poor Jeru- alluring them with the assurances of a safe salem stands alone, blocked up with a world and successful yieldance; then discouraging of enemies, helpless, friendless, comfortless, them with the impossibility of their delilooking for the worst of a hostile fury, when verance; laying before them the fearful Tartan, and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh, the examples of greater nations vanquished by great captains of the Assyrians, call to a that sword, which was now shaken over parley. Hezekiah sends to them three of them, triumphing in the impotency and mis. his prime officers, his steward, his secretary, carriage of their gods : “ Who are they, his recorder. Lord! what insolent blas- among all the gods of the countries, that phemies doth that foul mouth of Rabshakeh have delivered their country out of mine belch out against the living God, against hand, that the Lord should deliver Jeru. his anointed servant !
salem out of mine hand ? where are the How plausibly doth he discourage the gods of Arpad and of Hamath ?" Where, subjects of Hezekiah! how proudly doth he but in that hellish darkness that is ordained insult upon their impotency! how doth he both for them and for thee, barbarous Asbrave them with base offers of advantage ! | syrian, that darest thus open thy mouth and, lastly, how cunningly doth he forelay against thy Maker. And can those atheous their confidence, which was only left them, eyes of thine see no difference of gods ? is in the Almighty, protesting not to be come there no distance betwixt a stock, or stope, up thither without the Lord! « The Lord and that infinite Deity that made heaven said to me, Go up to this land and destroy I and earth? It is enough that thou now feel
est it; thy torments have taught thee too | dead, while that tyrant thought of nothing late, that thou affrontest a living God. but life and victory. Proud and secure
How did the fingers and tongues of those worldlings little dream of the near approach Jewish peers and people itch to be at Rab of their judgments: while they are plotting shakeh, in a revengeful answer to those im their deepest designs, the overruling jus. pieties! All is hushed; not a word sounds tice of the Almighty hath contrived their from those walls. I do not more wonder | sudden confusion, and sees and sets them at Hezekiah's wisdom, in commanding si- their day. lence, than at the subjects' obedience in | Rabshakeh returns, and finding the king keeping it. This railer could not be more of Assyria warring against Libnah, reports spited, than with no answer; and if he to him the silent, and therein contenptuous might be exasperated, he could not be re- answer, and firm resolutions of Hezekiah : formed: besides, the rebounding of those in the meantime God pulls Sennacherib by multiplied blasphemies might leave some ill the ear, with the news of the approaching impressions in the multitude; this sulphu arm of Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, which rous flash, therefore, dies in its own smoke, was coming up to raise the siege, and to only leaving a hateful stench behind it. succour his confederates. That dreadful
Good Hezekiah cannot easily pass over power will not allow the Assyrian king, in this devilish oratory: no sooner doth he person, to lead his other forces up against hear of it, than he rends his clothes, and | Jerusalem, nor to continue his former lea. covers himself with sackcloth, and betakes guer long before those walls. But now he himself to the house of the Lord, and sends writes big words to Hezekiah, and thinks, his officers, and the gravest of the priests, with his thundering menaces, to beat open clad in sackcloth, to Isaiah, the prophet of the gates, and level the bulwarks of JeruGod, with a doleful and querulous message. salem. Like the true master of Rabshakeh,
o the noble piety of Hezekiah! Not- he reviles the God of heaven, and basely withstanding all the straits of the siege, and parallels him with the dunghill deities of the the danger of so powerful an enemy, I find heathen. not the garments of this good king, any Good Hezekiah gets him into his sancotherwise than whole, and unchanged: but tuary. There he spreads the letter before now, so soon as ever a blasphemy is uttered | the Lord; and calls to the God that dwells against the majesty of his God, though by a between the cherubims, to revenge the pagan dog, his clothes are torn, and turned blasphemies of Sennacherib, to protect and into sackcloth. There can be no better rescue himself and his people. Every one argument of an upright heart, than to be of those words pierced heaven, which was more sensible of the indignities offered to no less open to mercy unto Hezekiah, than God, than of our own dangers. Even these vengeance to Sennacherib. Now is Isaiah desperate reproaches send Hezekiah to the addressed with a second message of comtemple. The more we see God's name pro-fort to him, who doubtless distrusted not faned, the more shall we, if we be truly re- the first: only the reiteration of that fuligious, love and honour it.
rious blasphemy made him take faster hold, Whither should Hezekiah run, but to by his faithful devotion. Now the jealous the temple, to the prophet? There, there God, in a disdain of so blasphemous a conis the refuge of all faithful ones, where they testation, rises up in a style of majesty, and may speak with God, where they may be gloriously tramples upon this saucy inso. spoken to from God, and fetch comfort lency: “ Because thy rage against me, and from both. It is not possible that a he thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, lieving heart should be disappointed. Isaiah therefore I will put my hook into thy nose, sends that message to the good king, that and my bridle into thy lips, and will turn may dry up his tears, and cheer his coun- | thee back by the way thou camest." Lo, tenance, and change his suit : “ Thus saith Sennacherib, the God of heaven makes a the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which | beast of thee, who hast so brutishly spurned thou hast heard, with which the servants at his name. If thou be a ravenous bear, of the king of Assyria have blasphemed he hath a hook for thv nostrils; if thou me: Behold, I will send a blast upon him, be a resty horse, he hath a bridle for thy and he shall hear a rumour, and shall re- mouth: in spite of thee, thou shalt follow turn to his own land; and I will cause him his hook, or his bridle, and shalt be led to to fall by the sword, in his own land." thy just shame by either.
Lo! even while Sennacherib was in the It is not for us to be the lords of our height of his jollity and assurance, God's own actions : “ Thus saith the Lord conprophet foresees his ruin, and gives him for cerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow | in spite of thy god, to arm thine own loins there, nor come before it with a shield, nor against thee. cast a bank against it; by the way that he Thou art avenged, O God! thou art came, shall he return,” &c. Impotent men! avenged plentifully of thine enemies! Whowhat are we in the hands of the Almighty? soever strives with thee, is sure to gain doWe purpose, he overrules; we talk of great thing but loss, but shame, but death, but hell matters, and think to do wonders ; he blows | The Assyrians are slain; Sennacherib is reupon our projects, and they vanish with warded for his blasphemy: Jerusalem is res. ourselves. He that hath set bounds to the cued; Hezekiah rejoices: the nations wonder sea, hath appointed limits to the rage of and tremble. “O love the Lord, all çe the proudest enemies; yea, even the devils saints; for the Lord preserveth the faithful, themselves are confined. Why boast ye and plenteously rewardeth the proud doer.” yourselves, 0 ye tyrants, that ye can do mischief? ye are stinted, and even within those lists is confusion.
CONTEMPLATION X. — HEZEKIAH SICK, O the trophies of Divine justice! “That
RECOVERED, VISITED. very night the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians? Hezekiah was freed from the siege of the an hundred fourscore and five thousand, Assyrians, but he is surprised with a disease. and when they arose early in the morning, He, that delivered him from the hand of his behold they were all dead corpses.”
enemies, smites him with sickness. God How speedy an execution was this ! how doth not let us loose from all afflictions, miraculous! No human arm shall have the when he redeems us from one. glory of this victory: it was God that was To think that Hezekiah was either not defied by that presumptuous Assyrian ; it is thankful enough for his deliverance, or too God that shall right his own wrongs. Had much lifted up with glory of so miraculous the Egyptian or Ethiopian forces been come a favour, were an injurious misconstruction up, though the same God had done this of the hand of God, and an uncharitable work by them, yet some praise of this censure of a holy prince : for though no slaughter had, perhaps, cleaved to their flesh and blood can avoid the just desert ot fingers : now an invisible hand sheds all this bodily punishment, yet God doth not always blood, that his very enemies may clear him strike with an intuition of sin: sometimes he from all partnership of revenge. Go now, regards the benefit of our trial, sometimes wicked Sennacherib, and tell of the gods of the glory of his mercy in our cure. Hamath, and Arpad, and Sepharvaim, and it was no slight distemper that seized Hena, and Ivah, which thou hast destroyed, upon Hezekiah, but a disease both painful and say, that Hezekiah's God is but as one and fierce, and in nature deadly. O God, of these. Go, and add this deity to the how thou lashest even those whom thou number of thy conquests; now say, that lovest! Hadst thou ever any such darling Hezekiah's God, in whom he trusted, hath in the throne of Judalı, as Hezekiah yel deceived him, and graced thy triumphs. he no sooner breatheth from a miserable
With shame and grief enough is that siege, than he panteth under a mortal sick. sheeped tyrant returned to his Nineveh, ness, when as yet he had not so much as having left behind him all the pride and the comfort of a child to succeed him. Thy strength of Assyria, for compost to Jewish prophet is sent to him with a heavy message fields. Well were it for thee, O Senna of his death : “ Set thine house in order, cherib ! if thou couldst escape thus: ven- for thou shalt die and not live." It is no geance waits for thee at home, and wel small mercy of God that he gives us warn. comes thee into thy place: while thou art ing of our end: we shall make an ill use of worshipping in the house of Nisroch thy so gracious a premonition, if we make not god, two of thine own sons shall be thine a meet preparation for our passage. Even executioners. See now if that false deity those that have not a house, yet have a of thine can preserve thee from that stroke, soul. No soul can want important affairs which the true God sends thee by the hand to be ordered for a final dissolution : the of thine own flesh. He, that slew thine neglect of this best t rift is desperate. Set host by his angels, slays thee by thy sons: thy soul in order, O man, for thou shalt die the same angel, that killed all those thou- and not live. sands, could as easily have smitten thee; If God had given Hezekiah a son, nature but he rather reserves thee for the further had bequeathed his estate: now, he must torment of an unnatural stroke, that thou study to find heirs. Even these outward mayest see, too late, how easy it is for him, things, though in themselves worthless, ree