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quire our careful disposition to those we | Speak out, Hezekiah : what is it that thy leave behind us; and, if we have delayed tears crave, while thy lips express not? "O these thoughts till then, our sickbeds may let me live, and I shall praise thee, O God." not complain of their importunity. We In a natural man, none could wonder at cannot leave to our families a better legacy this passionate request: who can but wonthan peace.
der at it in a saint, whose happiness doth Never was the prophet Isaiah unwelcome but then begin when his life ceaseth; whose to this good king, until now. Even sad misery doth but then end when his death tidings must be carried by those messengers enters? The word of faith is, “ O let me which would be faithful: neither may we die, that I may enjoy thee.” How, then, regard so much how they will be taken, as doth the good king cry at the news of that by whom they are sent.
death, which some resolute pagans have enIt was a bold and harsh word, to say to tertained with smiles ? Certainly the best a king, “ Thou shalt die and not live.” Iman cannot strip himself of some flesh; and do not liear Hezekiah rage, and fret at the while nature hath an undeniable share in message, or threaten the bearer; but he him, he cannot but retain some smatch of meekly turns his face to the wall, and weeps, the sweetness of life, of the horror of dis. and prays. Why to the wall? Was it for the solution : both these were in Hezekiah ; greater secresy of his devotion ? was it for neither of them could transport him into the more freedoin from distraction ? was it this passion : they were higher respects that that all the passion, which accompanied his swayed with so holy a prince; a tender prayer, might have no witnesses ? or, was care of the glory of God, a careful pity of it for that this wall looked towards the the church of God. His very tears said, temple, which his heart and eyes still moved O God, thou knowest that the eyes of the unto, though his feet could not ?
world are bent upon me, as one that hath Howsoever, the patient soul of good abandoned their idolatry, and restored thy Hezekiah turns itself to that holy God, sincere worship; I stand alone in the midst from whom he smarts and bleeds, and pours of a wicked and idolatrous generation, that out itself into a fervent deprecation : “I | looks through all my actions, all my events: beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how if now they shall see me snatched away in I have walked before thee in truth, and the midst of my days, what will these heawith a perfect heart; and have done that thens say? how can thy great name but which is good in thy sight."
suffer in this mine untiinely extinction ? Couldst thou fear, o Hezekiah, that Besides, what will become of thy poor God had forgotten thine integrity? the grace church, which I shall leave feebly religious, that was in thee was his own work ; could and as yet scarce warm in the course of a he in thee neglect himself? or dost thou pious reformation? How soon shall it be therefore doubt of his remembrance of thy miserably overgrown with superstition and faithfulness, because he summons thee to heathenism! how soon shall the wild boar receive the crown of thy faithfulness, glory of Assyria root up this little vineyard of and immortality? Wherein canst thou be re. thine! What need 'I beseech thee, O Lord, membered, if this be to forget thee? What to regard thy name, to regard thine inherichallenge is this? Is God a debitor to thy tance ? perfection? hath thine holy carriage merited What one tear of Hezekiah can run, anything from that infinite justice? Far, far waste? what can that good king pray for, were these presumptuous conceits from that unheard, unanswered ? Sennacherib came, humble and mortified soul: thou hadst hated in a proud confidence, to swallow up his thine own breast, if it could once have har-city and people: prayers and tears send him boured so proud a thought. This perfec-away confounded. Death comes to swal. tion of thine was no other than an honest low up his person, and that not without fondness of heart and life, which thou knew authority : prayers and tears send him away est God had promised to reward. It was disappointed. Before Isaiah was gone out the mercy of the covenant that thou plead into the middle court, the word of the Lord edst not the merit of thine obedience. came to him, saying, “ Turn again, and tell
Every one of these words was steeped in Hezekiah, the captain of my people, Thus tears : but what meant these words, these saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, tears? I hear not of any suit moved by I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy Hezekiah ; - only he wishes to be remem tears; behold, I will heal thee: on the bered in that which never could be forgot-third day thou shalt go up to the house of ten, though he should have entreated for an the Lord, and I will add to thy days fifteen oblivion.
What shall we say, then? O God! hast | bountiful. We are wont to reckon sever thou thus soon changed thy purpose ? Was years for the life of a man; and now, beit not thy true message which thy prophet, hold, more than two lives hath God added even now, delivered to Hezekiah? Is some-to the age of Hezekiah. How unexampled what fallen out that thou foresawest not? | a favour is this! Who ever but Hezekiah or dost thou now decree somewhat thou knew his period so long before? The fis. meantest not? The very thought of any of edness of his term is no less merciful than these were no better than blasphemous im- the protraction: we must be content to live piety. Certainly, Hezekiah could not live or die at uncertainties : we are not worthy one day longer than was eternally decreed: to calculate the date of our times: “ Teach the decree of God's eternal counsel had us, O Lord, so to number our days, that from everlasting determined him fifteen we may apply our hearts to wisdom." years yet longer. Why then doth God say There is little joy in many days, if ther by his prophet, “ Thou shalt die, and not be evil. Hezekiah shall not be blessed only live?" He is not as man, that he should with life, but with peace. The proud Asrepent; the message is changed, the will is | syrian threatens an invasion; his late foil not changed; yea, rather the message is still sticks in his stomach, and stirs him to explicated, not changed: for the signified revenge: the hook is in his nostrils; he will of God, though it sound absolutely, cannot move whither he list. The God of yet must be understood with condition ; heaven will maintain his own quarrel : * I that tells Hezekiah what he must expect will defend this city for mine own sake, from the nature of his disease, what would and for my servant David's sake." Lo! for befall him without his deprecations. There his life, Hezekiah is beholden, next under was nothing but death in the second causes, the infinite goodness of God, to his prayers; whatever secret purpose there was in the for his protection, to the dear memory of first; and that purpose shall lie hid for a his father David. Surely, for aught we find, time, under a reserved condition. The same Hezekiah was no less upright, and less of. decree that says, Nineveh shall be destroy- fensive than David; yet both Hezekiah and od, means, If Nineveh repent, it shall not Jerusalem shall fare the better for David's be destroyed. He, that finds good reason sake, above three hundred years after. to say Hezekiah shall die, yet still means, To that man after his own heart, had God If the quickened devotion of Hezekiah shall engaged himself, by his gracious promise, importune me for life, it shall be protracted. to preserve his throne, his seed. God loves And the same God, that hath decreed this to remember his ancient mercies. How addition of fifteen years, had decreed to stir happy a thing is it to be faithful with God! up the spirit of Hezekiah to that vehement This is the way to oblige those which are and weeping importunity which should ob- yet unborn, and to entail blessings upon the tain it. O God! thou workest thy good successions of future generations. pleasure in us, and with us; and, by thy It seems it was some pestilent ulcer that revealed will, movest us in those ways, thus endangered the life of Hezekiah.whereby thou effectest thy secret will. Isaiah is not a prophet only, but a physi
How wonderful is this mercy! Heze-cian : " And Isaiah said, Take a lump of kiah's tears are not dry upon his cheeks, figs.” He that gave an assurance of recoyea, his breath is not passed his lips, when very, gives a receipt for the recovery. The God sends him a comfortable answer. How decree of God includes the means : neither careful is the God of compassions, that his can the medicine work without a word; nei. holy servant should not languish one hour, | ther will the word work without the medi. in the expectation of his denounced death! cine ; both of them must meet in the cure. What speed was here, as in the errand, so | If we so trust the promise, that we neglect in the act of cecovery! Within three days the prescript, we presume to no purpose. shall Hezekiah be upon his feet; yea, his Happy is that soul, that so regards the profeet shall stand in the courts of God's mise of God's prophets, as that withal he house: he that now in his bed sighs and receives their counsels. groans, and weeps out a petition, shall then Nothing could be more proper for the sing out a thanksgiving in the temple. “O ripening of hard and purulent tumours, than thou that hearest prayer! unto thee shall dry figs. Herein Isaiah's direction was acall flesh come." With what cheerful as- cording to nature. Wherefore should we surance should we approach to the throne baulk the ordinary road, where it is both of that grace, which never failed any sup- fair and near? pliant.
The sudden contradiction of the message Neither was this grant more speedy than causes a just difficulty in the assent. Hew
kiah therefore craves a sign; not for that cord, took this advantage of a revolt; and he distrusted, but that he might trust the now, to strengthen their part, fall in with more: we can never take too fast hold of Hezekiah king of Judah, whom they found those promises of God, which have not the old enemy to the Assyrians, and the great more comfort in the application, than na- | favourite of heaven: him they woo with tural impossibility in the performance.“ We gifts, him they congratulate with embassages. believe: Lord, help our unbelief !”
The fame of Hezekiah's sickness, recovery, The sick king hath his option : his father form, and assurance of cure, have drawn was offered a sign, and refused it; he sues thither messengers and presents from Berofor one, and obtains it : “ Shall the sha- dach-baladan, king of Babylon. dow go forward ten degrees, or back ten The Chaldees were curious searchers indegrees ?" as if heaven itself lay open to to the secrets of nature, especially into the his choice, and were ready either to mend motions of the celestial bodies: though there his pace, or retire for his confirmation. had been no politic relations, this very asWhat creature is not cheerfully forward to tronomical miracle had been enough to fetch obey the faith of God's servants ?
them to Jerusalem, that they might see the Hezekiah fastens rather upon that sign man, for whose sake the sun forsook his which is more hard, more disagreeing from place, or the shadow forsook the sun. the course of nature : not without good rea How easily have we seen those holy men son; every proof must be clearer than the miscarried by prosperity, against whom no thing to be proved, neither may there want miseries could prevail! He that stood out a meet proportion betwixt both: now the stoutly against all the Assyrian onsets, clinggoing forward of the shadow was a motion, ing the faster to his God, by how much he no other than natural ; the recovery of that was harder assaulted by Sennacherib, melt. pestilent disease was against the stream of ed now with these Babylonian favours, and nature: the more difficult sign, therefore, runs abroad into offensive weaknesses. the surer evidence.
The Babylonian ambassadors are too wel. Whether shall we more wonder at the come to Hezekiah : as a man transported measure of the love of God to Hezekiah, with the honour of their respective and or at the power of Isaiah's faith in God ? | costly visitations, he forgets his tears, and Out of both, either the sun goes back in his turning to the wall; he forgets their inheaven, that his shadow may go back on compatible idolatry, so hugging them in his earth, or the shadow no less miraculously bosom, as if there had been no cause of goes back on earth, while the sun goes for strangeness, all his doors fly open to them, ward in heaven. It is true that the pro- and, in a vain-glorious ostentation, all his phet speaks of the shadow, not of the sun; new-gathered treasures, all his strong arexcept perhaps because the motion of the | mories, entertain their eyes : nothing in sun is best discerned by the shadow, and his house, nothing in his dominion, is hid the motion of the shadow is led by the from them. course of the sun ; besides that the demon O Hezekiah! what means this impotent stration of this miracle is reported to be ambition? It is not long since thou tearedst local in the dial of Ahaz, not universal in off the very plates of the temple-doors, to the sensible length of the day: withal, the give unto Sennacherib; and can thy trearetreat of the sun had made a public and sures be suddenly so multiplied, that they noted change in the frame of nature. This can be so worthy to astonish foreign be. particular alteration of the shadow, in places holders ? or, if thy store-house were as rich limited, might satisfy no less without a con- as the earth, can thy heart be so vain as to fusive mutation in the face of the world. be lifted up with these heavy metals? Didst Whethersoever, to draw the sun back to-thou not see, that heaven itself was at thy gether with the shadow, or to draw the beck, whilst thou wert humbled ? and shall shadow back without the sun, was the proof a little earthly dross have power over thy of a divine omnipotence, able therefore to soul? Can the flattering applause of stran. draw back the life of Hezekiah fifteen de- / gers let thee loose into a proud joy, whom grees from the night of death, towards which the late message of God's prophet resolved it was hastening.
into tears? O God! if thou do not keep us, O God! thou wilt rather alter the course as well in our sunshine as in our storm, we of heaven and earth, than the faith of thy | are sure to perish : as in all time of our trichildren shall sink for want of supportation. bulation, so in all time of our wealth, good
It should seem, the Babylonians, finding Lord, deliver us! the Assyrian power abated by the revenge- Alas! how slight doth this weakness seem ful hand of God's angel, and their own dis- ! in our eyes, to rejoice in the ab'ındance of God's blessings, to call in foreign friends to to my deserts. “Is it not good, if there be witnesses of our plenty; to raise our con. be peace and truth in my days?" I have ceits some little, upon the acclamations of deserved a present payment; O God! thou others, upon the value of our own abilities ! deferrest it: I have deserved it in person ;
Lay thy hand upon thy mouth, O foolish thou reservest it for those whom I cannot flesh and blood, when thou seest the cen- yet so feel, because they are not. I have sure of thy Maker.
deserved war and tumult; thou favourest Isaiah the prophet is sent speedily to me with peace: I have deserved to be over. Hezekiah, with a sharp and beart-breaking run with superstition and idolatry; thou message: “ Behold, the days come that all blessest me with truth : shouldst thou conthat is in thine house, and that which thy tinue truth unto me, though upon the most fathers have laid up in store unto this day, unquiet terms, the blessing were too good shall be carried into Babylon; nothing shall for me; but now thou hast promised, and be left, saith the Lord; and of thy sons, will not reverse it, that both truth and that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt peace shall be in my days. Lord! I adore beget, shall they take away, and they shall thy justice, I bless thy mercy. be eunuchs in the palace of the king of God's children are neither waspish nor Babylon."
sollen, when they are chid or beaten, but No sin can be light in Hezekiah: the ho. patiently hold their backs to the stripes of a liness of the person adds to the unholiness displeased mercy; knowing how much more of the act; eminency of profession doubles God is to be magnified for what he might both the offence and the judgment. This have done, than repined at for what he hath glory shall end in an ignominious loss. done ; resigning themselves over into the
The great and holy God will not digest hand of that gracious justice, which, in their pride in any, much less in his own. That smart, seeks their reformation and glory. which was the subject of Hezekiah's sin, shall be the matter of his punishment; those with whom he sinned, shall be his avengers. CONTEMPLATION XI. — MANASSEH. It was his treasure and munition, wherein he prides himself to these men of Babylon: At last, some three years after his reco the men of Babylon shall carry away his very, Hezekiah hath a son: but such a one treasure and munition. What now doth as, if he could have foreseen, orbity had Hezekiah, but tempt them with a glorious been a blessing. booty, as some fond traveller that would! Still in the throne of Judah there is a sucshow his gold to a thief?
cession and interchange of good and evil : These worldly things are furthest off from good Jotham is succeeded by wicked Ahaz; the heart : perhaps Hezekiah might not be wicked Ahaz is succeeded by good Heze. much troubled with their loss. Lo! God kiah ; good Hezekiah is succeeded by wickcomes closer to him yet.
ed Manasseh. Evil princes succeed to good, As yet was Hezekiah childless. how much for the exercise of the church; and good sucbetter had it been to continue so still, than ceed to evil, for the comfort of the church. to be plagued in his issue! He shall now The young years of Manasseh gave ad. beget children to servitude, his loins shall vantage to his miscarriage ; even while he yield pages to the court of Babylon : while might have been under the ferule, he swayed he sees them born princes, he shall fore. the sceptre. Whither may not a child be see them made eunuchs in a foreign palace. drawn, especially to a garish and puppet. What comfort can he take in the wishes like superstition? As infancy is capable of and hopes of sons, when, ere they be born, all impressions, so most of the worst. he hears them destined to captivity and ! Neither did Manasseh begin more early bondage !
than he held out long: he reigned more This rod was smart, yet good Hezekiah years than his good father lived, not with. kisses it: his heart struck him no less, than standing the miraculous addition to his age; the mouth of the prophet; meekly, there. | more than ever any king of Judah besides fore, doth he yield to this divine correc could reach. Length of days is no true rule tion : “Good is the word of the Lord wbich of God's favour: as plants last longer than thou hast spoken." Thou hast spoken this sensitive creatures, and brute creatures out. word, but from the Lord; it is not thine, I live the reasonable; so amongst the reason. but his; and, being his, it must needs be, able, it is no news for the wickedly great to like himself, good: good, because it is just; inherit these earthly glories, longer than tiie for I have deserved more, and worse: good, best. because merciful; for I suffer not according ! There wants not apparent reason for this
difference. Good princes are fetched away all his predecessors; and now the first act of to a better crown: they cannot be losers, this green liead was their re-edifying. That that exchange a weak and fading honour for mischief may be done in a day, which many a perfection and eternity of blessedness. | ages cannot redress. Wicked men live long, to their own disad Fearful were the presages of these bold vantage; they do but carry so many more beginnings. From the misbuilding of these brands to their hell. If, therefore, there be chapels of the hills to the true God, Ma. a just man that perisheth in his righteous- nasseh proceeds to erecting of altars to a ness, and there be a wicked man that pro false, even to Baal, the god of Ahab, the longs his life in his wickedness, far be it from stale idol of the heathen: Yet further, not us, either to pity the removal of the just, content with so few deities, he worships all or to envy the continuance of the wicked. the host of heaven; and, that he might deThis continues to his loss; that departs to spite God yet more, he sets up altars to these a happy advancement.
abused rivals of their Maker, in the very It is very like that Hezekiah marrying so house of the Lord : that holy place doth late, in the vigour both of his age and holi- he not fear to defile with the graven image ness, made a careful choice of a wife suit of the grove that he had made. Never able to his own piety: neither had his de- Amorite did so wickedly as Manasseh; and, light been so much in her, according to her | which was yet worse, it sufficed not to be name, if her delight had not been, as his, thus wicked bimself, but he seduced God's in God: their issue swerves from both, so people to these abominations; and, that his fully inheriting the vices of his grandfather example might move the more, he spares Ahaz, as if there had been no intervention not his own son from the fire of the idolof a Hezekiah. So we have seen the kernel sacrifice. Neither were his witcheries less of a well fruited plant degenerate into that enormous than his idolatry: he observed crab, or willow, which gave the original to times, he used enchantments, he dealt with nis stock; yet can I not say, that Hezekiah familiar spirits, and with wizards. Neither was as free from traducing evil to his son were either of these worse than his cruelty: Manasseh, as Ahaz was free from traducing he shed innocent blood, till he had filled good to his son Hezekiah. Evil is incor Jerusalem from one end to another. porated in the best nature, whereas even O Manasseh, how no less cruel wert thou the least good descends from above. to thine own soul, than to thy Judah! What
We may not measure grace by means. a hideous lift of monstrous impieties is here! Was it possible that Manasseh, having been any one of which were enough to draw judgtrained up in the religious court of his father ment upon a world ; but what hell is suffi. Hezekiah, under the eye of so holy prophets cient for all together! and priests, under the shadow of the temple Wliat brows are not now lifted up to an of God, after a childhood seasoned with so attentive expectation of some present and gracious precepts, with so frequent exercise | fearful vengeance from God, upon such faof devotion, should run thus wild into all gitious wickedness! “ Therefore, thus saith heathenish abominations; as if there had the Lord, Behold, I am bringing such evil been nothing but idolatry in the seed of his upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever conception, in the milk of his nourishment, heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle.”_ in the rules of his institution, in the practice. The person of Manasseh is not capable of of his examples? How vain are all outward revenge enough : as his sin dilated itself by helps without the influence of God's Spirit, an infectious diffusion to his people, so shall and that spirit that breathes where he listeth! | the punishment. We are sensible of the Good education raiseth great hopes; but the least touch of our own miseries: how rarely proof of them is in the divine benediction. are we affected with other men's calamities!
I fear to look at the outrages of this Yet this evil shall be such, as that the ruwicked son of Hezekiah. What havoc doth mour of it shall beat no ear, that shall not he make in the church of God! as if he had glow with an astonishing commiseration. been born to ruin religion ; as if his only fe. What then, O God, what shall that plague licity had been to untwist, or tear, in one be, which thou threatenest with so much day, that holy web which his father had preface of horror ? “ I will stretch over Jebeen weaving, nine and twenty years; and rusalem the line of Samaria, and the plum. contrarily, in one hour, to set up that offen- met of the house of Ahab; and I will wipe sive pile which had been above three hund-Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping red years in pulling down : so long haj the it, and turning it upside down; and I will high places stood. The zeal of Hezekiah | forsake the remnant of mine inheritance ; in demolishing them, honoured him above and I will deliver them into the hand of