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their enemies, and they shall become a prey | himself greatly before the God of his fa. and a spoil unto all their enemies."
thers.” How true is that word of the pro. It is enough, O God! it is enough. What phet,“ Vexation gives understanding!" The ear can but tingle, what eye can but weep, viper, when he is lashed, casts up his poiwhat hair can but start up, what heart can son. The traitor, when he is racked, tells be but confounded at the mention of so that truth which he had else never uttered. dreadful a revenge? Can there be a worse | If the cross bear us not to heaven, nothing judgment than desolation, captivity, deser. can. What use were there of the grain, tion, spoil, and torture of prevailing ene but for the edge of the sickle wherewith it mies? But however other cities and nations is cut down, the stroke of the flail where. have undergone these disasters, without with it is beaten, the weight and attrition wonder, that all this should befall to thy of the mill wherewith it is crushed, the fire Jerusalem, the place which thou hast cho of the oven wherewith it is baked ? Say sen to thyself out of the whole earth, the now, Manasseh, with that grandfather of lot of thine inheritance, the seat of thine thine, who was, till now, too good for thee, abode, whereof thou hast said, “Here shall “ It was good for me that I was afflicted." be my rest for ever," it is able to amaze all Even thine iron was more precious to thee eyes, all ears.
than thy gold; thy gaol was a more happy No city could fare worse than Samaria, lodging to thee than thy palace; Babylon whose inhabitants, after a woful siege, was a better school to thee than Jerusalem. were driven, like cattle, into a wretched | What fools are we, to frown upon our servitude. Jerusalem shall fare no better | afflictions! These, how crabbed soever, from Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon; are our best friends. They are not indeed Jerusalem, the glory of the earth, the dar- | for our pleasure; they are for our profit: ling of heaven. See, O ye vain men, that their issue makes them worthy of a wel. boast of the privileges of chairs and churches, come. What do we care how bitter that see and tremble. There is no place under | potion be, which brings health? heaven, to which the presence of God is How far a man may go, and yet turp! so wedded, as that the sins thereof shall | Could there be fouler sins than these? Lo! not procure a disdainful and final divorce: here was idolatry in the height, violation of the height of former favours shall be but an God's house, sorceries of all kinds, bloody aggravation of vengeance.
cruelty to his own flesh, to the saints of This total vastation of Jerusalem shall God, and all these against the stream of a take time. Onwards, God begins with the religious institution, of the zealous counsels person of wicked Manasseh, against whom of God's prophets, of the checks of his he stirs up the captains of the host of the own heart. late friend, and old enemy of Judah. Those Who can complain, that the way of thorns, amongst which he had shrouded his heaven is blocked up against him, when he guilty head, cannot shelter him from their sees such a sinner enter? Say the worst violence: they take him and bind him with against thyself, ( thou clamorous soul! fetters of iron, and carry him to Babylon. here is one that murdered men, defied God, There he lies, loaded with chains, in an un- worshipped devils, and yet finds the way to comfortable dungeon, exercised with variety repentance. If thou be worse than he, of tortures, fed with such coarse pittances deny, if thou canst, that to thyself, which of bread, and sips of water, as might main- God hath not denied to thee, capacity of tain an unwilling life to the punishment of grace: in the meantime know, that it is the owner. What eye can now pity the not thy sin, but thine impenitence, that deepest miseries of Manasseh? what but bars heaven against thee. bondage can befit him, that hath so law. Presume not yet, О man, whosoever thou lessly abused his liberty? what but an utter art, of the liberty of thy conversion, as if abdication can befit him, that hath cast off thou couldst run on lawlessly in a course of his God, and doted upon devils ? what but sinning, till thou come to the brim of hell, a dying life, and a tormenting death, can be and then couldst suddenly stop, and return fit for a man of blood ?
at leisure. The mercy of God never set Who now would not have given this period to a wilful sinner; neither yet did man for lost, and have looked when hell his own corrupt desires, so as, when he is should claim her own? But, О the height. gone the furtiest, he could yet stay himself O the depth, of Divine mercy! After all from another step. No man that truly rethese prodigies of sin, Manasseh is a con- pents is refused: but many a one sins so vert: “ When he was in affliction, he be long, that he cannot repent ; his custom of sought the Lord his God; and humbled wickedness hath obdured his heart, and
made it flint to all good impressions. There children, that will learn nothing but what were Jeroboams, and Abijams, and Ahabs, is put into them with the rod. and Joashes, and Ahazes, in these sacred The Almighty will be sure to be known thrones; there was but one Manasseh. for what he is, if not by fair means, yet by God hath not left in any man's hand the foul. If our prosperity and peace, and sweet reins of his own heart, to pace, and turn, experience of his mercy, can win ns to ac. and stop as he lists: this privilege is re- | knowledge him, it is more for our ease; but served to him that made it. “ It is not of if we will needs be taught by stripes, it is him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of no less for his glory. God that shows mercy ;” and that mercy Manasseh now returns another man to neglected, justly binds over to judgment. Jerusalem. With what indignation doth he
I wonder not at Manasseh either sinning look upon his old follies! And now, all the or repenting; I wonder at thy goodness, O amends he can make is to undo what he Lord, who, after thy just permission of his did, to do that which he undid: “ He took sin, callest him thus graciously to repent, away the strange gods, and the idol out of and so receivest him repenting : so as Ma- the house of the Lord, and all the altars nasseh was not a more loathsome and that he had built in the mount of the house monstrous spectacle of wickedness, than he of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast is now a pleasing and useful pattern of con them out of the city." True repentance version. Who can now despair of thy mercy, begins to decline at the ablative, destroying O God, that sees the tears of a Manasseh those monuments of shame which former accepted? When we have debauched our error had reared. The thorns must first worst, our evil cannot match with thy be stubbed up, ere the ground can be capagoodness ; rather it is the praise of thy in ble of seed. The true method of grace is, finite store, that where sin abounds, grace first, “ Cease to do evil,” then “ Learn to abounds much more. O keep us from a do good.” presumption of grace, that we may repent; In vain had Manasseh professed a reand raise us from a distrust of grace, when pentance, if the strange gods had still held we have repented.
possession of Jerusalem, if the idol had still No sooner is Manasseh penitent, than harboured in God's temple, if foreign altars he is free: his prayers have at once loosed had still smoked upon the holy mountain. him from his sins and from his chains, and Away with all this trash, when once Ma. of a captive have made him a king; and, nasseh comes to a true sense of piety! from the dungeon of Babylon, have restored! There is nothing but hypocrisy in that him to the palace of Jerusalem. How easy penitent, who, after all vows and tears, is it for the same hand that wounds to cure! retains his old abominations. It is that What cannot fervent prayers do, either for poor piece of satisfaction which we can give our rescuing from evil, or for our investing to the Divine justice, in a hearty indignawith good!
tion to fling down that cup of wickedness “ Then Manasseh knew that the Lord wherewith we have been bewitched, and he was God;" then, and not before. Could to trample upon the sherds; without which, his younger years escape the knowledge of confession is but wind, and the drops of God's miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem contrition, water. from the Assyrians? could he but know the The living God loves to dwell clean: he slaughter that God's angel made in one night, will not come under the roof of idols, nor of a hundred fourscore and five thousand? admit idols to come under his. First, therecould he but have heard the just revenge fore, Manasseh casts out the strange gods, upon Sennacherib? could he be ignorant of and idols, and altars, and then “ he repairs his father's supernatural recovery? could the altars of the Lord, and sacrifices thereon he but see that everlasting monument of the peace-offerings and thank-offerings.” Not till noted degrees in the dial of Abaz? could he he had pulled down, might he build; and avoid the sense of those fifteen years which when he had pulled down, he must build. were superadded to his father's age? What True repentance is no less active of good. one of these proofs doth not evince a Deity? What is it the better, if, when the idola. Yet, till his own smart and cure, Manasseh trous altars are defaced, the true God hath knew not that the Lord was God.
not an altar erected to his name? In many Foolish sinners pay dear for their know. altars was superstition, in no altars atheism. ledge; neither will endure to be taught Neither doth penitent Manasseh build good cheap. So we have seen resty horses, God a new altar, but he repairs the old, that will not move, till they bleed with the which, by long disuse, lay waste, and was spur; so we have seen dull and careless mossy and mouldered with age and neglect. God loves well his own institutions ; | eight : Manasseh was religiously bred under neither can he abide innovations, so much | Hezekiah; Josiah was misnurtured under as in the outsides of his services. It is a Amon : and yet Manasseh runs into abhappy work to vindicate any ordinance of surd idolatries; Josiah is holy and devout. God from the injuries of times, and to re- | The Spirit of God breathes freely, not con. store it to the original glory.
fining itself to times or means. What have our pious governors done No rules can bind the hands of the Al. other in religion? Had we gone about to lay mighty. It is an ordinary proof, too true a new foundation, the work had been ac. a word, that was said of old, “ Woe be to cursed: now we have only scraped off some thee, O land, whose king is a child !” The superfluous moss, that was grown upon goodness of God makes his own exceptions: these holy stones; we have cemented some Judah never fared better than in the green broken pieces, we have pointed some crazy years of a Josiah. If we may not rather corners with wholesome mortar, instead of measure youth and age by government and base clay wherewith it was disgracefully disposition, than by years, surely thus Jopatched up. The altar is old; it is God's siah was older with smooth cheeks, than altar; it is not new, not ours : if we have Manasseh with grey hairs. Happy is the laid one new stone in this sacred building, | infancy of princes, when it falls into the let it fly in our faces, and beat out our eyes. | hands of counsellors.
On this repaired altar doth Manasseh! A good pattern is no small help for young send up the sacrifices of his peace, of his beginners. Josiah sets his father David thankfulness; and doubtless the God of before him — not Amon, not Manasseh. heaven smells a sweet savour of rest. No Examples are the best rules for the unex. perfume is so pleasing to God, as that which perienced: where their choice is good, the is cast in by a penitent hand.
directions are easiest. The laws of God It had not served the turn that Manas- are the ways of David: those laws were seh had approached alone to this renewed the rule, those ways were the practice. altar: as his lewd example had drawn the Good Josiah walks in all the ways of his people from their God, so now “he com. | father David. mands Judah to serve the Lord God of Even the minority of Josiah was not idle: Israel :" had he been silent, he could not we cannot be good too early. At eight have been unfollowed. Every act of great years, it was enough to have his ear open ness is preceptive; but now, that religion to hear good counsel, to have his eyes and is made law, what Israelite will not be de- | heart open to seek after God; at twelve, vout?
he begins to act, and shows well that he The true God hath now no competitor hath found the God he sought. Then in Judah: all the idols are pulled down, the he addresses himself to purge Judah and high places will not be pulled down. An ill | Jerusalem from the high places, groves, guise is easily taken up, it is not so easily images, altars, wherewith it was defiled ; left. After a common depravation of re. | burning the bones of the idolatrous priests ligion, it is hard to return unto the first | upon their altars; strewing the ashes of purity: as when a garment is deeply soiled, the idols upon the graves of them that had it cannot, without many lavers, recover the sacrificed to them ; striving, by those fires former cleanness.
and mattocks, to testify his zealous detestation of all idolatry.
The house must be first cleansed, ere it CONTEMPLATION XII. - JOSIAH'S REFOR | can be garnished: no man will cast away MATION,
his cost upon unclean heaps. So soon as
the temple was purged, Josiah bends his Yet, if we must alter from ourselves, it thoughts upon the repairing and beautifying is better to be a Manasseh than a Joash: of the house of the Lord. Joash began well, and ended ill; Manasseh What stir was there in Judah, wherein began ill, and ended well. His age varied God's temple suffered not ? Six several from his youth, no less than one man's con- times was it pillaged, whether out of force, dition can vary from another's; his pos- or will. First, Joash king of Judah is fain, terity succeeded in both. Amon his son by the spoil of it, to stop the mouth of Hasucceeded in the sins of Manasseh's youth; zael; then Joash king of Israel fills his own Josiah bis grandchild succeeded in the vir- | hands with that sacred spoil, in the days tues of his age. What a vast difference doth of Amaziah ; after this, Ahaz rifles it for grace make in the same age! Manasseh Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria ; then Heze. began his reign at twelve years; Josiah at | kiah is forced to ransack the treasures of
it for Sennacherib; yet, after, the sacrilege tage, but transmit them first to the ears of of Manasseh makes that booty of it, which the king, then by him to the people. It is his latter times endeavour to restore ; and not the praise of a good scribe to lay up, now, lastly, Amon his son neglects the but to bring forth, both old and new. And frame, embezzles the furniture of this holy if the priest's lips shall keep knowledge, place: the very pile began to complain of they keep it to impart, not to smother : age and unrespect. Now comes good Jo- “ The people shall seek the law at his siah, and in his eighteenth year (when other mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord young gallants would have thought of no- of hosts." thing but pleasure and jollity) takes up the So soon as the good king hears the words latest care of his father David, and gives of the book.of the law, and in special, those order for the repairing of the temple. dreadful threats of judgment denounced
The keepers of the door have received against the idolatries of bis Judah, he rends the contribution of all faithful Jews for this his clothes, to show his heart rent with sorpious use. The king sends Shaphan the row and fearful expectation of those plagues, scribe to Hilkiah the priest, to sum it up, and washes his bosom with tears.. O graand to deliver it unto carpenters and masonscious tenderness of Josiah! he doth but for so holy a work.
once hear the law read, and is thus humbled; How well doth it beseem the care of a re- humbled for his father's sins, for the sins of ligious prince, to set the priests and scribes his people. How many of us, after a thou. in hand with re-edifying the temple! The sand hammerings of the menaces of God's command is the king's, the charge is the | law upon our guilty souls, continue yet inhigh priest's, the execution is the work-sensible of our danger! The very reading men's. When the labourers are faithful in of this law doth thus affect him ; the preachdoing the work, and the high priest in the ing of it stirs not us: the sins of others directing it, and the king in enjoining it, struck thus deep with him; our own are God's house cannot fail of a happy perfec-slighted by us. A soft heart is the best tion; but when any of these slackens, the tempered for God. So physicians are wont business must needs languish.
to like those bodies best, which are easiest How God blesses the devout endeavours to work upon. O God! make our clay wax, of his servants! While Hilkiah was dili- and our wax pliable to thine hand, so shall gently surveying the breaches and repara. | we be sure to be free either from sin, or tion of the temple, he lights upon the book from the hurt of sin. of the law. The authentic and original. It is no holy sorrow that sends us not to book of God's law, was, by a special charge, God. Josiah is not moped with a distracappointed to be carefully kept within a safe tive grief, or an astonishing fear, but, in shrine in the sanctuary. In the depraved the height of his passion, sends five choice times of idolatry, some faithful priest, to messengers to Huldah the prophetess, to make sure work, had locked it fast up, in inquire of the Lord, for himself, for Judah. some corner of the temple, from the reach of It is a happy trouble that drives us to this all hands, of all eyes, as knowing how im- refuge. I do not hear any of these courtiers possible it was that divine monument could reply, to this godly motion of their young otherwise escape the fury of profane guil- | king, Alas, sir, what means this deep pertiness. Some few transcripts there were, plexity? what needs all this busy inquisi. doubtless, parcels of this sacred book in tion? If your father were idolatrous, what other hands: neither doubt I, but, as Hilo is that to you who have abandoned his sins? kiah had been formerly well acquainted with if your people were once idolatrous, what this holy volume, now of a long time bid, is that to you, yea, to them, who have so the ears of good Josiah had been inured | expiated these crimes by their repentance ? to some passages thereof. But the whole Have you not carefully reformed all those body of these awful records, since the late abuses ? hath not your happy reformation night of idolatrous confusion and persecu- made an abundant amends for those wrongs? tion, saw no light till now. This precious Spare your tears, and save the labour of your treasure doth Hilkiah find, while he digsmessengers : all is well, all shall be well. for the temple, Never man laboured to These judgments are for the obstinate: had the reparation of God's church, but he met we been still guilty, these fears had been with a blessing more than he looked for. I just : were we still in danger, what had we
Hilkiah the priest, and Shaphan the gained by our conversion? Rather as glad scribe, do not engross this invaluable wealth to second the religious cares of their young into their own hands, nor suppress these king, they feed his holy anxieties with a more than sacred rolls for their own advan I just aggravation of peril; and by their good counsel whet these his zealous desires of a proaching ruin. Even their old score must speedy resolution. That state cannot but be paid, after the opinion of a clear agree. be happy, whose priests and peers are ready, ment. In vain shall we hope to quit ou as to suggest, so to cherish and execute the arrearages by prorogation. This prophetess devout projects of their sovereigns. had immediate visions from God, yet she
The grave priest, the learned scribe, the must speak out of the book. There was honourable courtiers, do not disdain to knock never any revelation from the Lord that at the door of a prophetess : neither doth crossed his writings : his hand and his any of them say, It were hard if we should tongue agree eternally. If that book have not have as much acquaintance with God, cursed Judah, she may not absolve it. as a woman : but, in an humble acknow Yet, what a gracious mixture was here of ledgment of her graces, they come to learn mercy with severity ! - severity to Judah, the will of God from her mouth. True inercy to Josiah: Judah shall be plagued, piety is modest, and stands not upon terms and shall become a desolation and a curse ; of reputation in the businesses of God, but Josiah shall be quietly housed in his grave, willingly honours his gifts in any subject, before this storm fall upon Judah: his eye least of all in itself.
shall not see what his people shall feel. It The sex is not more noted in Huldah, is enough that the expectation of these evils than the condition. As she was a woman, afflicts him, the sense shall not. so a wife, the wife of Shallum. Holy ma- Whence is this indulgence? “ Because trimony was no hindrance to her divine thine heart was tender, and thou hast humrevelations : she was at once a prophetess bled thyself before the Lord." How happy in her college, a housewife in her family. | a thing it is to be a reed unto God's judg. It was never the practice of God to confine ments, rather than an oak! the meek and his graces to virginity. At this very time, gentle reed stoops, and therefore stands; the famous prophet Jeremiah flourished: the oak stands stiffly out against the strong. some years had he already spent in this pub-est gust, and therefore is turned up by the lic service; why was not he rather consulted roots. At least, let us lament those sins we by Josiah? It is not unlike, that some pro- have not avoided ; and mourn for the sins phetical employments called him away at of others, while we hate our own. this time from Jerusalem: his presence could He that found himself exempted from not have been baulked. Purposely, doubt this vengeance by his repentance and deep less, doth God cast his message upon the bumiliation, would fain find the same way point of that absence, that he might honour for the deliverance of his people. The same the weaker vessel with his divine oracle, and words of the law, therefore, that had wrought exercise the humility of so great clients. In upon his heart, are by him caused to be pubthe answers of God, it is not to be regarded licly read in the ears of Judah and Jerusawho speaks, but from whom. The injury lem. The assembly is universal, of priests, redounds to God, if the weaknesses of the prophets, people both small and great; beperson cause us to undervalue the autho- cause the sin was such, the danger was such: rity of the function.
that no man may complain to want informa. As Josiah and his messengers do not des tion, the law of God sounds in every ear. If pise Huldah because she was a woman, so our ears be shut to the law, the sin is ours; Huldah doth not flatter Josiah, because a but if the law be shut to our ears, the sin king : “ Go, tell the man that sent you, is of our governors. Woe be to them that thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring hide God's book from the people, as they evil upon this place.” Lo! he that was as would do ratsbane from the eyes of childGod to his subjects, is but as man to the ren! Ignorant souls cannot perish without prophetess: neither is the message ever the their murder. There is no fear of knowing sweeter, because it is required by a prince. too much; there is too much fear of pracNo circumstance may vary the form of di- tising too little. Now, if the people do not vine truth.
imitate their king in relenting, they are not Evil must befall Jerusalem and Judah, worthy to partake with him in his impunity. yea, all the words of that book must alight Howsoever, they shall not want a great upon the inhabitants of both. In how bad example, as of sorrow, so of amendinent. a case we may be, and yet think ourselves Good Josiah stands by the pillar, and sonot safe only, but happy! These Jews had | lemnly renews his covenant with his God; forgotten their old revolts; and now, having the people cannot for shame refuse to seframed themselves to holy courses, promised cond him: even they that looked for a themselves nothing but peace, when the destruction, yet do not withdraw their obeprophetess foresees and foretells their ap- dience. God's children may not be sullen