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retire, for his confirmation. What creature is not cheerfully forward, to obey the faith of God's servants?
Hezekiah fastens rather upon that sign, which is more hard, more disagreeing from the course of nature; not without good
Every proof must be clearer, than the thing to be proved; neither may there want a meet proportion betwixt both: now the going forward of the shadow was a motion, no other than natural; the recovery of that pestilent disease was against the stream of nature; the more difficult sign therefore, the surer evidence.
Whether shall we more wonder, at the measure of the love of God to Hezekiah, or at the power of Isaiah's faith in God? Out of both, either the sun goes back in heaven, that his shadow may go back on earth; or the shadow no less miraculously goes back on earth, while the sun goes forward in heaven. It is true, that the prophet speaks of the shadow, not of the sun; except perhaps because the motion of the sun is best discerned by the shadow, and the motion of the shadow is led by the course of the sun : besides that, the demonstration of this miracle is reported to be local in the dial of Ahaz, not universal in the sensible length of the day: withal, the retreat of the sun had made a public and noted change, in the frame of nature; this particular alteration of the shadow, in places limited, might satisfy no less, without a confusive mutation in the face of the world. Whethersoever; to draw the sun back together with the shadow, or to draw the shadow back without the sun, was the proof of a divine omnipotence; able therefore to draw back the life of Hezekiah, fifteen degrees, from the night of death, towards which it was hasting. O God, thou wilt rather alter the course of heaven and earth, than the faith of thy children shall sink, for want of supportation.
It should seem, the Babylonians, finding the Assyrians' power abated by the revengeful hand of God's angel and their own discord, took this advantage of a revolt; and now, to strengthen their part, fall in with Hezekiah, king of Judah, whom they found the old enemy to the Assyrians, and the great favourite of heaven. Him they woo with gifts; him they congratulate with ambassages. The fame of Hezekiah's sickness, recovery, form and assurance of cure, has drawn thither messengers
and presents from Merodach Baladan, king of Babylon.
The Chaldees were curious searchers into the secrets of nature; especially into the motions of the celestial bodies. Though there had been no politic relations, this very astronomical miracle had been enough to fetch them to Jerusalem ; that they might see the man ; for whose sake the sun forsook his place, or the shadow forsook the sun.
How easily have we seen those holy men miscarried by prosperity, against whom no miseries could prevail? He, that stood out stoutly against all the Assyrians onsets, clinging the faster to his God, by how much he was harder assaulted by Sennacherib, melteth now with these Babylonian favours, and runs abroad into offensive weaknesses.
The Babylonian ambassadors are too welcome to Hezekiah, As a man transported with the honour of their respective and costly visitations, he forgets his tears, and his turning to the wall; he forgets their incompatible idolatry; so hugging them in his bosom, as if there had been no cause of strangeness. All his doors fly open to them; and, in a vainglorious ostentation, all his new-gathered treasures, all his strong armories entertain their eyes : nothing in his house, nothing in his dominion is hid from them.
O Hezekiah, what means this impotent ambition? It is not long, since thou taredst off the very plates of the temple-doors, to give unto Sennacherib; and can thy treasures be suddenly so multiplied, that they can be worthy to astonish foreign beholders ? or, if thy storehouse were as rich as the earth, can thy heart be so vain as to be lifted up with these heavy metals? Didst thou not see that heaven itself was at thy beck, whilst thou wert humbled ? and shall a little earthly dross have power over thy soul? Can the flattering applause of strangers let thee loose into a proud joy, whom the late message of God's prophet resolved into tears? O God, if thou do not keep us, as well in our sunshine, as in our storm, we are sure to perish. As “in all time of our tribulation,” so “in all time of our wealth, good Lord, deliver us."
Alas, how slight doth this weakness seem in our eyes, to rejoice in the abundance of God's blessings ? to call in foreign friends, to be witnesses of our plenty! to raise our conceits, some little, upon the acclamations of others, upon the value of our own abilities!
Lay thy hand upon thy mouth, O foolish flesh and blood, when thou seest the censure of thy Maker.
Isaiah, the prophet, is sent speedily to Hezekiah with a sharp and heart-breaking message ; Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon : nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
No sin can be light in Hezekiah. The holiness of the person adds to the unholiness of the act. Eminency of profession doubles both the offence and the judgment. This glory shall end in an ignominious loss. The great and holy God will not digest pride in any, much less in his own.
That, which was the subject of Hezekiah's sin, shall be the matter of his punishment: those, with whom he sinned, shall be his avengers.
It was his treasure and munition, wherein he prides himself to these men of Babylon; the men of Babylon
shall carry away his treasure and munition. What now doth Hezekiah, but tempt them with a glorious booty; as some fond traveller, that would shew his gold to a thief?
These worldly things are furthest off from the heart. Perhaps, Hezekiah might not be much troubled with their loss. Lo, God comes closer to him, yet.
As yet, was Hezekiah childless. How much better had it been to continue so still, than to be plagued in his issue ! He shall now beget children to servitude : his loins shall yield pages to the court of Babylon : while he sees them born princes, he shall foresee them made eunuchs in a foreign palace. What comfort can he take, in the wishes and hopes of sons, when, ere they be born, he hears them destined to captivity and bondage ?
This rod was smart, yet good Hezekiah kisses it. His heart struck him no less than the mouth of the prophet; meekly therefore doth he yield to this divine correction; " Good is the word
of the Lord, which thou hast spoken. Thou hast spoken this word; but from the Lord. It is not thine, but his; and being his, it must needs be, like himself, good: good, because it is just, for I have deserved more and worse ; good, because merciful, for I suffer not according to my deserts. Is it not good, if there be peace and truth in my days? I have deserved a present payment; O God, thou deferrest it: I have deserved it in person; thou reservest it for those, whom I cannot yet so feel, because they are not: I have deserved war and tumult ; thou favourest me with peace: I have deserved to be overrun with superstition and idolatry, thou blessest me with truth : shouldst thou continue truth unto me, though upon the most unquiet terms, the blessing were too good for me; but now thou hast promised, and wilt not reverse it, that both truth and peace shall be in my days: Lord, I adore thy justice, I bless thy mercy."
God's children are neither waspish nor sullen, when they are chid or beaten; but patiently hold their backs, to the stripes of a displeased mercy ; knowing how much more God is to be magnified for what he might have done, than repined at, for what he hath done ; resigning themselves over into the hand of that gracious justice, which in their smart seeks their reformation and glory.
2 KINGS XXI., 2 CANON. XXXIII. At last, some three years after his recovery, Hezekiah hath a son; but such a one, as, if he could have foreseen orbity had been a blessing.
Still, in the throne of Judah, there is a succession and inter
change of good and evil. Good Jotham is succeeded by wicked Ahaz; wicked Ahaz is succeeded by good Hezekiah; good Hezekiah is succeeded by wicked Manasseh. Evil princes succeed to good, for the exercise of the Church; and good succeed to evil for the comfort of the Church.
The young years of Manasseh give advantage to his miscarriage : even while he might have been under the ferule, he swayed the sceptre. Whither may not a child be drawn; especially to a garish and puppet-like superstition? As infancy is capable of all impressions, so most of the worst.
Neither did Manasseh begin more early, than he held out long. He reigned more years than his good father lived, notwithstanding the miraculous addition to his age; more than ever any king of Judah besides could reach. Length of days is no true rule of God's favour. As plants last longer than sensitive creatures, and brute creatures outlive the reasonable ; so, amongst the reasonable, it is no news, for the wickedly great to inherit these earthly glories, longer than the best.
There wants not apparent reason forthis difference. Good princes are fetched away to a better crown; they cannot be losers, that exchange a weak and fading honour, for a perfection and eternity of blessedness : wicked men live long to their own disadvantage ; they do but carry so many more brands to their hell. If, therefore, there be a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there be a wicked man that prolongs his life in his wickedness, far be it from us, either to pity the removal of the just, or to envy the continuance of the wicked: this continues to his loss; that departs to a happy advancement.
It is very like, that Hezekiah marrying so late, in the vigour both of his age and holiness, made a careful choice of a wife suitable to his own piety. Neither had his delight been so much in her (according to her name), if her delight had not been as his, in God. Their issue swerves from both; so fully inheriting the vices of his grandfather Ahaz, as if there had been no intervention of a Hezekiah. So, we have seen the kernel of a well-fruited plant degenerate into that crab or willow, which gave the original to his stock. Yet can I not
not say that Hezekiah was as free from traducing evil to his son Manasseh, as Ahaz was free from traducing good to his son Hezekiah? Évil is incorporated in the best
nature, whereas even the least good descends from above. We
may not measure grace by means. Was it possible, that Manasseh, having been trained up in the religious court of his father Hezekiah, under the eye of so holy prophets and priests, under the shadow of the temple of God, after a childhood seasoned with so gracious precepts, with so frequent exercise of devotion, should run thus wild into all heathenish abominations ; as if there had been nothing but idolatry in the seed of his con
ception, in the milk of his nourishment, in the rules of his institution, in the practice of his examples? How vain are all outward helps, without the influence of God's Spirit! and that Spirit breathes, where he listeth. Good education raiseth great hopes, but the proof of them is in the divine benediction.
I fear to look at the outrages of this wicked son of Hezekiah. What havoc doth he make in the Church of God! as if he had been born to ruin religion: as if his only felicity had been to untwist or tear in one day, that holy web, which his father had been weaving nine-and-twenty years; and, contrarily, to set up in one hour that offensive pile, which had been above three hundred years in pulling down: so long had the high places stood. The zeal of Hezekiah, in demolishing them, honoured him above all his predecessors; and now, the first act of this green head was their re-edifying. That mischief may be done in a day, which many ages cannot redress.
Fearful were the presages of these bold beginnings. From the misbuilding of these chapels of the hills to the true God, Manasseh proceeds to erecting of altars to a false, even to Baal, the god of Ahab, the stale idol of the heathen. Yet further ; not content with so few deities, he worships all the host of heaven ; and, that he might despite God yet more, he sets up altars to these abused rivals of their Maker, in the very of the Lord. That holy place doth he not fear to defile, with the graven image of the grove, that he had made. Never Amorite did so wickedly, as Manasseh ; and, which was yet worse, it sufficed not to be thus wicked himself, but he seduced God's people to these abominations; and that his example might move the more, he
not his own son from the fire of the idol-sacrifice. Neither were his witcheries less enormous, than his idolatry: he observed times; he used enchantments; he dealt with familiar spirits, and with wizards.
Neither were either of these worse, than his cruelty; he shed innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem, from one end to another.
O Manasseh, how no less cruel wert thou to thine own soul, than to thy Judah! What a hideous list of monstrous impiety is here ; any one of which were enough to draw judgment upon a world ! but what hell is sufficient for all together?
What brows are not now lifted up, to an attentive expectation of some present and fearful vengeance from God, upon such flagitious wickedness? Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. The person of Manasseh is not capable of revenge enough : as his sin dilated itself, by an infectious diffusion to his people, so shall the punishment. We are sensible of the least touch of our own miseries ; how rarely are we affected with other men's calamities ! yet this evil shall be such, as that the rumour of it shall beat no ear, that shall