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How palpably do these Israelites condemn themselves, while they reserve so famous a monument of their own conviction !
It was no prejudice to this holy prophet, that his bones lay amongst the sepulchres of idolaters. His epitaph preserved those bones from burning upon that altar, which he had accursed. As the lion might not tear his carcass, when he died; so now, the fury of the multitude may not violate the very bones, in his grave. I do not see Josiah save them for reliques; I hear him command they shall rest in peace. It is fit the dead bodies of God's saints should be as free from contempt, as from superstition.
After the removal of these rites of false worship, it is time to bring in the true. Now, a solemn Passover shall be kept unto the Lord, by the charge of Josiah. That Book of the Law sets him the time, place, circumstances, of this sacrament. His zeal so carefully follows it, that, since the days of Samuel, this feast was never so gloriously, so punctually celebrated. Jerusalem is the place, the fourteenth day of the first month is the time; the Levites are the actors; a yearling and a spotless lamb are the provision. No bone of it is broken ; the blood is sprinkled upon the door-posts; it is roasted whole, eaten with sour herbs, with bread unleavened; the remainder is consumed by fire. The law, the sacrifices had been in vain, if the passover had been neglected. No true Israelite might want, whether this monument of their deliverance past, or this type of the Messiah to come. Rather
an fail, Josiah’s bounty shall supply to Judah, lambs for their pascal devotion. No alms is so acceptable, as that whereby the soul is furthered.
CONTEMPLATION XIII.-JOSIAH'S DEATH; WITH THE DESOLATION OF THE TEMPLE AND
2 KINGS XXIII. ; 2 CHRONICLES XXXV., XXXVI. Josiah hath now happily settled the affairs, both of God and the state; and now hath sweet leisure to enjoy himself and his people. His conscience doth not more cheer him at home, than his subjects abroad. Never king reigned with more officious piety to God, with more love and applause of men.
But what stability is there in these earthly things? How seldom is excellency, in any kind, long-lived ! strength of his age, in the height of his strength, is Josiah withdrawn from the earth: as not without a merciful intention of his glory, on God's behalf; so, not without some weakness, on his own. Pharaoh-Nechoh, king of Egypt, comes up to fight against the king of Assyria. What is that to Josiah? Perhaps,
In the very
the Egyptians attempted to pass through the land of Judah, towards Carchemish, the seat of his war; but, as a neighbour, not as an enemy. Josiah resists him; as neither holding it safe to admit a foreign power into the bosom of his country, nor daring to give so fair an occasion of provoking the Assyrian hostility against him.
The king of Egypt mildly deprecates this enmity. He sends ambassadors to Josiah, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah ? I come not against thee, this day ; but against the house, wherewith I have war : for God commanded me to make haste. Forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.
What friend could have said more? What prophet could have advised more holily? Why doth not good Josiah say with himself; “ There may be truth in this suggestion. God may have sent this
of Ashur. If the hand of the Almighty be in this design, why do I oppose it? The quarrel is not mine : why do I thrust my finger into this flame, unbidden? Wherefore should I hazard the effusion of blood, upon a harmless passage? Can I hear him plead a command from God, and not inquire into it? How easy is it for me, to know the certainty of this pretended commission! Have not I the priests and prophets of God about me? Let me first
and consult his oracle. If God have sent him and forbidden me, why should my courage carry me against my piety?"
It is strange, that the good heart of Josiah could escape these thoughts, these resolutions : yet, he, that upon the general threats of God's law against Judah, sends messengers to inquire of a prophetess, now, upon these particular threats of danger to himself, speaks not, stirs not. The famous prophet Jeremiah was then living, and Zephaniah; besides a whole college of seers. Josiah doth not so much as send out of doors, to ask, “Shall I go up against the king of Egypt?” Sometimes, both grace and wit are asleep, in the holiest and wariest breasts. The best of all God's saints may be sometimes miscarried, by their passions, to their cost.
The wise Providence of God hath mercifully determined, to leàve Josiah to his own counsels ; that, by the weakness of his servant, he might take occasion to perfect his glory. Even that, wherein Josiah was wanting unto God, shall concur to the making up of God's promise to Josiah. When we are the most blindfolded, we run on the ways of God's hidden decrees ; and, whatever our intents be, cannot, if we would, go out of that unknown path.
Needs will Josiah put himself into arms, against an unwilling enemy; and, to be less noted, disguises himself. The fatal arrow of an Egyptian archer finds him out in the throng, and gives him his death's-wound. Now, too late, he calls to a retreat.
His changed chariot is turned to a bier ; to carry his bleeding corpse to his grave, in Jerusalem.
What eye doth not now pity and lament the untimely end of a Josiah? Whom can it choose but affect, to see a religious, just, virtuous prince snatched away in the vigour of his age ? After all our foolish moan, the Providence, that directed that shaft to his lighting-place, intends that wound for a stroke of mercy. The God, whom Josiah serves, looks through his death, at his glory; and, by this sudden violence, will deliver him from the view and participation of the miseries of Judah, which had been many deaths; and fetches him to the participation of that happiness, which could countervail more deaths, than could be incident to a Josiah. Oh the wonderful goodness of the Almighty, whose very judgments are merciful! Oh the safe condition of God's children, whom very pain easeth, whom death revives, whom dissolution unites, whom, lastly, their very sin, and temptation, glorifies !
How happily hath Josiah gained by this change! Instead of a froward people, he now is sorted with saints and angels; instead of a fading and corruptible crown, he now enjoys an eternal. The orphan subjects are ready to weep out their eyes, for
, Their loss cannot be so great, as his gain. He is glorious ; they, as their sins had deserved, miserable. If the separated soul could be capable of passion, could Josiah have seen, after his departure, the calamities of his sons, of his people, it could not but have laid siege to his peace.
The sad subjects proclaim his son Jehoahaz king, instead of so lamented a father. He both doth ill, and fares ill. By that time he hath sat but three months in the throne, PharaohNechoh, king of Egypt, seconds the father's death with the son's captivity. This victorious enemy puts down the wicked son of Josiah, and lades him with chains at Riblath, in the land of Hamath ; and lades his people with a tribute of a hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold : yet, as if he, that was unwilling to fight with Josiah, were no less unwilling to root out his posterity, this Egyptian sets Eliakim, the second son of Josiah, upon the seat of his father; and, that he might be all his, changes his name to Jehoiakim. Oh the woeful and unworthy succession of Josiah ! one son is a prisoner, the other is a tributary; both are wicked.
After that Jehoiakim hath been some years Pharaoh's bailiff, to gather and rack the dear rents of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, comes up, and sweeps away both the lord and his feodary, Pharaoh and Jehoiakim. So far was the ambitious Egyptian from maintaining his encroachment upon the territories of Judah, that he could not now hold his own. From Nilus to Euphrates, all is lost. So subject are the lesser powers still to be swallowed up of the greater. So just it is with God, that they, which will be affecting undue enlargement of their estates, should fall short of what they had.
Jehoiakim is carried in fetters to Babylon; and now, in that dungeon of his captivity, hath more leisure, than grace, to bethink himself of all his abominations; and while he inherits the sad lodging of his great-grandfather Manasseh, inherits not his success.
While he is rotting in this gaol, his young son Jehoiachin starts up in his throne ; like to a mushroom, that rises up in a night, and withers in a day. Within three months and ten days, is that young prince, the meet son of such a father, fetched up in irons to his father's prison.
Neither shall he go alone. His attendance shall add to his misery. His mother, his wives, his officers, his peers, his craftsmen, his warriors accompany him, manacled and chained, to their perpetual bondage.
Now, according to Isaiah's word, it would have been great preferment for the fruit of Hezekiah's loins, to be pages in the court of Babylon.
One only branch yet remains of the unhappy stock of holy Josiah, Mattaniah, the brother of Jehoiakim ; whom Nebuchadnezzar, changing his name to Zedekiah, sets up in that forlorn and tributary throne. There might he have lived, though an underling, yet peaceable. This man, to make up the measure of God's just judgments, as he was ever a rebel to God, so proves rebellious to his sovereign master, the king of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah hath forewarned him in vain. Nothing could teach this man, but smart.
Who can look for other than fury from Nebuchadnezzar, against Jerusalem ; which now had affronted him with three several successions of revolts and conspiracies against his
government, and thrice abused his bounty and indulgence? With a mighty army doth he therefore come up against his seditious deputy; and besieges Jerusalem, and blocks it up with forts round about. After two years' siege, the Chaldees without and the famine within have prevailed. King Zedekiah and his soldiers are fled away by night; as thinking themselves happy, if they might abandon their walls, and save their lives.
The Chaldees, as caring more for the birds than for the nest, pursue them; and overtake Zedekiah, forsaken of all his forces, in the plain of Jericho, and bring him to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
What can so unthankful and perfidious a vassal expect, but the worst of revenge? The sentence is fearful : first, the sons of Zedekiah are slain before his eyes ; then, those eyes of his, as if they had seen enough when they had seen him childless, are put out. His eyes are only lent him so long, as to torment him
with the sight of his own utmost discomfort. Had his sons but overlived his eyes, the grief had been so much the less, as the apprehension of it had been less lively and piercing : now, this woeful object shall shut up his sight; that even when his bodily eyes are gone, yet the eyes of his mind might ever see what he last saw; that thus his sons might be ever dying before him, and himself in their death ever miserable.
Who doth not now wish, that the blood of Hezekiah and Josiah could have been severed from these impure dregs of their lewd issue? No man could pity the offenders, were it not for the mixture of the interest of so holy progenitors.
No more sorrow can come in at the windows of Zedekiah : more shall come in at his doors. His ears shall receive what more to rue for his Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the great marshal of the king of Babylon, comes up against that deplored city, and breaks down the walls of it round about; and burns the temple of the Lord, and the king's house, and every fair palace of Jerusalem, with fire ; drives away the remainder of her inhabitants, into captivity; carries away the last spoils of the glorious temple.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the wonder of all times, the paragon of nations, the glory of the earth, the favourite of heaven, how art thou now become heaps of ashes, hills of rubbish, a spectacle of desolation, a monument of ruin! If later, yet no less deep, hast thou now pledged that bitter cup of God's vengeance, to
, thy sister Samaria. How carefully had thy God forewarned thee! Though Israel play the harlot, yet, let not Judah sin. Lo now, as thine iniquities, so thy judgments have overtaken her. Both lie together in the dust ; both are made a curse to all posterities. O God, what place shall thy justice spare, if Jerusalem have perished? If that delight of thine were cut off for her wickedness, Let us not be high-minded, but fear.
What pity it was, to see those goodly cedars of the temple flaming up higher than they stood in Lebanon ? to see those curious marbles, which never felt the dent of the pickaxe or hammer in the laying, wounded with mattocks, and wounding the earth in their fall! to see the Holy of Holies, whereinto none might enter but the high priest, once a year, thronged with Pagans; the vails rent, the sacred ark of God violated and defaced, the tables overturned, the altars broken down, the pillars demolished, the pavements digged up, yea the very ground, where that famous pile stood, deformed ! O God, thou wouldst rather have no visible house upon earth, than endure it defiled with idolatries.
Four hundred thirty and six years had that temple stood, and beautified the earth, and honoured heaven : now, it is turned into rude heaps. There is no prescription to be pleaded for the