« 上一頁繼續 »
6 est that the eyes of the world are fixed upon me,
as one that hath forsaken their idolatry, and re• stored thy worship ;-that I stand in the midst of • a crooked and corrupt generation, which looks • through all my actions, and watches all events " which happen to me : if now they shall see me
snatched away in the midst of my days and ser• vice, how will thy great name suffer in my extinc• tion! Will not the heathen say, This is to serve
the God of Israel !-How faithfully did Hezekiah ( walk before him !-What enemies did he bring ( upon himself, in too warmly promoting his wor
ship! and now when the hour of sickness and dis' tress came upon him, and he most wanted the aid I of his God, behold how he was forsaken!'
It is not unreasonable to ascribe some such pious and more disinterested motive to Hezekiah's de. sire of life, from the issue and success of his prayer.
" For it came to pass, before Isaiah had gone out “ into the middle court, that the word of the Lord 6 came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Heze“ kiah I have heard his prayer, I have seen his tears ;
and behold I will heal him." It was upon this occasion, as we read in the 12th verse of this chapter, that Berodach-baladan, son of Baladan king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah : he had heard the fame of his sick. ness and recovery; for as the Chaldeans were great searchers into the secrets of nature, especially into the motions of the celestial bodies, in all probability they had taken notice, at that distance, of the strange appearance of the shadow's returning ten degrees backwards upon their dials, and had inquired and learned upon what account, and in whose favour,
such a sign was given ; so that this astronomical miracle, besides the political motive which it would suggest of courting such a favourite of Heaven, had been sufficient by itself to have led a curious people as far as Jerusalem, that they might see the man for whose sake the sun had forsook his course.
And here we see how hard it is to stand the shock of prosperity ; and how much truer a proof we give of our strength in that extreme of life, than in the other.
In all the trials of adversity, we find that Hezeki. ah behaved well ;-nothing unmanned him. When besieged by the Assyrian host, which shut him up in Jerusalem, and threatened his destruction,-he stood unshaken, and depended upon God's succour! -when cast down upon his bed of sickness, and threatened with death, he meekly turned his face towards the wall,,wept and prayed, and depended upon God's mercy
!-but no sooner does prosperity return upon him, and the messengers from a far country come to pay the flattering homage due to his greatness, and the extraordinary felicity of his life, but he turns giddy, and sinks under the weight of his good fortune ; and with a transport unbecoming a wise man upon it, 'tis said, he hearkened unto the men, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold, the spices and the precious ointments, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures ; that there was nothing in his house, nor in his dominions, that Hezekiah shewed them not; for though it is not expressly said here (though it is in the parallel passage in Chronicles)-nor is he
charged by the prophet that he did this out of vani. ty and a weak transport of ostentation,-yet, as we are sure God could not be offended but wñere there was a real crime, we might reasonably conclude that this was his,—and that He who searches into the heart of man, beheld that his was corrupted with the blessings he had given him, and that it was just to make what was the occasion of his pride become the instrument of his punishment, by decreeing, That all the riches he had laid up in store until that day, should be carried away in triumph to Babylon: the very place from whence the messengers had come who had been eye-witnesses of his folly.
+ O Hezekiah ! how couldst thou provoke God to 6 bring this judgment upon thee? How could thy
spirit, all meek and gentle as it was, have ever fall6 en into this snare? Were thy treasures rich as the
earth-what! was thy heart so vain as to be lifted up therewith? Was not all that was valuable in the world,nay, was not heaven itself almost at 1 thy command whilst thou wast humble ? and, how (was it that thou couldst barter away all this, for 6 what was lighter than a bubble, and desecrate an e action so full of courtesy and kindness as thine ap
peared to be, by suffering it to take its rise from so polluted a fountain ?'
There is scarce any thing which the heart more unwillingly bears, than an analysis of this kind.
We are a strange compound; and something foreign from what charity would suspect, so eternally twists itself into what we do, that not only in momentous concerns, where interest lists under it all the powers of disguise,-but even in the most indif
ferent of our actions, not worth a fallacy-by force of habit, we continue it; so that whatever a man is about-observe him, he stands armed inside and out with two motives; an ostensible one for the world, and another which he reserves for his own private use. This, you may say, the world has no concern with: it might have been so; but by obtruding the wrong motive upon the world, and stealing from it a character, instead of winning one-we give it a right, and a temptation along with it, to inquire into the affair.
The motives of the one for doing it, are often lit: tle better than the other for deserving it. Let us see if some social virtue may not be extracted from the errors of both the one and the other.
Vanity bids all her sons be generous and brave, and her daughters chaste and courteous.But why do we want her instructions ?--Ask the comedian, who is taught a part he feels not.
Is it that the principles of religion want strength, or that the real passion for what is good and worthy will not carry us high enough? God ! thou knowest they carry us too high ;-We want not to be, but to seem !
Look out of your door,-take notice of that man : see what disquieting, intriguing, and shifting, he is content to go through, merely to be thought a man of plain-dealing three gains of honesty would save him all this trouble :-alas! , he has them not!
Behold a second, under a show of piety, hiding the impurities of a debauched life !-he is just entering the house of God:-would he was more pure,
-or less pious !—but then he could not gain his point!
Observe a third going on almost in the same track. With what an inflexible sanctity of deportment he sustains himself as he advances !-every line in his face writes abstinence ;-every stride looks like a check upon his desires. See, I beseech you, how he is cloked up with sermons, prayers, and sacraments; and so bemuffled with the externals of religion, that he has not a hand to spare for a worldly purpose !-he has armour at least:- Why does he put it on ? Is there no serving God without all this? Must the garb of religion be extended so wide, to the danger of its rending ?-Yes, truly, or it will not hide the secret ;-and, What is that?
-That the saint has no religion at all!
But here comes Generosity ; giving,—not to a decayed artist-but to the arts and sciences themselves.-See--he builds not a chamber in the wall
apart for the prophet;' but whole schools and colleges for those who come after. Lord! how they will magnify his name !-'tis in capitals already ; the first the highest, in the gilded rent-roll of every hospital and asylum.
-One honest tear shed in private over the unfortunate, is worth it all.
What a problematick set of creatures does simulation make us! Who would divine that all that anxiety and concern, so visible in the airs of one half of that great assenibly, should arise from nothing else but that the other half of it may think them to be men of consequence, penetration, parts, and conduct?-What a noise among the claimants about it! behold Humility, out of mere pride !-and honesty