Page images

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 sorrow. 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



favour of the Almighty. Only that temple, not made with hands, is eternal in the heavens. Thither he graciously brings us, that hath ordained us thither; for the sake of that glorious High Priest, that hath once for all entered into that Holy of Holies, Amen!





THE first transportation into Babylon, under Jehoiakim, wherein Daniel, Ezekiel, and many other of the best note were driven into captivity, was, some eleven years after, followed with a second, under Zedekiah, wherein the remnant of the now ruined Jerusalem and Judah were swept away.

Seventy years was the period of their longest servitude. While Babylon was a queen, Judah was her vassal: when that proud tyranness fell, God's people began to rise again. The Babylonian monarchy was no sooner swallowed up of the Persian, than the Jews felt the comfort of liberty: for Cyrus, conquering Babylon, and finding the Jews groaning under that captivity, straight releases them; and sends them, under the conduct of their captain Zerubbabel, back to their almost-forgotten country.

The world stands upon vicissitudes. Every nation hath her turn, and must make up her measure. Threescore and ten years ago, it was the course of Judah; the iniquity of that rebellious people was full some hundred and thirty years before that was the turn of Samaria and her Israelites: now, the staff is come to the doors of Babylon; even that, wherewith Judah was beaten and those Persians, which are now victorious, must have their term also. It is in vain, for any earthly state to promise to itself an immutable condition. At last, the rod, that Scourged God's children, is cast into the fire: Thou hast remembered, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem, how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground: 0 daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery, how happy is he, that rewardeth thee, as thou hast served them! It is Cyrus, that hath wrought this revenge, this rescue.

Doubtless it did not a little move Cyrus to this favour, that he found himself honourably forenamed in these Jewish prophecies, and foreappointed to this glorious service, no less than a hundred and seventy years before he was (Is. xliv. 28). Who would not be glad, to make good so noble and happy a destiny? O God, if we hear that thou hast ordained us to life, how gladly, how

« PreviousContinue »