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he hath sat but three months in the throne, Pharaoh Nechoh, 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 bath 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 bé 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 mi. sery. 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 Nebuchadnez, zar, 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 Jereniah 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 srveral 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 be sieges 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 bis 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 mix. ture 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 bring 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!
2 Kings xxi. 2 Chron. .cxxv, xxxvi,
ZERUBBABEL AND EZRA. 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 ty. ranness 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, 0 Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem, how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground : O 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 carefully should we work out our salvation! if to good works, how should we abound!
In the first year of his monarchy, doth Cyrus both make proclamations, and publish them in writing through all bis kingdom ; wherein he both professeth his zealous resolutions and desires to build up God's house in Jerusalem, and enjoins and encourages all the Jews through his dominions to address themselves to that sacred work, and incites all his subjects to aid them with silver, and gold, and goods, and beasts. How gracious was the command of that, whereof the very allowance was a favour !
Was it Cyrus, that did this? Was it not thou, O God, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, that stirredst up the spirit of that Persian ; as if he had been more than a son of thy Church, a father? How easy is it for thee, to make very pagans protectors to thy Church; enemies, benefactors!
Not with an empty grace, doth this great king dismiss the Jews, but with a royal bounty; he brings forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; and causes them to be numbered by his treasurer to the hands of Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah, for the use of the temple; no fewer than five thousand and four hundred vessels of gold and silver.
Certainly, this great monarch wanted not wit to think; “ It is a rich booty that I find in the temples of Babylon: by the law of conquest, it is mine : having vanquished their gods, I may well challenge their spoil. How seasonably doth it now fall into my bands, upon this victory, to reward my soldiers, to settle my new empire! What if this treasure came from Jerusalem ? The propriety is now altered: the very place, according to the conceit of the Jews, hath profaned it. The true God, I have heard, is curious ; neither will abide those vessels, which have been polluted with idolatrous uses. It shall be enougb, if I loose the bonds of this miserable people. If I give liberty, let the next give wealth. They will think themselves happy in bare walls, in their native earth. To what purpose should I pamper their penury, with a sudden store ?"
But the princely heart of Cyrus would admit of no such base sacrilegious thoughts. Those vessels, that he finds stamped with God's mark, he will return to their owner. Neither his own occasions, nor their abuse, shall be any colour of their detention. () Cyrus, how many close-handed, gripple-minded Christians shall once be choked in judgment, with the example of thy just munificence! Thou restoredst that, which we purloin. Woe be to those houses, that are stored with the spoils of God's temple! Woe be to those fingers, that are tainted with holy treasures ?
Kings can hardly do good alone. Their laws are not more fol. lowed, than their examples. No sooner do the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites set their faces towards Jerusalem for the building of the temple, than the liberal hands of their pagan neighbours furnish them with gold, and silver, and precious things. Every Persian is glad to be at the charge of laying a stone in God's house. The same God, that had given them these metals out of his coffers of the earth, gives it out of their coffers to his temple. He, that took away by the Chaldees, gives by the Persians. Where the Almighty intends a work, there cannot be any want of means.