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which God has intrusted to your care as you should ? Perhaps some are dependent on your bounty, for whose support you ought to provide, when your own hand can no longer minister to their wants. Have your wishes on this point been so expressed that they shall not fail of accomplishment ? Start not back from such an inquiry. Let not a helpless child or a destitute friend suffer for many years through your foolish reluctance to make a will, as if it would shorten your days. If it brings your thoughts into closer companionship with death, it may better fit you for that event. Are your pecuniary affairs, your accounts, your transactions of every kind with your fellow-men, in such a condition that your memory will not suffer from your negligence? How often has suspicion or even blight rested on the character of men after their death, from want of a due adjustment of matters which, when on earth, they might have explained in perfect consistency with uprightness and honorable dealing.
If you are deficient in any of these respects, set your house in order; for it will be too late, should death stealthily hurry you away to that land where there “is no work nor device."
SUDDEN alternations from fear to hope sometimes cause melancholy changes in character, against which even good men need to be on their guard. It is not uncommon for persons who have been laid on sick-beds, and for many weeks been apparently on the borders of the grave, when restored to health, to be more worldly than they were before. They seem to aim at making up, by greater eagerness of pursuit, the time spent under the dominion of disease. Their business has suffered perhaps for want of their attention, and now they must give the more diligence to put it in order; their expenses have been greater than usual, and now they must cut off something from their charities to compensate for the loss; their pleasures have been suspended, and now they indulge in them with new zest; their intellectual employments have been interrupted, and now their minds are absorbed in closer and more prolonged thought to fill up the chasm. In these and various other ways, the soul itself, the calls of humanity, the claims of society, the interests of religion, are losers by that very discipline which God designs should make men more active and devoted in his service.
Twice had Hezekiah, within a short period, been the subject of alternations from fear to hope, which find scarcely a parallel in the annals of the world. To human view, on the point of perishing from the proud array of his enemies, he not only experiences a miraculous deliverance almost unexampled for suddenness and magnitude, but from those very hosts gathers abundance of prey. Again, just stepping into the grave and closing his eyes on all the scenes of earth, he is recalled to the land of the living and assured of a lease of life such as was never a second time given to any of our race.
If then, in language which some have ascribed to his pen, he had with bursting heart cried out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits ?” no child of Adam ever had more reason for the inquiry. And when he declares, in the fresh sense of escape from danger, “I shall go softly all my days in the bitterness of my soul,” who would expect gratitude and humility ever to desert the bosom of Hezekiah? But to implant these graces, and to preserve them in vigor, is the work of the Holy Spirit; and no circumstances, either of comfort or of wretchedness, of blessing or of chastisement, of hope or of fear, can originate or sustain them in the human soul.
Soon after these events, Hezekiah received an embassy from Merodach-baladan king of Babylon, to congratulate him on his recovery, and make inquiries respecting “the wonder done in the land,"
either the receding shadow or the overthrow of Sennacherib, the fame of which had spread into that distant country. In the opinion of some, however, the chief motive for the embassy was to cultivate a closer connection with the king of Judah, and gain his coöperation against the Assyrians, from whose dominion Merodach-baladan was at that time in meditating revolt.
Flattered, perhaps, by this attention of a distant prince, Hezekiah manifested more vain-glory in the treatment of his ambassadors than we should expect in so good a man in such circumstances. He “showed them the house of his precious things, the silver and the gold, and the spices and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that was found in his treasures : there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not.” It is probable that many of these “precious things” were gathered from the spoils of the Assyrians, or were “presents to Hezekiah” after their overthrow, 2 Chron. 32:23; for otherwise it would be difficult to account for such abundance so soon after the heavy exactions of Sennacherib. The orientals were in “ the practice of exhibiting the curiosities and riches of a palace to distinguished visitors;" but we could scarcely conceive that the Hebrew king would thus expose his treasures for any other purpose
than a grateful commemoration of the mercy and power of Jehovah, if the sacred parrative did not indicate a far different motive. Hezekiah, it appears, exhibited his wealth and magnificence, and the resources of his kingdom, for his own aggrandizement, and as many suppose for the sake of impressing on the minds of the ambassadors the value of his alliance. Such weakness and folly in a man of eminent piety would be surprising, if the historian had not added, “God left him to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”
When the attention of Hezekiah was drawn to this subject by the inquiries of the prophet, how must he have been overwhelmed with grief and shame, that he had made the special bounties of heaven an occasion for ostentatious display, instead of making them an occasion for exalting, in the presence of these idolaters, the majesty of Jehovah and the blessedness of trusting in his guardian care. That he should suffer his heart to be “lifted up” in consequence of distinguished mercies, and in the view of Gentiles who seek after the vanities of the world, appear to regard “the pride of life" with so much satisfaction, must have been a source of deep mortification and penitence; and when Isaiah, with a countenance and voice expressive more of sorrow than of anger, asked, - What said these men; and whence came they?. What have they seen in thy house?” Hezekiah must have felt that this denunciation was deserved : “Behold, the days come that