Billeder på siden

ing down to dumb idols, they would of their abundance aid in sending forth the heralds of salvation, purer joys would spring up within them, from the exercise of benevolence, than the fountains of earthly pleasures can afford, or the earthy heart imagine.



SOME who in childhood appear serious, and raise high expectations of future usefulness, disappoint the hopes of friends and dishonor religion by yielding to the temptations of opening youth. Not so the young Hebrew monarch. The blossoms were now ripening into fruit. As “he began well,” he “continued well.” In the twelfth year of his reign, which was the twentieth year of his age, “he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the carved images, and the molten images.” In this he imitated the example of Hezekiah, whom he seems to have made his pattern in many respects. Indeed, the circumstances of these two kings of Judah, their characters, aims, and achievements are so similar, that a history of one is, to a good degree, the history of the other. Much of what we have said of Hezekiah might with equal pertinency have been introduced into the history of his descendant, whose life we are now sketching. We may therefore indulge the greater brevity in this part of our work.

With the exception of a short interval in the reign of Mạnasseh, idolatry had been the prevailing religion in Judah for more than half a century.

It had not only been permitted but patronized by the kings, and fostered by their zealous efforts for its extension. Since the reformation by Hezekiah, high places, groves, graven and molten images, and means of idol-worship in every shape, had multiplied almost beyond belief. If Josiah went up to the temple, it was full of “vessels made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the hosts of heaven.” In the two courts of the Lord stood the idol-altars which Manasseh erected, and at the very doors were stabled “the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun;" while the dwellings of those who practised the abominations of the heathen, were clustering around the sacred inclosure. If the king looked down on the city, the flat-terraced house-tops were covered with multitudes burning incense “ to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets.” If he passed beyond the eastern gates, on the heights of Olivet rose the altars originally erected by Solomon, and since renewed, for the worship of Ashtaroth, Chemosh, and Milcom, gods of the neighboring Zidonians, Moabites, and children of Ammon. And if he entered the valley of Hinnom south of the city, he would meet the devotees of Moloch, thronging to offer their sons and daughters on his bloody shrine.

Josiah set about the extermination of idolatry from the realm, with a hatred of the sin that fired his inmost spirit. Zeal less than this would never have held out to accomplish so vast a work, beset as it was with difficulties and dangers. He did not trust the execution of his purpose to others, but traversing the land from "Geba to Beer-sheba,” he superintended in person the destruction of all the instruments of idolatrous worship. Perhaps the evils inflicted on his predecessors, for their attachment to idols, gave an impulse to his zeal. Children often go to an opposite extreme from the vices which deformed the characters and injured the influence of their parents. They have seen and felt the pernicious effects of these vices, and spare no pains to avoid their contagion, and the suspicion of yielding to their indulgence.

Josiah left nothing undone to show his abhorrence of the folly of the people in revolting from Jehovah, and bestowing their affections on objects so contemptible and powerless. He cut down the groves, defiled the high places, broke in pieces the images, and strewed the dust on the graves of their worshippers. He burned the bones of the priests on the altars where they had ministered—thus most effectually polluting these places in the estimation of the Jews. After six years' vigorous prosecution of the work, the purification of Judah from idols was still incomplete.

How many, at the age when Josiah had accomplished so much for religion and the welfare of his country, have not begun seriously to prepare for serving their Maker, or benefiting their fellowmen! How many, at that time of life, suffer their minds to run to waste, and care only for the trilling amusements and follies of youth! Little can be expected.of such in later


Those who have been the lights and glory of the world, have usually given early presage of future distinction. Like Newton, they have retired from the playful circle to muse on their favorite theme; or, like Alexander, when boys, cried, “Give us kings for competitors !" True, the earthquake-shock of revolution, as in the case of Cromwell, may rouse up an intellect which has slumbered forty or fifty years ; the pressure of great occasions may concentrate brilliant powers

that have long been dissipated among unworthy objects; but such cases are rare.

The most splendid works of genius, the most astonishing discoveries in science, have been the reward of early struggles after excellence. Strike out all in art, philosophy, morals, and religion, which men have accomplished before the age of twenty-five, and who shall fill the chasm ? What young man, then, would not “be sober-minded ?”

Josiah, so ardent in the overthrow of idolatry, could


with the Psalmist, I love the habitation of thy house, the place where thine honor dwelleth." . Accordingly, in the eighteenth year of his reign he set himself to restore its former splendor to the temple, which in the time of Manasseh and

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »