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prayers often counteract the unhappy influence of a wicked father, and it may be that the good principles which Hezekiah exhibited at the very beginning of his reign, were in part implanted by his mother's hand.
It has been suggested as not improbable, that the Zechariah who, with Uriah the priest, was taken as a witness of a prophecy by Isaiah, Isa. 8:2, was the father-in-law of Ahaz; and that perhaps he is the same Zechariah mentioned, 2 Chron. 29 : 13, as a Levite of the family of Asaph, and one of those who early coöperated with Hezekiah in gathering the Levites for the purification of the temple. If such was the parentage of Hezekiah's mother, we might infer with a good deal of probability, that he was indebted to her for the early bias of his mind in favor of the true religion.
But whether Hezekiah was favored or not with the instructions of a pious mother, he had access to the Bible, so far as then written; and we cannot doubt, from his subsequent history, that he read it with care and great delight. When he first comes before our notice, he appears to be familiar with its institutions, and deeply imbued with its spirit. Though daily surrounded by persons of corrupt sentiments and immoral lives, he would often retire to search the Scriptures, and enjoy the society of holy men of other times. There he could commune with Abraham, who, at the call of God, went out from idolatrous friends to sojourn “in a strange country;" with Moses, who refused to share in the pleasures of an idolatrous court; and with David, whom he seems to have taken as a model in his zeal for the house of the Lord. It is much more probable, too, that the regard for the Scriptures which prompted Hezekiah to make a new collection of the Proverbs of Solomon, originated at this period of his life, than amid the wars and busy scenes after he began to reign.
Hezekiah was several years old at the death of his grandfather Jotham. Of this prince it is recorded, that “he became mighty because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God;" and it is no unreasonable supposition that he early taught Hezekiah to venerate the temple and its services.
Corrupt as the people of Judah had become at this period, there were some that still adhered to the God of their fathers; and he had not forsaken the nation nor forgotten his covenant. He sent his servants to recall them to their duty and admonish them of approaching judgments if they continued to be disobedient. Two distinguished prophets were then living in Judah. One of these was Isaiah, who prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah, as he had also done during the reigns of Ahaz and Jotham. He was sent, in the boyhood of Hezekiah, while Jerusalem was besieged by the combined forces of Syria and Israel, to assure Ahaz that the city should
be guarded in safety against the attack. The other was Micah, who began to prophesy a few years before the birth of Hezekiah, and continued to prophesy during his reign. He was a native of Maresha, a town about twenty miles south-west of Jerusalem, It seems probable that the young prince was acquainted with both these good men, whose society he would be disposed to seek, and that he was indebted to them for many excellent instructions and counsels. Despairing of a reformation so long as the idolatrous and superstitious Ahaz was king, they would view with deep interest any signs of attachment to the true God in the heir to the throne. Those of the people, too, who were not infected with idolatry, would often in their prayers remember Hezekiah, under whose government they might once more observe the rites of their law, and
pay their homage to Jehovah in his own courts. That such was the expectation of pious men in Judah respecting Hezekiah, we may reasonably imagine ; for though the Bible does not inform us at what time he began to fear the Lord, in all probability it was in early life. Such a character as he exhibited on ascending the throne, is not formed in a moment, nor such strength of principle attained except through the slow growth of years. Moreover, God manifestly raised up Hezekiah to be a reformerto restore the worship of the temple and bring back the people from their idolatrous practices; and it is
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not his manner to employ men as leaders in such enterprises, before their own principles have been thoroughly tried and firmly established.
My young reader, perhaps you think your situation peculiarly unfavorable for beginning a religious life; but are the obstacles in your path greater than those which beset Hezekiah ? father more ungodly than Ahaz? Do you live among a people more irreligious than the inhabitants of Judah, at this period in their history? And even if you reside where the Sabbath is made a day for business or amusement or revelry, and no sanctuary invites you by its open gates to enter in and hear the messages of
mercy, were not the doors of the temple closed also before Hezekiah ? But he sought the favor of the God of Israel in his youth, and he obtained it. It prepared him for a life of usefulness and honor, and for a death of hope and peace. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find.”
HEZEKIAH BEGINS TO REIGN.
THE ungodly Ahaz has been committed to the tomb. Hezekiah has taken his seat on the throne of David, and the people have gone to their own homes. As the new monarch looks down the city from his palace on mount Zion, it seems to be given up to idolatry. The temple, indeed, rises in solemn grandeur, and externally presents the same magnificent appearance as when dedicated by Solomon to the service of Jehovah; but its gates are closed, the fire has ceased to burn on the brazen altar, the lamps in the holy place have been extinguished, and its courts no longer echo, day and night, with the songs of priests and Levites in praise of the God of Israel. The smoke of sacrifices still ascends within the sacred inclosure, but the victims are offered to a Syrian idol, and "in every corner of Jerusalem” are seen the altars which Ahaz erected to foreign gods. Hezekiah, as he passed through the streets of the city, had often been pained at the sight of this senseless and profane worship, without the power to prevent it. He had often stood in sadness before the temple, while he thought of the multitudes who, in better times, came up from all parts of the land with the voice of joy and praise,