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happily he had not, in these hours of perplexity and distress, to begin the great work of life, preparation for a future existence. And equally happy was it for the prophet, that he had not at this crisis the painful task of urging such a duty on the conscience of his dying sovereign.
After the last farewell to his royal master, the venerable messenger retires from the sick chamber, sad and desponding for his country, but calm and submissive as he thinks of the vision about to break on the departing spirit. “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and upright men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.”
When Hezekiah heard the message of the prophet, he resorted to the Lord for help, as he had done in other trying scenes. He knew that evils are often threatened under the government of God, with the implied condition that there is no change in man which renders it proper for God to stay the threatening. Turning his face to the wall, "as a natural expression of strong feeling," Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord, saying,
* Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore."
The answer to this short and affecting supplication was almost instantaneous. Before Isaiah had “gone out into the middle court” of the palaceor, as some suppose, the middle part of the citythe Lord directed him to return, and tell Hezekiah, “ Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears : behold, I will heal thee : on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years." With alacrity, heightened by his former sadness, the prophet hastened back with the joyful tidings of this unexpected reprieve. Hezekiah requiring some sign to satisfy him of the truth of the message, in answer to the prayer of the prophet, the Lord brought back the shadow on the dial of Ahaz ten degrees.
There can be no doubt that on the third day, Hezekiah, accompanied by a multitude of his pious subjects, went up to the temple, as predicted, with a thank-offering for so surprising a deliverance. Isaiah has incorporated in his prophecies the psalm which the king wrote in grateful commemoration of his recovery.
A part of it follows, as found in the common English version :
· I said, in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living : I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life : he will cut me off with pining sickness : from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that as a lion, so will he break all my bones : from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as.a dove : mine eyes fail with looking upward : O Lord, I am oppressed ; undertake for me. Be. hold, for peace I had great bitterness : but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption : for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day : the father to the children shall make known thy truth.”
Some have conjectured that the prophet himself was the author of this psalm, but that Hezekiah should compose a psalm, is no more strange than that he should make a collection of proverbs. It would have been far more strange if one so much like David in character and spirit, had not followed his example in the practice of devotional composition.”
There has been much disagreement among commentators and others in regard to the sign that
Hezekiah should recover. Some suppose that there was an actual disturbance of the earth's course; while others suppose that the shadow only went backward. In each case, the phenomenon is regarded as miraculous, and both would be equally easy to divine power. God only could perform or infallibly predict either.
There has also been a diversity of opinion in regard to the “degrees” mentioned in the narrative. Some suppose they were the graduated scale of a dial; but “there is no word in the text necessarily denoting such an instrument.”. Others suppose they were the steps of a staircase, so contrived as to point out the hour of the day by the shadow passing from step to step. Modern investigations render it probable that the Babylonians, in the time of Ahaz, made use of some kind of instruments for measuring time, and this prince, who seems to have been fond of introducing foreign novelties into his kingdom, may have borrowed the invention from them. There are various other conjectures of a similar kind in regard to the “ degrees ;” but none of them affect the main fact, that at the prayer of the prophet the shadow went backwards, through the distance stated in the history, so perceptibly as to be beyond dispute.
The warning of the prophet to Hezekiah on his sick-bed, may be pertinently addressed to every one of my readers, whatever their age and present cir
cumstances of health or disease. You know not the time nor the manner of your death. It may be sudden; no visitation of sickness, no flush of fever, no wasting consumption may admonish you to set your
house in order.” Have you, then, let me ask, made all the preparation which is denoted in this phrase? Have you, by “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” which a life of piety has shown to be genuine, set your own soul in order to leave the world and enter on the scenes of a higher existence? You may have passed the years of childhood and youth; perhaps you have a family. Have you instructed them in the things pertaining to the kingdom of heaven as much as you would desire, if you did not expect another opportunity to teach them the way to eternal life? Have you not another prayer to offer for their conversion, and that you may all meet at last, a happy family in heaven ?" Have
you nothing more to do for the welfare of your friends, for the social circle in which you move, for the neighborhood in which you reside, for the church with which you may be connected, for the honor of the Saviour whom you profess to regard more than all earthly good ?
And if you are in mature life, let me ask, whether you have arranged your temporal concerns as you would wish them to be when you leave the world? Have you made such a disposition of the estate