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for Israel to have begun afresh; even now, had they returned in good earnest to the service of God, their former sins might have been blotted out, and they might once more have enjoyed the favour and protection of the Almighty.
Oh that they had hearkened even now to the voice of the Lord; he would soon have put down their enemies, and have made them to flourish again as his own peculiar people. But I
say, Edward, this was not the case ; they went on from one sin to another, refusing to attend to the commandments of God, following the wickedness and vanities of the nations round about them, making themselves molten images, worshipping all the host of heaven, and serving Baal, and even sacrificing their sons and their daughters to idols. No wickedness was too great for them; they seemed to try how much they could provoke the Lord to anger, and weary that patience and long-suffering with which he had borne with them for so many years. And O how great was that goodness! not even then were they allowed to sin without a warning voice to tell them of their danger. Prophet after prophet was sent. Elisha was followed by Jonah ; Jonah by Hosea and Amos, two faithful servants of the Lord, whose hearts bled for the miseries and sins of their country, and who devoted all their time, and thoughts, and prayers to her welfare.
We need only look to their writings in the Bible, to see how ardently these holy men desired the salvation of Israel; how bitterly they mourned their perverse departures from God; how affectionately
they entreated them to return to the Lord; how earnestly they warned them of the danger of provoking his anger; how faithfully and exactly they foretold to them the awful judgments, the bitter evils which they were at that very moment bringing down on their guilty heads.
These their beautiful addresses to the people, and affecting lamentations over them, and remarkable prophecies concerning them, are all to be found, my dear child, in the Bible, and will one day, I hope, be made the subject of your diligent and delighted study: then you will perceive with wonder, how every word which God spake by his prophets was brought to pass. But let us return to our melancholy history.
In vain did these holy prophets preach, in vain did they entreat, in vain did they warn and threaten, in vain did they weep for their country. All was to no purpose.
Israel would not listen ; God's people would not consider. At length God would bear with them no longer; he determined to put an end at once to the kingdom of Israel, and to scatter the people among all nations. This is what their prophets had foretold to them, but they would not believe their words. Too soon, however, were they convinced of their awful reality; for, in the
B.C. reign of Hoshea, Shalmaneser, king of
721. Assyria, came up against Israel, subdued the country, and made Hoshea his servant, allowing him merely to reign over Israel in his name, and requiring him to pay large sums of money yearly into the Assyrian treasury. Hoshea could not help
himself, and therefore submitted outwardly to these hard and mortifying circumstances; but he sent secret messengers to the king of Egypt, begging him to help him in throwing off the yoke which the king of Assyria had put upon his neck : while in the hope of immediate help from so powerful a king, he kept back the tribute money which he was bound to send yearly to the king of Assyria. But this unwise conduct only hurried on the ruin of his country. As soon as Shalmaneser perceived that Hoshea was dealing treacherously with him, he went with a great force against Israel, besieged and utterly destroyed its capital, Samaria, shut up and bound Hoshea in prison, and at last carried him and all his people into Assyria as captives, and placed them in different parts of that country and of Media. And in that part of the world, Edward, these ten tribes of Israel are supposed to have remained ever since, for the Almighty never brought them back from their captivity : never allowed them again to become a separate kingdom and people.
This remarkable event took place seven hundred and twenty-one years before the birth of our blessed Redeemer, and exactly two hundred and fifty-four years after the ten tribes of Israel had separated from those of Judah.
And thus were most wonderfully fulfilled the words of the prophet Hosea; “God shall cast them away because they did not hearken unto him, and scatter them among the nations." Their holy and beautiful land, too, in which they had dwelt so long, now became the entire property
of the king of Assyria, who sent great numbers of his own people to live there, and placed them in the cities of Samaria, instead of the children of Israel.
FIFTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY EVENING.
THE SICKNESS OF HEZEKIAH.
M. We must now turn our thoughts, Edward, to the kingdom of Judah; those two tribes which were all that remained of a people who had once, from the extraordinary favour shown them by the Almighty, been an object of wonder and terror to all the surrounding nations.
I think I told you before, that the people of Judah, though very wicked, had never been quite so bad as Israel; therefore they were spared the longest. Like Israel, indeed, they had been brought into subjection to Assyria ; but the tribute which that prince exacted had been carefully paid ; and, therefore, they were not made to suffer as Israel had done under the hands of the oppressor. More than one good king had been reigning in Judah, while the wickedness of Israel had been at its height, and one of the very best of them was reigning there at the time that Israel was led away into captivity. This was Hezekiah, who did what was right in the sight of the Lord, even as the holy David had done, and spared no pains in endeavouring to bring back his people to the love, and worship, and service of God. He removed all the high places, brake the images, and cut down all the groves which had been used as places of idolatry, and opened again the house of the Lord, inviting his people to assemble themselves together again in that holy place, as they had been used to do in happier times. He encouraged them too to serve God by his own excellent example ; for he kept fast to the Lord, and departed not from following him; and he trusted in the Lord God of Israel, looking to him for protection from his enemies, and for deliverance from the heavy evils with which his country was threatened. The consequence of all this was, that the Lord was with Hezekiah to preserve and bless him. Almighty God, my child, never commands us to serve him for nothing. Though our best works are very faulty in his sight who chargeth even his angels with folly, yet if we serve him humbly and sincerely, then for Christ's merits, though not for our own, God will reward us above all that we can ask or think. King Hezekiah found this to be true when he served God with all his heart, and walked before God as if the eyes of the Almighty were continually upon him. When he led forth his people to battle, God made his enemies to fall before him ; or if his enemies attacked him, it pleased God to listen to the prayers of the religious king, and to work for him some great de