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yet remaining of wicked Paganism, he defaces with indignation : he burns the vessels of Baal, and puts down his Chemarim, destroys the houses of the Sodomites, strews the powder of their idols in the brook Kedron, defiles Topheth, takes away the horses of the sun, burns the chariots of the sun with fire, and omits nothing that might reconcile God, clear Judah, perfect a reformation.
Neither is this care confined to Jerusalem, and the neighbouring towns, but stretches itself to the utmost coasts of Josiah's kingdom ; Bethel was the infamous seat of the pollution of Israel: it seems the heirs of Jeroboam, who set up his golden calf there, enjoyed it not long ; the kings of Judah recovered it to their crown, but it had not yet recovered itself from that ancient infection. Thither doth good Josiah send the unhallowed ashes of Baal's relics, to stain that altar first, which he will soon after deface.
The time was, and it was no less than three hundred and fifty years since, that the man of God, out of Judah, cried against Jeroboam's altar.
“O altar, altar! thus saith the Lord, Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name, and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places, that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee. '
And now is the hour come, wherein every of those words shall be accomplished. It could not but be a great confirmation to Josiah to see, that God so long ago fore-marked him for his own, and fore-named him to so zealous a service.
All our names are equally foreknown of that divine Providence, though not fore-spoken; neither can any act pass from us, which was not predetermined in that eternal counsel of the Almighty : neither can any act, that is predetermined, be unfulfilled upon earth. Intervention of time breaks no squares in the divine decrees : our purblind eyes see nothing, but that which toucheth their lids; the quick sight of God's
prescience sees that as present, which is a world off. According to the prediction, the stench of dead men's bones is a fit perfume to send up from this altar to heaven, whose best sacrifices savoured worse in the nostrils of God: and the blood of the idolatrous sacrificers was a meet oblation to that God, who had been dishonoured by their burnt-offerings to his base corrivals
Even that prophet, who foretold this, had his tomb in Bethel, and that tomb had his inscription ; his weakness might not rob him of the honour of his sepulture. How palpably doth these Israelites condemn themselves, while they reserve so famous a monument of their own conviction! It was no prejudice to this holy prophet, that his bones lay amongst the sepulchres of idolaters. His epitaph preserved those bones from burning upon that altar, which he had accursed; as the lion might not tear his carcass when he died, so now the fury of the multitude may not violate the very bones in his grave.
I do not see Josiah save them for relics ; I hear him command they shall rest in peace. It is fit the dead bodies of God's saints should be as free from contempt, as from superstition.
After the removal of these rites of false worship, it is time to bring in the true. Now a solemn passover shall be kept unto the Lord, by the charge of Josiah ; that book of the law sets him the time, place, cir.cumstances of this sacrament; his zeal so carefully follows it, that since the days of Samuel, this feast was never so gloriously, so punctually celebrated. Jerusalem is the place, the fourteenth day of the first month is the time, the Levites are the actors, a yearling and spotless lamb is the provision ; no bone of it is broken, the blood is sprinkled upon the doorposts, it is roasted whole, eaten with sour herbs, with bread unleavened; the remainder is consumed by fire. The law, the sacrifices, had been in vain, if the passover had been neglected. No true Israelite might want whether this monument of their deliverance past, or this type of the Messiah to come. Rather than fail, Josiah's bounty shall supply to Judah lambs for their paschal devotion. No alms is so acceptable, as that whereby the soul is furthered.
JOSIAH'S DEATH, WITH THE DESOLATION OF THE
TEMPLE, AND JERUSALEM. Josiah hath now happily settled the affairs, both of God and the state ; and hath now sweet leisure to enjoy himself and his people : his conscience doth not more cheer him at home, than his subjects abroad; never king reigned with more officious piety to God, with more love and applause of men. But what stability is there in these earthly things ? how seldom is excellency in any kind long-lived ! In the very strength of his age, in the height of his strength, is Josiah withdrawn from the earth ; as not without a merciful intention of his glory on God's behalf, so not without some weakness on his own. Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, comes up to fight against the king of Assyria. What is that to Josiah ? Perhaps the Egyptians attempted to pass through the land of Judah, towards Carchemish, the seat of his war ; but as a neighbour, not as an enemy: Josiah resists him, as neither holding it safe to admit a foreign power into the bosom of his country, nor daring to give so fair an occasion of provoking the Assyrian hostility against him.
The king of Egypt mildly deprecates this enmity; he sends ambassadors to Josiah, saying, “What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah ? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war; for God commanded me to make haste : forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.'
What friend could have said more? what prophet could have advised more holily ? why doth not good Josiah say with himself, There may be truth in this suggestion ; God may have sent this man to be a scourge of mine old enemy of Ashur. If the hand of the Almighty be in this design, why do I oppose it ? the quarrel is not mine, why do I thrust my finger into this flame unbidden? wherefore should I hazard the effusion of blood upon a harmless passage? Can I hear him plead a command from God, and not inquire into it? How easy is it for me to know the certainty of this pretended commission ? have not I the priests and prophets of God about me? let me first go and consult his oracle ; if God have sent him, and forbidden me, why should my courage carry me against my piety? It is strange, that the good heart of Josiah could
these thoughts, these resolutions : yet he that, upon the general threats of God's law against Judah, sends messengers to inquire of a prophetess, now, upon these particular threats of danger to himself, speaks not, stirs not. The famous prophet Jeremiah was then living, and Zephaniah, besides a whole college of seers : Josiah doth not so much as send out of doors to ask, “Shall I go up against the king of Egypt ?”. Sometimes both grace and wit are asleep in the holiest and wariest breast: the best of all God's saints may be sometimes miscarried by their passions to their cost.
The wise providence of God hath mercifully determined to leave Josiah to his own counsels, that, by the weakness of his servant, he might take occasion to perfect his glory. Even that, wherein Josiah was wanting unto God, shall concur to the making up of God's promise to Josiah : when we are the most blindfolded, we run on the ways of God's hidden decrees : and whatever our intents be, cannot, if we would, go out of that unknown path.
Needs will Josiah put himself into arms against an unwilling enemy; and to be less noted, disguises himself. The fatal arrow of an Egyptian archer finds him out in the throng, and gives him his death's wound; now, too late, he calls to a retreat ; his changed chariot is turned to a bier to carry his bleeding corpse to his grave in Jerusalem.
What eye doth not now pity and lament the untimely end of a Josiah? whom can it choose but affect, to see a religious, just, virtuous prince, snatched away in the vigour of his age ? After all our foolish moan, the providence that directed that shaft to his lightingplace, intends that wound for a stroke of mercy. The God whom Josiah serves looks through his death at his glory ; and, by this sudden violence, will deliver him from the view and participation of the miseries of Judah, which had been many deaths, and fetches him to the participation of that happiness, which could countervail more deaths than could be incident to a Josiah. Oh the wonderful goodness of the Almighty, whose very judgments are merciful! Oh the safe condition of God's children, whom very pain easeth, whom death revives, whom dissolution unites, whom, lastly, their very sin and temptation glorifies !
How happily hath Josiah gained by this change ; instead of a froward people, he now is sorted with saints and angels; instead of a fading and corruptible erown, he now enjoys an eternal. The orphan subjects are ready to weep out their eyes for sorrow; their loss cannot be so great as his gain : he is glorious; they, as their sins had deserved, miserable. If the separated soul could be capable of passion, could Josiah have seen, after his departure, the calamities of his sons, of his people, it could not have but laid siege to his peace.
The sad subjects proclaim his son Jehoahaz, king, instead of so lamented a father; he both doth ill, and fares ill. By that time he hath sat but three months on the throne, Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, seconds the father's death with the son's captivity. This vic