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Ye addicted to sensual pleasures, which is abun
dantly confirmed by the scriptural account) as strenuously fortified, and defended it. This “conqueror surrounded the city with his army: but the king of Babylon presuming upon it's impregnable strength, and upon the magazine of provisions, which, without any fresh supplies, less than a ten years siege could not exhaust, derided the efforts of his powerful adversary. In the mean time the besiegers encompassed the city with a deep trench keeping their purposes a profound secret; and Cyrus' , was informed of the feast which was about to be held in Babylon. Upon this night he deter- 4 mined to suspend the fates of his army, and of the empire for which he fought. On this occasion of festivity, Belshazzar, with a bold impiety at which his predecessors, proud and daring as they were, would have shuddered, profaned the vessels of the temple of Jehovah. The apparation of an hand writing on the wall of the palace in unknown characters first excited the apprehensions of the king. In vain he called the astrologers and the magicians: in vain he alternately threatened and entreated them : they could neither read the writing, nor make known the interpretation. The sentence was written in Samaritan characters which the Chaldeans did not understand; and could they have deo *
464 THE CAPTIVITIES OF o
cyphered these, they could not have explained them. The words literally rendered are, “He “ hath numbered, he hath numbered, he hath “ weighed, and they divide.” Daniel was sent for, and announced from them the immediate fall of his empire. While this was the state of things at the palace, Cyrus had drained the river into his moat, till it was fordable. Informed of the confusion which reigned in the city, he issued: orders to his troops to enter it that very night at north and south, by marching up the channel. They were commanded by two eminent officers, and advanced towards each other, without i suffering any impediment, till they met in the centre of the river. God, who had promised to open before him the gates of brass, preceded them; otherwise this singular and adventurous expedition must have failed. Had the gates which closed the avenues leading to the river been shut, which was always the custom at night, the whole scheme had been defeated. But so was it ordered by Providence, that on this night of general riot and confusion, with unparalleled negligence, they were left open / So that these troops penetrated the very heart of the city without opposition, and reached the palace before any alarm was given. The guards were immediately put to the sword–Belshazzar
, ISRAEL AND OF JUDA.H. 465 slain—and the city taken almost without resistance. - o Thus fell the Babylonish empire. Cyrus made a decree in favour of the Jews, which led to their restoration; and thus terminated the captivity of Judah, after a period of seventy years". They returned to their country, and rebuilt their city
and their temple: and while the young men
shouted when the foundation was laid, the elders wept aloud because of it's manifest inferiority to the magnificence of the former building: “So that they could not discern the noise of the “shout of joy, from the noise of the weeping “ of the people!” o The history which has passed before you this night, discovers with what facility the Deity can dry up the streams of our enjoyment, and even cut off the supplies of our existence. He has only to speak the word, and a thousand instruments spring up to execute the fierceness of his displeasure. He has only to give the command, and the air which we breathe, becomes the vehicle of instantaneous death. Fire mingles with the blast of the desert, and consumes
the vitals". The pestilence “walketh in dark“ness,” or flying through the slumbering city, shakes poison from it's deadly pinions. He holds back the face of his sun, and the “heavens are “black with wind and rain,” a partial deluge covers the country, and the promise of the harvest is cut off. Or he commands his winds to scatter the clouds, to drive them to some more favoured land, and the corn, expecting in vain the early and the latter rain, withers and perishes. The earth is cleft with the heat, the herds die through lack of water, the sun-beam beats upon the man's head, till he faints, and his tongue cleaves to the roof of his mouth, and he is brought down “to the dust of death.” The desolation sometimes suddenly arises. There is peace in the city: the harvest is swelling to maturity: every heart rejoices in the security of it's comforts. A cloud rises in the east, and extends till it hides the sun at noon-day. A noise is heard in the air, which covers “every face with blackness.” An army of locusts descends: and the land which was “as the garden of Eden before them, behind “ them is a desolate wilderness.” Sometimes the same desolation is effected at a stroke by the earthquake: at others, war thunders in the heart
* See note 6, at the end of this Lecture.
of an empire, and blood runs down the streets of a city". The conduct of Nebuchadnezzar is fruitful also in instruction. We frequently see the worst of characters filling the most eminent situations, moving in the most exalted and the most splendid spheres, ruling over powerful empires, exalting his throne above the stars of heaven: a luminary that dazzles the eyes of the princes of this world: a meteor that perplexes, confounds and terrifies the iishabitants of the earth. Nations bow down, one after another, to the iron yoke, till the whole world is subjected to him. Elevation of rank in society, is so far from being bestowed upon the most worthy, and the most upright characters, that these situations, so full of danger, and which require so much wisdom, are frequently seized by violence, obtained by birth, procured by partial favour, and are often permitted by providence to be occupied by men, at once destitute of principle, and of religion the true source of principle. When we consider to whose hands the government of mighty empires has been committed : when we examine the history of the great monarch of Babylon; when we trace the sceptre
* See note 7, at the end of this Lecture.