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the Persian history, and PHILostRATus, in his history of India and Phenicia, say that he besieged Tyre thirteen years, and took it in the reign of Ithobal.” To Nebuchadnezzar succeeded Evil-Merodach, who set Jechoniah at liberty and made him one of his friends. After a reign of vice and folly of two years, he was slain by the conspiracy of his own family. To him succeeded Neriglasser, who reigned only four years, and was slain in a battle against Cyrus. To him succeeded Belshazzar, with whose life the Babylonish captivity terminated. Cyrus, conducted by an invisible hand, advanced gradually towards Babylon, and closely besieged it: while Belshazzar, or rather Nitocris the queen mother (for the character of Belshazzar by all profane historians is, that he was wholly addicted to sensual pleasures, which is abundantly confirmed by the scriptural account) as strenuously fortified, and defended it. This conquerer surrounded the city with his army: but the king of Babylon presuming upon its 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 determined 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 appari
* Joseph. de Antiq. Jud. Tom. i, lib. x, cap. 11. Hudsoni edit.
tion 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 decyphered 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. Insormed 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 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 slain—and the city taken almost without resistance.
Thus fell the Babylonish empire. Cyrus made a decree in favor of the Jews, which led to their restora. tion; 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 its 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!”
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 of 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.f The pestilence “walketh in darkness,” or flying through the slumbering city, shakes poison from its 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 favored land, and the corn, expecting in vain the early and the latterrain, withers and perishes. The earth is cleft with the heat, the herd die through lack of water, the sunbeam 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 its comforts. A cloud rises in the east, and extends till it hides the sum 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 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 inhabitants 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 favor, 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 of
* See note 5, of this Lecture, at the end of the volume. f Sce note 6, of this Lecture, at the end of the volume.
power, alternately under the control of Greece and of