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writer, he “ made Judab and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel."
Idolatry has always been accompanied with cruelty; we are not, therefore, surprised to be told that “ he shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” Numbers, notwithstanding his example and authority, remained attached to the God of their fathers. They mourned over the prevalent idolatry; they refused to be present at these abominable ceremonies; they denounced the wrath and the judgments of Jehovah. Their reproofs, instead of corfecting, inflamed Manasseh ; their piety was esteemed the greatest of crimes ;. and as he could not tear from them their generous attachment to religion and the glory of God, he quenched their remonstrances in their blood. It is a general tradition among the Jews that Isajah, the venerable counsellor and friend of his father, was among the number who thus perished: but of the truth of this assertion there is no proof.*
His sins were aggravated by his refusal to listen to admonitions. Special messengers were sent to him. The Lord spake to Manasseh and his people; but they would not hearken.” He thus appeared to defy the indignation of the Almighty, and to provokc his thunders.
Such was Manasseh! Who is not humbled at this picture of human nature? Who does not tremble at considering how far we may revolt from God and holiness? Who that remembers that he has within
* See it disproved, in Saurin's Dissert. tom. vi. pp. 444--45 . VOL. II.
himself the self-same seeds of original corruption as had this unhappy man, does not extol that restraining grace which has kept him from these enormities?
Such was Manasseh! Who would not expect that we should next be informed that he became a signal trophy of the divine indignation, and that the holiness and power of that God whom he had contemned were glorified in his awful destruction. But, (“Oh! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and mercy of God!") renewing grace sanctifies his heart, and sovereign grace blots out all his sins.
The justice and the goodness of God unite in visiting him with afflictions which shall at last rouse him. The king of Assyria, probably Esarhaddon, sent his army against Judah. This army was no longer opposed by the ardent and prevalent prayers of Hezekiah, and was successful. Manasseh was seized in a thicket, whither he had fled for safety; his hands and his feet were fettered, and he was carried in chains a prisoner to Babylon.
What a reverse in his situation! No longer feared by a subject people, but the sport of his enemies; stripped of his glory and kingdom, and the delights of his palace succeeded by the solitude of a loathsome dungeon. Such great vicissitudes can rarely happen; but the perpetual changes which occur in life should surely admonish us to seek “that kingdom which cannot be moved;" that crown of glory which cannot be wrested from us; 6 those riches which are durable;” those“ pleasures which flow at God's right hand for evermore.” Such were the effects which, under the influence of God's good Spirit, were produced upon Manasseh. “When be was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and
humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him; and Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God.” The scales fall from his eyes; his illusions are dissipated; he sees, he feels the power of that God whom he had defied. In the silence of his dungeon, all his crimes, with all their aggravations, are present to his view. The haughty rebel bends; his soul is filled with anguish, not for the loss of his kingdom and the weight of his chains, but for the pollution of his soul. Detesting himself, and seeing no resource but in the unbounded
mercy of God, he turns to him, and invokes him with ardour, with faith, and with contrition.
This change was certainly produced by almighty power. In observing it, none could fail to cry out, “It is the Lord's doing, and is wondrous in our eyes.” Yet God works by means, and no doubt it was connected with the prayers and instructions of his father, and with the afflictions which he endured. Hezekiah had often carried Manasseh in the arms of faith and prayer to the mercy-seat. His petitions were not disregarded by the Lord, but are now answered; and he is not alone, for the supplications of many pious parents are reposited as a treasure in heaven, and are answered in the conversion of their children after they are sleeping in the dust. Hast thou, careless man, been blest with a parent whose closet has often witnessed his tears, and
and prayers for thee? Arise, and, with Manasseh, call upon the God of thy fathers. The holy instructions given to him in early life now recur to his mind, direct him in his duty, and encourage him to approach the God of grace. I have before quoted to you the remark of an accurate observer of life, that “ conversions in advanced life are most commonly the re
surrection of those seeds which had been sown in infancy, but had long been stifled by the violence of youthful passions, or the pursuits of ambition, and the hurry of an active life.”. Be not discouraged, then, Christian parent, nor relax in your exertions, because your children appear unaffected by your counsels. These seeds which you now scatter may germinate when you, like Hezekiah, are in glory.
Afflictions have been often sanctified to others as well as Manasseh. How many thousands have been first led to God by heavy trials, pains, disappointments, or bereavements! These humbled the pride of their hearts, and taugbt them their guilt, when milder methods had been employed in vain. Child of calamity, what effect have thy sorrows produced upon thee? Have they led thee, like Manasseh, penitently to the Lord? Or may it be recorded of thee as of Ahab his grandfather, “ In the time of his distress he did trespass yet more against the Lord ?" Ah! this is indeed the very temper of the lost, who “gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pains, and repent not of their deeds."
And was there mercy for such a sinner? Yes; 6 the Lord was entreated of him, and heard his
supplication.” All his iniquities were blotted out, and the poor, trembling culprit, was cheered with the hope of pardon and acceptance with his God. Ah! brethren, will we still revolt from such a God? Will we still refuse to listen to him, calling to us from the height of heaven? It is not the voice of an implacable tyrant pursuing the obstinate rebel, but that of a tender father recalling the wandering child. Oh! let us flee into his arms, that we may taste the preciousness of his love.
In consequence of his repentance, he was freed from his sins and his chains, and, restored to his former dignity, continued to reign for many years. Ye who have made solemn promises to God on the bed of sickness, in the gloom of sorrow, under the pressure of calamity, but who have forgotten them all when restored to health and joy; ye probably suppose that Manasseh, like you, forgot all his engagements when again seated on the throne. No; he was indeed renewed, and he “ brought forth fruits meet for repentance.” His care was unremitted to destroy that idolatry which he had promoted. Restoring the worship of God, and purifying the temple, he offered on the altars of Jehovah peace-offerings and thank-offerings, and endeavoured to lead back those whom he had corrupted.
But notwithstanding he knew that his sins were forgiven, what agony did he feel in beholding the memorials of his crimes; with what agony did he look back
years of vanity and guilt; with what tears did he recollect that he could not repair the evils he had done; that many who had been seduced by his example were already in the eternal flames; that others were insensible to his admonitions, and would finally perish; that his own son, imitating his guilt and not his repentance, still continued attached to idols. Young persons, would you avoid such heart-rending retrospections, early turn to the Lord, and benefit society by the example of your first as well as last days.
Having reigned fifty-five years, he died, and was buried, probably by his own express command, privately in the garden of his house, humbly considering himself unworthy to lie with his ancestors.
My brethren, there is no portion of scripture that