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SECTION II. Change of external condition is often adverse to vrlue. TN the days of Joram, king of Israel, flourished the propa1 et Elisha. His character was so eminent, and his fame so widely spread, that Benhadad, the king of Syria, though an idolater, sent to consult him, concerning the issue of a distemper which threatened his life. The messenger employed on this occasion, was Hazael, who appears to have been one of the princes, or chief men of the Syrian court.
2 Charged with rich gifts from the king, he presents himself before the prophet; and accosts him in terms of the highest respect. During the conference which they held together, Elisha fixed his eyes steadfastly on the countenance of Hazael, and discerning, by a prophetic spirit, his future tyranny and cruelty, he could not contain himself from bursting into a flood of tears.
3 When Hazael, in surprise, inquired into the cause of this sudden emotion, the prophet plainly informed him of the crimes and barbarities, which he foresaw that he would af. terwards commit. The soul of Hazael abhorred, at this time, the thoughts of cruelty. Uncorrupted, as yet, by ambition or greatness, his indignation rose at being thought capable of the savage actions which the prophet had mentioned ; and, with much warmth, he replies : “ But what? is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?"
4 Elisha makes no return, but to point out a remarkable change, which was to take place in his condition ; “ The Lord hath shown me, that thou shalt be king over Syria." In course of time, all that had been predicted, came to pass. Hazael ascended the throne, and ainbition took possession of his heart. “He smote the children of Israel in all their coasts. He oppressed them d'rring all the days of king Jehoahaz:" and, from what is left on record of his actions, he plainly appears to have proved, what the prophet foresaw him to be, a man of violence, cruelty, and blood.
5 In this passage of history, an object is presented, which deserves our serious attention. We behold a man who, in one state of life, could not look upon certain crimes without surprise and horror; who knew so little of himself, as to believe it impossible for him ever to be concerned in committing them; that same man, by a change of condition, and an unguarded state of mind, transformed in all his sentiments; and as he rose in greatness, rising also in guilt ;
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till at last he completed that whole character of iniquity, which he once detested.
BLAIR. SECTION II.
Haman ; or, the misery of pride. A HASUERUS, who is supposed to be the prince known H among the Greek historians by the name of Artaxerxes, had advanced to the chief dignity in his kingdom, Haman, an Amalekite, who inherited all the ancient enmity of his race, to the Jewish nation. He appears, from what is recorded of him, to have been a very wicked minister. Raised to greatness without merit, he employed his power solely for the gratification of his passions.
2 As the honours which he possessed were next to royal, his pride was every day fed with that servile homage, which is peculiar to Asiatic courts, and all the servants of the king prostrated themselves before him. In the inidst of this general adulation, one person only stooped not to Haman.
3 This was Mordecai the Jew; who, knowing this Amalekite to be an enemy to the people of God, and, with virtuous indignation, despising that insolence of prosperity with which he saw him lifted up, “bowed not, nor did him reyerence.” On this appearance of disrespect from Mordecai, Haman " was full of wrath : but he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone.” Personal revenge, was not sufficient to satisfy him.
4 So violent and black were his passions, that he resolved to exterminate the whole nation to which Mordecai belonged. Abusing, for his cruel purpose, the favour of his credulous sovereign, he obtained a decree to be sent forth, that, against a certain day, all the Jews throughout the Persian dominions, should be put to the sword.
5 Meanwhile, confident of succes, and blind to approach: ing ruin, he continued exulting in his prosperity. Invited by Ahasuerus to a royal banquet, which Esther the queen had prepared, “ he went forth that day joyful, and with a glad heart.” But behold how slight an incident, was sufficient to poison his joy! As he went forth, he saw Mordecai in the king's gate; and observed, that he still refused to do him homage." He stood not up, nor was moved for him ;** although he well knew the formidable designs, which Haman was preparing to execute.
6 One private man, who despised his greatness, and disdained submission, while a whole kingdom trembled before him; one spirit, 'which the utinost stretch of his power could neither subdue nor humble, blasted his triumph
His whole soul was shaken with a storm of passion. Wrath, . pride, and desire of revenge, rose into fury. With difficul
ty he restrained himself in public; but as soon as he came to his own house, he was forced to disclose the agony of his mind.
7 He gathered together his friends and family, with Zeresh his wife. “He told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and of all the things wherein the king had promoted him ; and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.” He said, moreover, “ Yea, Esther the queen, suffered no man to come in with the king, to the banquet that she had prepared, but myself ; and to-morrow also am I invited to her with the king." After all this preamble, what is the conclusion? “ Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew, sitting at the king's gate."
8 The sequel of liaman's history, I shall not now pursue. It might afford matter for much instruction, by the conspicuous justice of God in his fall and punishment. But contemplating only the singular situation, in which the expressions just quoted present him, and the violent agitation of bis mind which they display, the following reflections naturally arise : How miserable is vice, when one guilty passion creates so much torment! hoy unavailing is prosperity, when, in the height of it, a single disappointment, can destroy the retish of all its pleasures! how weak is human nature, which, in the absence of real, is thus prone to form to itself imaginary woes!
BLAIR. SECTION IV.
Lady Jane Gray. TITHIS excellent personage, was descended from the roy
1 al line of England by both her parents. She was carefully educated in the principles of the reformation; and her wisdom and virtue, rendered her a shining example to her sex. But it was her lot to continue only a short period on this stage of being; for, in early life, she fell a sacrifice to the wild ambition of the duke of Northumberland ; who promoted a marriage between her and his son, lord Guilford Dudley; and raised her to the throne of England, in opposition to the rights of Mary and Elizabeth.
2 At the time of their marriage, slie was only about eiga teen years of age ; and her husband was also very young : a season of life very unequal to oppose the interested views artiu artiul and aspiring men; who, instead of exposing that?
danger, should have been the protectors of their innocence and youth.
3 This extraordinary young person, besides the solid endowments of piety and virtue, possessed the most engaging disposition, the most accomplished parts; and being oi an equal age with king Edward VI. she had received all her education with him, and seemed even to possess a greater facility in acquiring every part of manly and classical literature.
4 She had attained a knowledge of the Roman and Greek languages, as well as of several modern tongues; had passed most of her time in an application to learning; and expressed a great indifference for other occupations and amusements usual with her sex and station.
5 Roger Ascham, tutor to the lady Elizabeth, having at one time paid her a visit, found her employed in reading Plato, while the rest of the family were engaged in a party of hunting in the park ; and upon his admiring the singularity of her choice, she told him, that she 6 received more pleasure from that author, than others could reap from all their sport and gaiety.” '6 Her heart, replete with this love of literature and serious studies, and with tenderness towards her husband, who was deserving of her affection, had never opened itself to the flattering allurements of ambition; and the information of her advancement to the throne, was by no means agreeable to her. She even refused to accept the crown; pleaded the preferable right of the two princesses; expressed her dread of the consequences attending an enterprise so dangerous, not to say so criminal; and desired to remain in that private station in which she was born.
7 Overcome at last with the entreaties, rather than reasons, of her father and father-in-law, and, above all, of her husband, she submitted to their will, and was prevailed on to relinquish her own judgment. But her elevation was of very short continuance. The nation declared for queen Mary; and the lady Jane, after wearing the vain pageantry of a crown during ten days, returned to a private life, with much more satisfaction, than she felt when royalty was tendered to her.
8 Queen Mary, who appears to have been incapable of génerosity or clemency, determined to remove every person, from whom the least danger could be apprehended. Warning was, therefore, given to lady Jane to prepare for death; a dooin which she had expected, and which the inmocence of her life, as well as the misfortunes to which she had been exposed, rendered no unwelcoma news to her,
9 The queen's bigoted zeal, under colour of tender mercy to the prisoner's soul, induced her to send priests, who molested her with perpetual disputation ; and even a reprieve of three days was granted her, in hopes that she would be persuaded, during that time, to pay, hy a timely conversion to popery, some regard to her eternal welfare.
io Lady Jane had presence of mind, in those melancholy circumstances, not only to defend her religion by solid arguments, but also to write a letter to her sister, in the Greck language; in which, besides sending her a copy of the Scriptures in that tongue, she exhorted her to maintain, in every fortune, a like steady perseverance.
11 On the day of her execution, her husband , lord Guilford, desired permission to see her ; but she refused her consent, and sent him word, that the tenderness of their parting would overcome the fortitude of both; and would too much unbend their minds from that constancy, which their approaching end required of them. Their separation, she said, would be only for a moment; and they would soon rejoin each other in a scene, where their affections would be "for ever united ; and where death, disappointment, and misfortunes, could no longer have access to them, or disturb their eternal felicity.
12 It had been intended to execute the lady Jane and lord Guilford together on the same scaffold, at 'Iower-hill; but the council, dreading the compassion of the people for their youth, beauty, innocence, and noble birth, changed their orders, and gave directions that she should be beheaded within the verge of the Tower.
13 She saw her husband led to execution; and, having given him from the window some token of her remembrance, she waited with tranquillity till her own appointed hour should bring her to a like fate. She even saw his headless body carried back in a cart; and found herself more confirmed by the reports which she heard of the constancy of his end, than shaken by so tender and melancholy a spectacle.
14 Sir John Gage, constable of the Tower, when he led her to execution, desired her to bestow on him some small present, which he might keep as a perpetual memorial of her, She gave him her table-book, in which she had just written three sentences, on seeing her husband's dead body ; one in Greek, another in Latin, a third in English.
15 The purport of them was, “ that human justice was against his body, but the Divine Mercy would be favourable to his soul; and that if her fault deserved punishm