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trusted in the Lord God of Israel : so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from Him, but kept His commandments, as the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him, and prospered him whithersoever he went forth.
Such is the account we have in the Bible of this good king—a zealous purifier of religion, one who trusted in God with all his heart, and walked faithfully in the way of His commandments.
Now it came to pass that Hezekiah was visited with sickness, and the sickness was so sore upon him that he was at the point of death. Nay, he was told by God's own messenger, the prophet Isaiah, that he should not recover, and bid to prepare for his end. Thus saith the Lord God, set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live.
And now mark, brethren, what Hezekiah did in this extremity. He turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord. The words of his prayer are given us, and we have read them to-day. Moreover, we are told how earnest he was in his entreaty—he wept sore.
Nor did he pray in vain. No earnest prayer ever is in vain. God lent a willing ear to Hezekiah ; and the same messenger who had before brought such heavy tidings, is now sent to comfort him, to promise him recovery, and the addition of fifteen years to his life.
Such mercy called forth from the king that famous song of praise and thanksgiving, from whence my text is taken.
In a strain of the tenderest and deepest piety he returns his thanks to his Preserver. To God he owes it that the pit has not closed upon him, that his sins have been forgiven him, and a longer stay granted him among men. He feels that for such favours public acknowledgment is due. He will make that acknowledgment. He will go into the courts of the Lord's house, and there, in the presence of his people, he will render thanks, and make his prayer unto the God of his life—The Lord was ready to save me, therefore will we sing my song to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord.
And here, before going further, let me ask you to admire, and, when need is, to imitate the piety of the good king. Two lessons there surely are for us all from the conduct of Hezekiah under sickness. The first is, to have recourse to God for aid when overtaken by illness, to turn our face to the wall and pray.
The second is to give God thanks on our recovery—to think of Him as our Deliverer, our Healer, the God in whom we live--who has added to our life a longer span of days. To think, why He has added them even for this, that we may serve Him more faithfully, and walk before Him henceforth with a more perfect, less divided heart.
These are the lessons—lessons often dwelt upon in sermons, but, alas, all too little regarded !
Few of us, I fear, pray heartily to God when visited by sickness. If we pray at all, we pray languidly, unbelievingly, not in that effectual, fervent way, not with
that sore weeping that marked the praying of Hezekiah. We forget that it is the prayer of faith to which the promise is made that it shall save the sick. And if our prayers, when labouring under sickness, are weak and languid, if but here and there, one amongst us prays as Hezekiah prayed, putting his whole soul into his entreaty, what shall I say of our return to God when He has made us whole P. How do we act towards Him on our recovery? Does He see us more frequently in His house P Does He see us altered and improved in our lives? Is there any mark, any token by which He may judge that we remember His benefits 2 Do think of it, brethren. Do think, each for himself, how it has been with him in the time past. Few of us but must have experienced illness. Some of us must have been almost to the gate of the grave. And yet, beyond our hope, we have been restored to life and health. But what reward have we, any of us, rendered to God for our recovery P What bad habit have we laid aside? What long-talked of, long-promised good practice have we begun ? Where, I ask, is there any visible proof that we are better men since our illness than we were or ever God laid us low P Where are the vows that we made to Him when we were in trouble? Alas! must not conscience reply, They are still unpaid. We did intend, we did purpose, but there it ended. When we got better, the old habit came back upon us, and we let it in, and it dwells with us yet. And all that was to be changed; our improvement which we talked about, which we wished and meant to carry out, this has been delayed, put off to a more convenient season 1 I ask, if such be not the verdict which, if we are honest, we shall be obliged to give against ourselves? And if our heart thus condemns us, God, remember, is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things' But let us look more closely at the text. The grave
cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee. They that
go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee: as I do this day. Hezekiah presents to us here, in the strongest contrast, the two states of life and death. Death was to him—for he lived before the day of Christ—a far darker, far drearier state than it is to us. If he had any hope of a life beyond the grave, it does not appear in his words. He probably looked upon death as the close of all—the gate not to an immortal life, but the entrance into a land dark and silent, where all things are forgotten. But it is this very view of death, this looking at it as thc “end-all” of man's short existence, which enhances to Hezekiah the value of life. Because life afforded his single field for serving God, he grudged to have it shortened. Every hour saved from that dark silence was precious to him—The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I do this day. Now, brethren, we who possess the Gospel need not, and ought not to think thus gloomily of death. The question put so touchingly by the Psalmist—Dost Thou show wonders among the dead, or shall the dead rise up again and praise Thee?—has been answered—answered
by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He by His death hath destroyed death ; and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.
Still, even in that darker view, there is a lesson for our learning. Though death be not now the end of all life, it is the end of this life—the end of our day of grace
—the end of that period which God gives us in which to see if we will serve Him or no.
It is quite true that, if we have not made the choice before, it will be out of our power, when once we have died. It is quite true-even after the added light which is ours—what Hezekiah declares, The grave cannot praise Thee, death cannot celebrate Thee. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee.
Yes! the living—those who still have animated bodies -in whom there is the “warm motion” of human life, which God breathed in them when they were born these, and not the dead, may praise their God. To them is it still open to enter His temple gates and pray. To them the word of His salvation is still sent. To them— idlers though they may have been in time past, slack and backward to yield Him any service—the placable Householder still offers the opportunity—says to them, yea, even at the eleventh hour, Go ye into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right that shall ye receive.
And shall we, brethren, who are thus invited, who are living men called by the Master to a more diligent service, trifle any longer with Him? Shall we wait the one more hour till our sun go down, and the night cometh when none can work ?