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men and the teachings of moralists. National effeminacy which follows luxury, great injustices which cry to heaven for vengeance, and practical atheism and idolatry are certain to call forth divine judgments, — sometimes in the form of destructive wars, sometimes in pestilence and famine, and at other times in the gradual wasting away of national resources and political power. In conformity with this settled law in the moral government of God, we read the fate of Nineveh, of Babylon, of Tyre, of Jerusalem, of Carthage, of Antioch, of Corinth, of Athens, of Rome; and I would even add of Venice, of Turkey, of Spain. Nor is there anything which can save modern cities and countries, however magnificent their civilization, from a like visitation of Almighty power, if they continue in the iniquity which all the world perceives, and sometimes deplores. It must have seemed as absurd to the readers of Isaiah's predictions twenty-five hundred years ago that Babylon and Tyre should fall, as it would to the people of our day should one predict the future ruin of Paris or London or New York, if the vices which now flourish in these cities should reach an overwhelming preponderance, but which we hope may be wholly overcome by the influence of Christianity and the spirit and interference of God himself ; for He governs the world by the same principles that He did two thousand years ago, — a fact
which seldom is ignored by any profound and religious inquirer.
I have no faith in the permanence of any form of civilization, or of any government, where a certain depth of infamy and depravity is reached; because the impressive lesson of history is that righteousness exalteth a nation, and iniquity brings it low. Isaiah predicted woes which came to pass, since the cities and peoples against whom he denounced them remained obstinately perverse in their iniquity and atheism. Their doom was certain, without that repentance which would lead to a radical change of life and opinions. He held out no hope unless they turned to the Lord; nor did any of the prophets. Jeremiah was sad because he knew they would not repent, even as Christ himself wept over Jerusalem. No maledictions came from the pen or voice of Isaiah such as David breathed against his enemies, only the expression of the sad and solemn conviction that unless the people and the nation repented, they would all equally and surely perish, in accordance with the stern laws written on the two tables of Moses,- for “ I, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, even to the third and fourth generation ;” – yea, written before Moses, and to be read unto this day in the very constitution of man, physical, mental, spiritual, and social.
The prophet first announces the calamities which both Judah and Ephraim — the southern and the northern kingdoms — shall suffer from Assyrian invasions. “The Lord shall shave Judah with a razor, not only the head, but the beard,”—thus declaring that the land would be not only depopulated, but become a desert, and that men should no longer live by agriculture, or by trade and commerce, but by grazing alone. “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower; it shall be trodden under foot.” The sins of pride and drunkenness are especially enumerated as the cause of their chastisement. “Woe to Ariel [that is Jerusalem]! I will camp against thee round about, and lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will raise forts against thee, and thou shalt be brought down. . . . Forasinuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with lips do they honor me, but have removed their heart far from me,” — hereby showing that hypocrisy at Jerusalem was as prevalent as drunkenness in Samaria, and as difficult to be removed.
Isaiah also reproves Judah for relying on the aid of Egypt in the threatened Assyrian invasion, instead of putting confidence in God, but declares that the evil day will be deferred in case that Judah repents; however, he holds out no hope that her people may escape the final captivity to Babylon. All that the prophet
predicted in reference to the desolation of Palestine by Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, as instruments of punishment, came to pass.
From the calamities which both Judah and Israel should suffer for their pride, hypocrisy, drunkenness, and idolatry, Isaiah turns to predict the fall of other nations. “Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. ... For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent, and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: and as I have gathered all the earth, as one gathereth eggs, therefore shall the Lord of Hosts send among his fat ones leanness, and under his glory He shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.” In the inscriptions which have recently been deciphered on the broken and decayed monuments of Nineveh nothing is more remarkable than the boastful spirit, pride, and arrogance of the Assyrian kings and conquerors.
The fall of still prouder Babylon is next predicted. “Since thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, thou shalt be brought down to hell. . . . Babylon, the
glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldean excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation ; neither shall the Arabians pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make their fold there; but wild beasts of the deserts shall lie there, and the owls shall dwell there, aud satyrs shall dance there.” Both Nineveh and Babylon arose to glory and power by unscrupulous conquests, for their kings and people were military in their tastes and habits; and with dominion cruelly and wickedly obtained came arrogance and pride unbounded, and with these luxury and sensuality. The wickedest city of antiquity meets with the most terrible punishment that is recorded of any city in the world's history. Not only were pride and cruelty the peculiar vices of its kings and princes, but a gross and degrading idolatry, allied with all the vices that we call infamous, marked the inhabitants of the doomed capital; so that the Hebrew language was exhausted to find a word sufficiently expressive to mark its foul depravity, or sufficiently exultant to rejoice over its predicted fall. Most cities have recovered more or less from their calamities, — Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, – but Babylon was utterly destroyed, as by fire from heaven, and never has been rebuilt or again inhabited, except by wild beasts. Its very ruins, the remains of