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The fallibility of human virtue, a strong ground for the scripture caution" to watch.”—Earthly greatness and long prosperity, no certain tokens of the unqualified approbation of heaven.-The prophetic STONE has already fallen upon the image and produced considerable effects.-Its own magnitude is also increased to a mountainous bulk.- Great events in preparation.-Daniel's concise account of the state of the three first beasts during the long continuance of the fourth.-They are deprived of empire, but enjoy a respite until the fourth is slain an destroyed, after which they must be also absorbed in the common vortex.
WHEN Hazael came to the prophet Elisha, to enquire for his master BENHADAD, king of Syria, what should be the event of a sick
ness the king at that time laboured under, the holy Seer, looking steadfastly in his face for some time, burst into a flood of tears. Hazael, astonished at so unaccountable a reception, asked the man of God the cause of his so sudden grief. "It is because (answered he) I know the evil that thou wilt do to the children of Israel. Their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child."
Hazael seems at that time to have had no consciousness of any thing like such a savage ferocity lurking in his disposition, and abruptly answered (with an abhorrence as great as the prophet himself had expressed)-" But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?"—Elisha only replied, “the Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king of Syria." Intimating that time and circumstances, rather than the influence of original principle, stamp the character which men assume, in a great many instances. Hazael considered maturely of the prophet's answer, in
his way home, and took his measures according to it. He gave a flattering answer to Benhadad, and then, to hasten and make sure bis predicted Royalty, the very next day he treacherously murdered his master, and not long afterwards, he fully made good the character the prophet had given of his barbarity.
He that once enters upon the path of precipitous promotion, by violent and wicked means, is under a necessity of still going on, and treading in the same steps of barbarous precaution, to establish the insecure footing he has gained. The continual impression of his own precarious situation hardens his heart, and leaves no other feeling there, but suspion and hatred of the whole human race.
In the four universal monarchies of which the scripture prophecies take notice, we see mighty conquerors wading through oceans of human blood, to attain the prize of universal dominion. They considered the whole human race as beasts, made to be hunted down and destroyed, for their caprice or aggrandise
ment. Their progress is tracked by blood and desolation, as if they had been privileged of heaven to butcher the supernumerary inhabitants of the earth. "The land is as the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness.
The actions of these monsters, and the success that should attend upon their steps, is, as we have seen, foretold in sacred prophecy, and that in very extraordinary terms. Yet nothing can be more certain, than that God does not approve of cruelty or ambition, though he may make use of the voluntary actions of bad men, as means to bring to pass the ends of his all-wise Providence. On some occasions he may bestow a kind of qualified commendation, and in many cases may reward with temporal greatness, (by success permitted, let us suppose, rather than by direct favor, or immediate blessing conferred,) the labor they have bestowed in effecting his designs, though it be only by pursuing their
The work which God has to be done in
this way, demands a genius peculiarly adapted for it, and by bringing forward agents competent to the service required, the mysterious ends of Providence are answered, without the liberty and moral responsibility of man being destroyed. Some constitutions, by original structure, contain not materials fit to make a tyrant of. The apparent mildness of Nero and Hazael, at an early period of their lives, was certainly fallacious, as the atrocity of their subsequent conduct proved. So wide a difference from their former selves, argues a radical and original defect of mercy, such as a'tered circumstances could hardly create. Upon a really virtuous mind, the prophet's frightful denunciation of the character of the future man, would have had the effect of an impressive and salutary warning, instead of becoming an encouragement to rush headlong into wickedness, and foolishly think to lay the blame on fate. Humane and gentle natures are ill adapted to the work of destruction, and though Almighty power can work with any instru