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tains priests and Levites, and other servants of the temple, besides numbers of the people in general. At the end of the list it is added : “ All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.” And these children they doubtless put away together with the wives; according to the proposal of Shechaniah, “ Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them.” Ch. 10. 3. Otherwise indeed the great grievance would have remained, which is thus set forth by Ezra, “ the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands.” Ch. 9. 2. And but for the step now taken, there would have been no means of distinguishing, after the lapse of a few generations, which were true born Israelites, and which not. The children would indeed of course be brought up at the cost of their fathers, though not acknowledged as their lawful offspring. And this would make it necessary to record this list of names, that as these children grew up, their parentage might be known; and there might be less risk of their being mistaken for true descendants of Israel.
The pains taken on this occasion, and on many others in this history, to prevent all mistakes of the kind, may lead us to consider, how strongly the principle of inheritance pervades all the dealings of God with man. He treats the whole race as guilty for the sin of Adam. He treats them as guilty, because in truth they are guilty. A clean thing cannot naturally come out of that which is unclean. See Job 14. 4. In like manner when He intimates to fallen man the prospect of redemption, it is by saying that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; a circumstance which gives to every child of Eve an interest in the redemption wrought by Christ. And that it does so is manifest from these words of the Epistle to the Hebrews : “ Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage." Heb. 2. 14, 15. By our natural birth then we inherit the guilt of Adam's sin and the corruption of Adam's nature; and also a relationship, if we may so speak, unto our Saviour, making us meet to be born again to that better life, which is hid with Christ in God." Col. 3. 3. And in like manner we inherit by our new birth many and great blessings ; we inherit them; we expect to enjoy them, not by earning them for ourselves, but by virtue of our being made children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. If then we be indeed of the holy seed, what care ought we to take, that we mingle not ourselves with that which is unholy! Being born of God, how constantly ought we to be upon our guard, lest if we commit sin, if we commit it wilfully, we lose our heavenly birthright, and be counted for “children of the devil !". 1 John 3. 10.
THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH. 1. 1–11. *
Nehemiah prayeth for success. i The words of Nehemiah the of the children of Israel, which son of Hachaliah. And it came we have sinned against thee: to pass in the month Chisleu, in both I and my father's house the twentieth year, as I was in have sinned. Shushan the palace,
7 We have dealt very corruptly 2 That Hanani, one of my against thee, and have not kept brethren, came, he and certain the commandments, nor the stamen of Judah ; and I asked them tutes, nor the judgments, which concerning the Jews that had thou commandedst thy servant escaped, which were left of the Moses. captivity, and concerning Jeru- 8 Remember, I beseech thee, salem.
the word that thou commandedst 3 And they said unto me, The thy servant Moses, saying, If remnant that are left of the cap- ye transgress, I will scatter you tivity there in the province are abroad among the nations: in great affliction and reproach: 9 But if ye turn unto me, and the wall of Jerusalem also is keep my commandments, and broken down, and the gates do them; though they were of thereof are burned with fire. you cast out unto the uttermost
4 And it came to pass, when part of the heaven, yet will I I heard these words, that I sat gather them from thence, and down and wept, and mourned will bring them unto the place certain days, and fasted, and that I have chosen to set my prayed before the God of hea- name there. ven,
10 Now these are thy servants 5 And said, I beseech thee, O and thy people, whom thou hast LORD God of heaven, the great redeemed by thy great power, and terrible God, that keepeth and by thy strong hand. covenant and mercy for them 11 0 LORD, I beseech thee, that love him and observe his let now thine ear be attentive commandments :
to the prayer of thy servant, 6 Let thine ear now be atten- and to the prayer of thy sertive, and thine eyes open, that vants, who desire to fear thy thou mayest hear the prayer of name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant, which I pray be- thy servant this day, and grant fore thee now, day and night, him mercy in the sight of this for the children of Israel thy man. For I was the king's cupservants, and confess the sins bearer.
Of intercession for our country. The decrees in favour of the captive Israelites, as recorded in the book of Ezra, relate chiefly to the rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem. Nothing had yet been ordered about rebuilding the
walls. Nor had any measures been taken to rebuild them. Their enemies had indeed falsely represented, that they were “ building the rebellious city,” and had “set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations." Ezra 4. 12. But this was a groundless charge. And though according to man's policy the walls would have been built first, and the temple afterwards, it pleased God to overrule this matter otherwise. And his temple, as it stood in the defenceless city, if thronged with devout worshippers serving Him in spirit and in truth, instead of needing such protection as the walls of the city could afford, was itself a means of protection to the city. What place is so secure as that, which is fortified by the prayers of a devout people? What people dwell so happily as they, whose churches are their chief places of defence, where God is intreated in times of danger, and also duly glorified in seasons of deliverance ?
But the temple having been first completed, God was pleased to order it, that the walls should next be built. And for this purpose He raised up Nehemiah, placed him in a situation of inAuence with the reigning king of Persia, and made his heart to glow with such an ardent love for his country, that he was disposed to risk all his influence, and to sacrifice all his own worldly interests, for the sake of reestablishing Jerusalem in prosperity. It was Nehemiah's office to be cupbearer to the king. This was an office of great trust, in a time and country wherein kings commonly apprehended risk of poison. In virtue of this office he was frequently in the presence of his sovereign. And the special object of the prayer which he made to God was this, that he might find favour in the king's sight, when he ventured to make intercession with him in behalf of his afflicted countrymen. The love of our country has always been esteemed a noble quality in the human character. Even the heathen, in proportion as they approached most nearly to some just ideas of human excellence, were apt to extol most highly those, who in this way
subdued their selfish feelings under a concern for the welfare of others. The servant of the true God, though his affections expand towards all mankind, is warranted in feeling a more than common share of interest in the welfare of his own country. And he is taught also to prove his patriotism, not only by acts of self denial, but by fervent and frequent prayer to Him, from whom all good gifts proceed. Thus the poorest and lowliest in the land may be privileged to do his country most important services. And it may often happen, for aught we know, that the plans of the wise, and the labours of the diligent, for the prosperity of the state, owe their success, under God's blessing, to the prayers of some captive exile, who has learnt from such a pattern as this of Nehemiah to pray much more heartily for his country's good, than those who are blessed with liberty at home.
Nehemiah cometh to Jerusalem. 1 And it came to pass in the lace which appertained to the month Nisan, in the twentieth house, and for the wall of the year of Artaxerxes the king, city, and for the house that I that wine was before him: and shall enter into. And the king I took up the wine, and gave it granted me, according to the unto the king. Now I had not been good hand of my God upon me. beforetime sad in his presence.
9 Then I came to the govern2 Wherefore the king said unto ors beyond the river, and gave me, Why is thy countenance them the king's letters. Now sad, seeing thou art not sick? the king had sent captains of the this is nothing else but sorrow army and horsemen with me. of heart. Then I was very sore
10 When Sanballat the Horonafraid,
ite, and Tobiah the servant, the 3 And said unto the king, Let Ammonite, heard of it, it grievthe king live for ever: why ed them exceedingly that there should not my countenance be was come a
man to seek the sad, when the city, the place of welfare of the children of Israel
. my fathers' sepulchres, lieth 11 So I came to Jerusalem, waste, and the gates thereof are and was there three days. consumed with fire ?
12 And I arose in the night
, 4 Then the king said unto me, I and some few men with me; For what dost thou make re- neither told I any man what my quest? So I prayed to the God God had put in my heart to do of heaven.
at Jerusalem: neither was there 5 And I said unto the king, any beast with me, save the If it please the king, and if thy beast that I rode upon. servant have found favour in 13 And I went out by night thy sight, that thou wouldest by the gate of the valley, even send me unto Judah, unto the before the dragon well, and to city of my fathers' sepulchres, the dung port, and viewed the that I may build it.
walls of Jerusalem, which were 6 And the king said unto me, broken down, and the gates (the queen also sitting by him,) thereof were consumed with fire. For how long shall thy journey 14 Then I went on to the gate be? and when wilt thou return? of the fountain, and to the So it pleased the king to send king's pool : but there was no me; and I set him a time. place for the beast that was un
7 Moreover I said unto the der me to pass. king, If it please the king, let 15 Then went I up in the letters be given me to the go- night by the brook, and viewed vernors beyond the river, that the wall, and turned back, and they may convey me over till I entered by the gate of the valcome into Judah;
ley, and so returned. 8 And a letter unto Asaph the 16 And the rulers knew not keeper of the king's forest, that whither I went, or what I did; he may give me timber to make neither had I as yet told it to beams for the gates of the pa- the Jews, nor to the priests, nor
to the nobles, nor to the rulers, this good work. nor to the rest that did the work. 19 But when Sanballat the
17. Then said I unto them, Ye Horonite, and Tobiah the sersee the distress that we are in, vant, the Ammonite, and Gelow Jerusalem lieth waste, and shem the Arabian, heard it, the gates thereof are burned with they laughed us to scorn, and fire: come, and let us build up despised us, and said, What is the wall of Jerusalem, that we this thing that ye do? will ye be no more a reproach.
rebel against the king ? 18 Then I told them of the 20 Then answered I them, and hand of my God which was said unto them, The God of good upon me; as also the heaven, he will prosperus; king's words that he had spoken therefore we his servants will unto me. And they said, Let arise and build: but ye have no us rise up and build. So they portion, nor right, nor memostrengthened their hands for rial, in Jerusalem.
Trust in the help of God. There is nothing more worthy of our observation in the character of Nehemiah, than the stedfastness with which he appears to have set God always before him. Upon hearing of the forlorn state of Jerusalem, it was to God that he poured out the affliction of his soul, in earnest prayer for the children of Israel, and in hearty confession of their sins, which he repeated before God “day and night." Ch. 1.6. When he formed the plan of making known his grief unto the king, he first prayed God to give him favour in the king's sight. See Ch. 1. 11. And now, when his plan has so far prospered, as that the king has noticed his sorrow, and has asked him, “ For what dost thou make request ?” he first lifts up his heart in prayer to the God of heaven, and then makes known to the king what it is that he desires. When he obtains his petition, he thus records his success : “ The king granted me, according to the good band of my God upon me.” When he speaks of his secret purpose, he calls it, “what God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem.” When he makes it known to his countrymen, and would encourage them to persevere in its accomplishment, he says, “ 1 told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.” And to the enemies opposing him he makes answer in the same spirit of trust in God's help: “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build.” Throughout the history of Nehemiah we shall find, that he always acted under this lively conviction of God's being a very present help in time of trouble. And we shall do well to learn from his account of his acts and motives, to adopt in our own conduct this principle of confidence which animated his; and to say, as he doubtless said often, with the Psalmist: “ I have set God always before me: for he is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall.” Ps. 16. 9.