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while himself is honoured by the great mo- | zeal with him that waits on the cup of a narch of the world?
| pagan monarch. The mercies of God are It is not so easy for gracious dispositions unlimited to places, to callings. to turn off the public calamities of God's Thus armed with devotions, doth Nebechurch: neither can they do other than lose miah put himself into the presence of his their private felicities, in the common dis- master Artaxerxes. His face was overtresses of the universal body: “ If I forget clouded with a deep sadness, neither was thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget he willing to clear it. The king easily notes her cunning: if I do not remember thee, the disparity of the countenance of the let my tongue cleave to the roof of my bearer, and the wine that he bears; and, mouth."
in a gracious familiarity, asks the reason of Many Jews went up from Babylon and such unwonted change. How well it beShushan to Jerusalem ; few ever returned comes the great to stoop unto a courteous voluntarily from their native home to the affability, and to exchange words of respect, region of their captivity. Some occasion even with their humble vassals ! drew Hanani, with certain others of Judah, Nehemiah had not been so long in the to this voyage. Of them doth Nehemiah court, but he knew that princes like no carefully inquire the present condition of other than cheerful attendants; neither was Jerusalem. It was no news that the people he wont to bring any other face into that were afflicted and reproached, the walls presence, than smooth and smiling. broken down, the gates burnt with fire. [ Greatness uses to be full of suspician, Ever since the furious devastation of Nebu. and, where it sees a dejection and sourness zaradan, that city knew not better terms. of the brows, is ready to apprehend some Seldom doth the spiritual Jerusalem fare sullen thoughts of discontentment, or, at otherwise, in respect of outward estate. the least, construes it for a disrepect to External glory and magnificence is an un- that sovereignty, whose beams should be sure note of the church.
of power to disperse all our inward mists. Well had Nehemiah hoped, that the gra. | Even good manners forbid a man to press cious edict and beneficence of Darius, and into the presence of a prince, except he can the successive patronage of his lord Arta either lay by these unpleasing passions, or xerxes, had, by the continuance of twenty hide them: so had Nehemiah hitherto done. vears' favour, advanced the strength and Now, he purposely suffers his sorrow to glory of Jerusalem; but now, finding the look through his eyes, that it may work holy city to lie still in the dust of her con- both inquiry and compassion from his masfusion, neglected of God, despised of men, ter; neither doth he fail of his hopes in he sits down and weeps, and mourns, and either: “Why is thy countenance sad, seefasts, and prays to the God of heaven. ing thou art not sick ?" How sensible do How many saw those ruins, and were little we think the Father of mercies is of all our affected! he hears of them afar off, and is pensive thoughts, when a heathen master thus passionate. How many were, upon is so tender of a servant's grief! How ready this sight, affected with a fruitless sorrow! should our tongues be to lay open our cares his mourning is joined with the endeavours to the God of all comfort, when we see of redress. In vain is that grief, which hath | Nehemiah so quick in the expressions of his no other end than itself.
sorrow to an uncertain ear! “ Let the king Nehemiah is resolved to kneel to the live for ever! Why should not my counteking his master, for the repair of his Jeru- nance be sad, when the city, the place of salem : he dares not attempt the suit till he my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the have begun with God. This good courtier gates thereof burnt with fire?" Not without knew well, that the hearts of these earthly an humble preface doth Nehemiah lay forth kings are in the overruling hand of the King his grievance: complaints have ever an of heaven, to incline whither he pleaseth. unpleasing harshness in them, which must Our prayers are the only true means to be taken off by some discreet insinuation ; make way for our success. If in all our although it could not but sound well in the occasions we do not begin with the first generous ear of Artaxerxes, that his servant mover, the course is preposterous, and was so careful for the honour of his country. commonly speeds accordingly.
As nature hath made us all members of a Who dares censure the piety of courtiers, community, and hath given us common inwhen he finds Nehemiah standing before terests, so it is most pleasing to us, to see Artaxerxes ? Even the Persian palace is not these public cares divide us from our own. incapable of a saint. No man that waits The king easily descries a secret supplion the altar at Jerusalem, can compare for 'cation wrapped up in this moanful answer,
which the modest suitor was afraid to dis having condoled with them the commou close ; and therefore he helps that bashful distress and reproach, he tells them of the motion into the light: “ For what dost thou hand of his God, which was good upon him; make request ?" It is the praise of bounty he shows them the gracious commission o to draw on the just petitions of fearful sup- the king, his master, for that good work. plicants.
They answer him with a zealous encourage. Nehemiah dares not open his mouth to ment of each other: “ Let us rise up and the king, till his heart hath opened itself by build.” Such a hearty invitation, countea sudden ejaculation to his God: no busi. nanced by authority, hath easily strength. ness can be so hasty, but our prayer may pre ened the hands of the multitude. With what vent it; the wings whereof are so nimble, observance and dearness do they now look that it can fly up to heaven, and solicit upon their unexpected patron! how do they God, and bring down an answer, before honour him as a man sent from heaven, for ever our words need to come forth of our the welfare of Jerusalem! Every man flies lips. In vain shall we hope that any design to his hod and trowel, and rejoices to seof ours can prosper, if we have not first sent cond so noble a leader, in laying a stone in this messenger on our errand.
that wall of their common defence. After this silent and insensible prepara- Those emulous neighbours of theirs, Santion, Nehemiah moves his suit to the king, ballat, Tobiah, Geshem - the chief comyet not at once, but by meet degrees : first manders of Moab, Ammon, Arabia – have he, craves leave for his journey, and for soon espied the first mortar that is laid upon building; then he craves aid for both : both that old foundation. Envy is usually more are granted. Nehemiah departs, furnished quick-sighted than love: and now they with letters to the governors for a convoy, scornfully apply themselves to these deswith letters to the keeper of the king's fo- pised Jews, and think to scoff them out of rest for timber, not more full of desire than their work. The favourablest persecution of hope.
any good cause is the lash of lewd tongues, Who ever put his hand to any great work whether by bitter taunts or by scurrilous in. for the behoof of God's church, without vectives; which it is as impossible to avoid, opposition? As the walls of the temple as necessary to contemn. The barking of found busy enemies, so shall the walls of the these dogs doth not hinder Nehemiah from city; and these so much more, as they pro-walking on his way, professing his confi. mise more security and strength to Jerusa-dence in the God of heaven, whose work lem. Sanballat, the deputy-lieutenant of the that was ; he shakes off their impotent maMoabites, and Tobiah, the like officer to lice, and goes on cheerfully to build. Every the Amorites, and Geshem to the Arabians, Israelite knows his station : Eliashib the are galled with envy at the arrival of a man high priest, and the rest of that sacred tribe, authorised to seek the welfare of the child put the first hand to this work; they build ren of Israel. There cannot be a greater the sheep-gate, and sanctify it, and in it all vexation to wicked hearts, than to see the the rest. As the first fruits of the field, so spiritual Jerusalem in any likelihood of the first stones of the wall, are hallowed to prosperity. Evil spirits and men need no God, by the consecration of those devout other torment than their own despite. agents. That business is like to prosper
This wise courtier hath learned, that se. which begins with God. cresy is the surest way of any important No man was idle, no part was intermit. despatch. His errand could not but be ted: all Jerusalem was at once encomknown to the governors : their furtherance passed with busy labourers. It cannot be. was enjoined for the provision of materials, I but the joint endeavours of faithful hearts else the walls of Jerusalem had overlooked / must raise the walls of the church. the first notice of their heathen neighbours. Now Sanballat, and his brethren, find Without any noise doth Nehemiah arise some matter to spend their scoffs upon : in the dead of night, and taking some few -- What do these feeble Jews : Will they into his company, none into his council, fortify themselves ? will they sacrifice? will he secretly rounds the decayed walls of they make an end in a day? will they reJerusalem, and views the breaches, and ob vive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish serves the gates, and returns home in silence, which are burnt?" joying in himself to foresee those prepara. How basely do carnal minds think of the tions, which none of the inhabitants did projects and actions of God's children! once dream of. At last, when he had fully therefore vilifying them, because they mea. digested this great work in his own breast, sure them by no other line than outward he calls the rulers and citizens together; and probability. O foolish Moabites! this work is God's, and therefore, in despite of all | Never is Satan so prevalent as when he your tongues and hands, it shall prosper. comes transformed into an angel of light. He hears you whom ye have blasphemed, It was a merciful providence of God that and shall turn your reproach upon your made these men's tongues the blabs of their own heads. And thou, proud Ammonite, own counsel. Mauy a fearful design had that couldst say, “If a fox go upon their prospered, if wickedness could have been stone-wall, he shall break it down," shalt silent. Warning is a lawful guard to a wise well find, that all the wolvish troops of adversary: now doth Nehemiah arm his your confederates shall not be able to re people, and, for the time, changes their move one stone of this sure fortification : trowels into swords, and spears, and bows, while Moab and Ammon repine and bluster raising up their courage with a vehement in vain, this wall shall rise; and when exhortation to remember the Lord, which Moab aud Ammon shall lie in the dust, is “ great and terrible, and to fight for their this wall shall stand. The mortar that hath brethren, their sons, their daughters, their been tempered with so many prayers, can- | wives, and their houses." Nothing can so not but outlast all the flints and marbles of hearten us to the encountering of an evil, human confidence.
as the remembrance of that infinite Power Now the growth of this wall hath turned and Wisdom, which can either avert, or the mirth of the adversaries into rage: these mitigate, or sanctify it. We could not faint, Moabites, Ammonites, Arabians, Ashdo- if we did not forget God. dites, conspire all together to fight against Necessity urges a man to fight for him. Jerusalem, and, while the mortar is yet self; love enables his hand to fight for those green, to denolish those envied heaps. which challenge a part in him. Where love
What hath this city offended, in desiring meets with necessity, there can want no to be defenced? what wrong could it be to endeavour of victory. Necessity can make wish a freedom from wrongs? Were this even cowards valiant; love makes the people so mighty, that there could be dan- | valiant unresistible. Nehemiah doth not ger in overpowering their neighbours, or in therefore persuade these Jews to fight for resisting a common sovereign, there might themselves, but for theirs. The judgment of have appeared some colour for this hostile the interest, and danger, cannot but quic. opposition: but alas! what could a despised ken the dullest spirits. handful do to the prejudice of either? It is Discovered counsels are already preventquarrel enough to Jerusalem, that it woulded. These serpents die by being first seen : not be miserable.
“ When the enemies heard that it was Neither is it otherwise with the head of known unto us," they let fall their plot. thiese hellish complices : there needs no Could we descry the enterprises of Satan, other cause of his utmost fury, than to see that tempter would return ashamed. a poor soul struggling to get out of the reach It is a safe point of wisdom to carry a of his tyranny. So do savage beasts bristle jealous eve over those whom we have once up themselves, and make the most fierce found hollow, and hostile. From that time assaults, when they are in danger of losing | forth, Nehemiah divided the task betwixt the prey which they had once seized on. the trowel and the sword, so disposing of
In the meanwhile, what doth Nehemiah every Israelite, that while one hand was a with his Jews for their common safety ? | mason, the other was a soldier; one is for They pray and watch: they pray unto God; work, the other for defence. O lively image they watch against the enemy. Thus, thus of the church militant! wherein every one shall we happily prevail against those spi-labours weaponed; wherein there is neither ritual wickednesses which war against our an idle soldier, nor a secure workman. souls. No evil can surprise us, if we watch; every one so builds, that he is ready to no evil can hurt us, if we pray. - This is ward temptations; every one so wields the the victory that overcomes the world, even sword of the spirit for defence, that withal our faith.”
be builds up himself in his most holy faith : There was need of a continued vigilancy : here is neither a fruitless valour, nor an un. the enemy was not more malicious than sub- safe diligence. tile, and had said, “ They shall not know, But what can our weapons avail us, if neither see, till we come in the midst there be not means to warn us of an enemy? amongst them, and slay them.” Open force without a trumpet, we are armed in vain : is not so dangerous as close dissimulation : “ The work is great and large, and we are they meant to seem Jews, while they were separated upon the wall, one far from anMoabites and Ammonites, and in the clothes other.” Yea, so far as the utmost bounds of brethren purposed to hide murderers. of the earth, are we separated one from an
other, upon the walls of the spiritual Je- as unmerciful as a robbery. Charity must rusalem; only the sacred trumpets of God be the rule of all contracts; the violation call us, who are distant in place, to a com- whereof, whether in the matter or the price, bination in profession. And who are those | cannot but be sinful. trumpets but the public messengers of God, There could not be a juster ground of of whom God hath said, “ If the watch: expostulation, than this of the oppressed man see the sword come, and blow not the Jews: “ Our flesh is as the flesh of our trumpet, and the people be not warned; if brethren, our children as their children ; the sword come, and take any person from and lo, we bring into bondage our sons and among them, he is taken away in his ini. our daughters." While there is no difference quity, but his blood will I require at the in nature, why should there be such an watchman's hand." Woe be to us, if we injurious disproportion in condition ? Even sound not, if the sound we give be uncer- the same flesh may bear a just inequality: tain! woe be to our people, if, when we some may be rulers, while others are sub. premonish them of enemies, of judgments, jects; some wealthy, others poor : but why they sit still unmoved, not buckling them those wealthy rulers should tyrannize over selves to a resistance, to a prevention! I those poor inferiors, and turn brotherhood
It is a mutual aid to which these trum into bondage, no reason can be given but pets in vite us; we might fight apart, with lawless ambition. If there were one flesh out the signals of war : “ In what place ye of peers, another of peasants, there should hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye be some colour for the proud impositions thither unto us." There can be no safety of the great, as, because the flesh of beasts to the church, but where every man thinks is in a lower rank than ours, we kill, we his life and welfare consists in his fellows. devour it at pleasure, but now, since the Conjoined forces may prosper; single oppo large body of mankind consists of the same sitions are desperate. All hearts and hands flesh, why should the hand strike the foot? inust meet in the common quarrel.
and if one flesh may challenge meet respects from us, how much more one spirit? The
spirit is more noble than the flesh is base: CONTEMPLATION III.-NEHEMIAH REDRESS
the flesh is dead without the spirit; the ING THE EXTORTION OF THE JEWS. spirit, without the flesh, active and immor.
tal. Our soul, though shapeless and im. With what difficulty do these miserable material, is more apparently one than the Jews settle in their Jerusalem! The fear of | flesh; and if the unity of our human spi. foreign enemies doth not more afflict them rit calls us to a mutual care and tenderness, than the extortion of their own. Dearth is in our carriage each to other, how much added unto war. Miseries do not stay for more of the divine ? By that we are men, a mannerly succession to each other, but, by this we are Christians. As the soul ani. in a rude importunity, throng in at once. mates us to a natural life, so doth God's Babel may be built with ease; but whoso. spirit animate the soul to a heavenly, which ever goes about to raise the walls of God's is so one, that it cannot be divided. How city, shall have his hands full. The incur. should that one spirit cause us so far to sion of public enemies may be prevented by forget all natural and civil differences, as vigilancy and power; but there is no defence not to contemn, not to oppress any whom against the secret gripes of oppression. it informeth? They are not Christians, not
There is no remedy: the Jews are so men, that can enjoy the miseries of their taken up with their trowel and sword for brethren, whether in the flesh or spirit. the time, that they cannot attend their Good Nehemiah cannot choose but be trades; so as, while the wall did rise, their much moved at the barbarous extortion of estates must needs impair. Even in the the people: and now, like an impartial gocheapest season they must needs be poor, vernor, he rebukes the rulers and nobles, that earned nothing but the public safety; whose hand was thus bloody with oppreshow much more in common scarcity? Their sion. As of fishes, so of men, the lesser are houses, lands, vineyards, are therefore mort a prey to the great. It is an ill use made gaged, yea, their very skins are sold, for of power, when the weight of it only serves corn to their brethren; necessity forces them to crush the weak. There were no living to sell that, which it was cruelty to buy amongst men, had not God ordained higher What will we not, what must we not, part than the highest ; and yet higher than they. with for life? The covetous rulers did not | Eminency of place cannot be better im. consider the occasions of this want, but the i proved, than by taking down mighty of. advantage. Sometimes a bargain may be fenders.
If nobility do embase itself to any foul God should overawe our ways; but now, sin, it is so much more worthy of coercion, that we dwell in the midst of our enemies, by how much more the person is of greater whose eyes are bent upon all our actions, mark.
whose tongues are as ready to blaspheme The justice of this reproof could not but God, as we to offend him, how carefully shame impudence itself: “We, after our should we avoid those sins which may draw ability, have redeemed our brethren the shame upon our profession! Jews which were sold to the heathen; and Now the scandal is worse than the fact. will you sell your brethren, or shall they be Thus shall religion suffer more from the sold to us ?" Shall they find at home that heathen, than our brethren do from us. If yoke of bondage which they had put off justice, if charity, cannot sway with us, yet abroad? while they are still Jews, shall we let the scornful insultations of the profane turn Assyrians? if they must be slaves, why Gentiles fright us from these pressures. No not rather to enemies than to brethren? ingenuous disposition can be so tender of how much more tolerable were a foreign his own disgrace, as the true Israelite is of servitude, than a domestical! Be ashamed, the reproach of his God: what is it that he O ye nobles of Israel, to renew Babylon in will not rather refrain, do, suffer, than that Jerusalem! I marvel not if the offenders glorious name shall hazard a blemish? They be stricken dumb with so unanswerable cannot want outward retentives from sin, an expostulation. Guiltiness and confusion that live either among friends or enemies : have stopped their mouths.
if friends, they may not be grieved ; if eneMany of those who have not had grace mies, they may not be provoked. Those enough to refrain sin, yet are not so utterly that would live well, must stand in awe of void of grace as to maintain sin. Our after all eyes; even those that are without the wits are able to discern a kind of unreason-church, yet may not be without regard. No ableness in those wicked actions, which the person can be so contemptible, as that his first appearance represents unto us as plau- censure should be contemned. sible. Gain leads in sin, but shame follows In dissuading from sin, reason itself canit out. There are those that are bold and not prevail more than example: “ I likewitty to bear out commodious or pleasant | | wise, and my brethren, and my servants, evils : neither could these Jewish enormi- | might exact of them money and corn; but ties have wanted some colours of defence: from the time that I was appointed to the their stock was their own, which might have charge of Judah, I and my brethren have been otherwise improved to no less profit. not eaten the bread of the governor." He The offer, the suit of these bargains, was shall never rule well, that doth all that from the sellers: these escheats fell into he may: it is not safe for either part, that their hands unsought ; neither did their a prince should live at the height of his contract cause the need of their brethren, power; and if the greatest abate of their but relieve it: but their conscience will not right, is it for inferiors to extort? Had Nebear this plea. I know not whether the hemiah aimed at his own greatness, no man
aintenance of the least evil be not worse could have had fairer pretences for his gain. than the commission of the greatest : this -" The former governors, that were bemay be of frailty, that argues obstinacy. fore me, were chargeable unto the people, There is hope of that man that can blush and had taken of them bread and wine, and be silent.
besides forty shekels of silver." His foot After the conviction of the fact, it is had not first trod in this commodious path: seasonable for Nehemiah to persuade re- it was beaten by the steps of his predecesformation. No oratory is so powerful as sors; neither did any of them walk beside that of mildness, especially when we have it. However it might be envious to raise to do with those, who, either through sto- new taxations, yet to continue those he mach, or greatness, may not endure a rough found unrepined at, had been out of the reproof. The drops that fall easily upon the reach of exception. A good governor looks corn, ripen and fill the ear; but the stormy | not so much what hath been done, as what showers, that fall with violence, beat down should be: precedents are not the rule the stalks flat to the earth, and lay whole whereby he rules, but justice, but piety: fields without hope of recovery. Who can “ So did not I, because of the fear of the resist this sweet and sovereign reprehen- Lord.” Laws are not a straiter curb to subsion: “ Ought ye not to walk in the fear jects, than conscience is to good princes. of our God, because of the reproach of the They dare not do what they cannot do heathen, our enemies?” Did we dwell alone charitably. What advantage can they think in the midst of the earth, yet the fear of our it, to be from under the controlment of men,