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things," 1 John ii. 20. he will discover from this prayer of Nehemiah, that more or less are included in it, all the great and leading points of the gospel. I lament that the limits to which I am necessarily confined in this little work, will not allow me to bring the whole before the reader, but I shall advert to so much as will abundantly confirm the doctrine.
Nehemiah begins his supplications to Jehovah under his covenant character; calleth him "the Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and keep his commandments." Now in these expressions there is an exact conformity to the uniform language of all the Lord's people, from the first formation of the church. "The Lord, the Lord God, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob." These names were in the first charter of grace; yea, the name God gave to himself from the beginning of the revelation of himself; " This,” said the Lord, "is my name for ever, this is my memorial unto all generations." Exod iii. 15. Therefore, Nehemiah here grounds the basis of all he had to supplicate; first, pleads Israel's claim in the covenant, and then proceeds to state what his present petitions were, the success of which rested upon it; namely," that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant which I pray before thee now day and night, for the children of Israel, thy servants." Here are the objects of his prayer; the persons and cause of Israel for whom he prayed. He was looking to the God of Israel, and the Israel of God were those for whom he prayed. His next step before the throne was, as hath marked the Lord's people in all ages; namely, a deep sense and acknowledgment of sin and transgression, which in the moment of asking for mercy, confessed a total undeserving of it. "We have sinned," said Nehemiah, "against thee, O Lord, both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly." To
this succeeded, as hath been the custom of all the Lord's chosen, from the days of the patriarchs downward; namely, pleading the Lord's word and the Lord's covenant promises. Remember, I beseech thee," said Nehemiah, "the word that thou commandest thy servant Moses, saying, if ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations; but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments and do them, though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven; yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there." See Levit. xxvi. 40-42. Here was the grand argument. This was the anchor of hope. The people of God can never fail of success when they tell God what God hath first told them. When we lay hold of God's promises, we do to all intents and purposes lay hold of God himself. And as in these pleas there is nothing of the creature, but wholly the faithfulness of the Creator, we make this the sole standard of faith. And however mysterious and paradoxical it may appear to natural men, with those that are spiritual the fact is certain, that the boldest pleader in God's promises, is the humblest pleader; for he offers nothing of his own: and this is what Paul calls " "having nothing, and yet possessing all things." 2 Cor. vi. 9, 10. And having thus stated at large the Lord's covenant engagements, and Israel's deep need of the fulfilment of them at this time from the very low estate to which the Israel of God was now brought down, Nehemiah closeth all by once again repeating who they were for whom he made supplication; even the Lord's own people. Now these are thy servants," said Nehemiah," and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. Now, O Lord, I beseech thee, let thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy
name; and prosper I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."
If the reader be graciously taught, and is familiar with scripture, I venture to believe that he will conclude with me, that this whole prayer of Nehemiah is all over gospel, from beginning to ending. And the great stress of the argument the man of God makes use of, is by covenant promises from God, to remind God that the divine glory is more concerned for Israel's deliverance in the accomplishment than even Israel. For by making God what God truly is, the whole of the covenant, Isa. xlii. 6. Nehemiah gives the people himself over as God's own. As if he had said, what I am asking, Lord, I am asking for thine own. "Now these are thy servants, and thy people." Thy glory therefore in their salvation is the first great concern, though their happiness will arise out of it. These are blessed arguments; and highly favoured are those of the Lord's faithful ones to whom the Lord gives grace to use them. Moses did so in a trying moment, and speeded in so doing, before the Lord. When Israel had fallen into idolatry, and the Lord threatened to destroy them, "Let me alone," said God to Moses, that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation." And Moses said, "what will the Egyptians then say, but that for mischief the Lord brought Israel out, to slay them in the mountains?" Exod. xxxii. 7-14. And in like manner Joshua, when some of the people were smitten before their enemies, for their renewed transgression: "Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth before the ark of the Lord, and cried out, O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turn their backs before their enemies? and what wilt thou do, O Lord, unto thy great name?" As if he had said, it matters not what becomes of us, for we have merited evil; but what wilt thou do, for the glory of thy great name, if Israel perish? Josh. vii. 1-9.
But it is time to pass on to the further contemplation of Nehemiah's history. We have beheld the man of God at prayer; we have heard him lodging his cause in the Lord's hand: and though so many centuries have run out, since this event took place, yet through the goodness of God the Holy Ghost, in preserving this man's prayer, and handing it down to the church through the intermediate ages to the present hour, we have, as if we had been admitted into the retirement of this great friend of Israel-we have heard how holy souls, when taught of God, converse with God in humble boldness at his throne. We have now to enquire after what followed in his history; we have to look at him according to the statement given in holy scripture, and behold him at court, standing before the king his
But for the better apprehension of the subject, it will not be unimportant to take a short account of the state of the world at that time. Nehemiah lived in that age of darkness, when the rulers of mankind were despots in almost all governments. As it was said of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, so might it have been said of this king of Persia, in whose court Nehemiah lived, and almost of every other, "All people, and nations, and languages trembled, and feared before him. Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive, and whom he would he set up, and whom he would he put down." Dan. v. 19. And although at this period, Nehemiah was in favour at court; yet from the caprice of princes, there could be no human assurance of any continued sunshine. Such was Nehemiah's situation, when as we read in his memoirs, he prosecutes the narative of his history.
"And it came to pass in the month Nisan, (which was four months from the month Chisleu) in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him; and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the
king." Solomon hath observed, that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Eccles. iii. 1. And we know that there is a time to favour Zion when the set time is come." And it is graciously added in the same scripture, "when the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer." Psalm cii. 13-17. Probably Nehemiah, who had four months before laid the interests of Zion before the Most High God, and who no doubt knew this scripture, and had it in recollection, when he took up the wine, and gave it to the king, waited in anxious suspense for the Lord's appearing for his people. He goes on to relate what followed: "now I had not (said he) been before time sad in his presence." Perhaps it was always attended with danger, to be seen sad, or with a sullen countenance at such a time. And well was it for Nehemiah, that he had resource in an higher power. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water he turneth it whithersoever he will." Prov. xxi 1." Wherefore the king said unto me, why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick?" This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.
I pause here for a moment, the subject is too interesting to pass away hastily from. The sensible feeling this man of God had for the desolated state of the church, could not altogether be concealed.. When the soul is sick and out of tune, music is not melody. The intimate union between our spirits and our bodies, compel at times a sympathy, perfectly irresistible. And when, as the king defined it, (perhaps led to it by the Lord, though he knew nothing of the Lord, Isai. xlv. 3, 4.) he called it sorrow of heart; he made a correct statement of the matter. The Lord's people in all ages of the church can best tell, what kind of sorrow of the heart that is, which gives a gloom to