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Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.*
So little impression, too, had the reading of the law and their own continued misfortunes made upon this rebellious race,f that Nehemiah actually saw, in Judah, some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.# Then he contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? Yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
And it came to pass that, when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, he commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of his servants set he at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on
* Neheimn. xiii. 10-14. † Experience and reflection will compel us all to exclaim that the whole human race are equally guilty, and alike given to backslide, as soon as the judgments of God are withdrawn from them; and in how short a time this takes place would be surprising indeed, did we not know the more surprising depravity of the human heart.
| It never entered into the head of this zealous servant of the Most Hligy, nor had he skill enough in the knowledge of the decalogue to discover what the legislators of Christian Britain, including her bishops, have so conveniently found out; viz. that the sale of mackerel and milk were legitimate exceptions to the obligations imposed by the fourth commandment!
the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice. Then he testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth, came they no more on the sabbath. * And he commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.t
Furthermore, he found Jews who had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And he contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves. Did not Solomon, king of Israel, sin by these things? Yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless, even him did outlandish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives ?
Cotemporary with the tirshathate of Nehemiah was the prophet Malachi, who, as God was now about to withdraw from them his prophets, and those peculiar manifestations of his own mind and will, with which he had favoured them for
This shews how easily the most confirmed and settled violations of the law of God, may be restrained or overcome, if professors of Christianity will but act with firmness and decision, tempered however with judgment and discretion.
+ Nehem. xiij. 15–22. # Nehem. xiii. 23—27.
so many ages, but which they had as universally neglected and despised, was commissioned to point out to them the former loving kindnesses of Jehovah; and that the distinguishing privileges which they had enjoyed were not owing to themselves, or to their own character, or even to their descent from Abraham. After charging the people with offering up mutilated or blemished sacrifices, and contemning the sabbaths and ordinances of God,t he reproached the priests especially, for the example they had set in breaking their covenant, in marrying strange wives; and threatened them with destruction and punishment.
Then shewing them their insincerity and hyprocrisy towards each other in their general transactions, and their nuptial infidelity and illegal divorces, he declared that they had wearied Jehovah with their practices and their proud reasonings.
God, however, who seeth not as man seeth, discerned that there was still a small remnant left, disposed to seek and to serve him. Nothwithstanding, therefore, the general melancholy picture, this prophecy contains an affectionate remonstrance to this remnant, an impressive submission on their part, and a most gracious promise in consequence. “Even from the days of your fathers, ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of Hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall
* Mal. i. 5. + Mal. i. 6-14. I Mal. ii. 1-9. ş And may not persons professing the religion of Jesus Christ, even in our own country, well tremble, lest they too should be found in this condemnation? Alas! alas ! for the nobles and great ones of our land, and the example they set to those below them.
|| Mal. ii. 17. iii. 13—15. Would not one think the prophet was describing the state of society in Britain at the present day? How closely does one nation and people follow after another, in the concerns of life, to their common and final doom !
we return? Will a man rob God! Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein bave we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse : for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith Jehovah of Hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed; for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of Hosts. Your words have been stout against me, saith Jehovah. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
“For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith Jehovah of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings: and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet, in the day that I shall do this, saith Jehovah of Hosts."*
As an appropriate conclusion to the last prophecy that was to be delivered, and that the intervening ages might not be destitute either of an encouraging promise or a warning monitor, this prophet then delivers the following splendid prediction of the Messiah Saviour: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and Jehovah, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to bis temple,
. Mal. iji. 7-13. iv. 1-3.
even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith Jehovah of Hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth ? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto Jehovah an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto Jehovah, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith Jehovah of Hosts. For I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. *
But that they might be left without excuse, and that an additional warning might be given them, the prophet adds, Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Jehovah : and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.t
With the transactions in which Ezra and Nehemiah were engaged ends the historical, and with Malachi the prophetical, canon of the Old Testament scriptures; for all the prophets, as we have seen, flourished during or previous to that period. We must now, therefore, forsake our unerring * Mal. iii. 1–6. See this prophecy explained and illustrated by Dr. Gill, on the Messiah, and W. Harris's Practical Sermons, 561-591.
+ Mal, iv. 4-6.