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tion of this part of my discussion, let us ascertain what aids were rendered to Nehemiah in the work in which he was engaged; and I ask your particular attention, and that you would endeavour to remember them, as they will add so much interest to all the subsequent considerations.
1. As the most important particular, Nehemiah had, in aid of his great work, the king's most decided approbation. Without this he could not have stirred an inch: for observe that the king of Persia was, and is still, an absolute monarch. His will is law to his subjects; it admits of no dispute, and it brooks no disobedience. We learn this from one very short remark of the history, “It pleased the king to send me,” i. e. the work was agreeable to the king's wishes; he saw that it would redound to the glory and honour of his reign, and promote the happiness and prosperity of a people subject to his power. But not only had Nehemiah the aid of the king's approbation, but he had the aid of the king's forces. Nehemiah tells us~" Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king's letters. (Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.") These were sent both as a guard of honour and as a guarantee for his respect and safety throughout the king's dominions. But he had other aids; he was to be supplied from the king's resources—“Moreover, I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over, till I come into Judah. And a letter unto Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the
house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
Besides all this, Nehemiah had the zealous cooperation of all the friends of the cause. In the third chapter, Nehemiah gives us a detailed account of those who assisted him so zealously in the great work. These are of course too tedious and unnecessary to mention. But in reading over that chapter, I was particularly struck with a singular circumstance which is contained in the 12th verse—“And next unto him repaired Shahum, the son of Hallohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters.”
In carrying out this subject, I shall arrange my remarks precisely according to this division, because I believe it impossible to find a better.
The proposition is, that the work of religion is a great work, by reason of the aids which man receives in accomplishing it. 1. He has the decided approbation of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
The work of religion is that for which man was originally created; and the work of religion is that for which God has seen fit to contrive in behalf of man, now that he is a fallen creature, the stupendous mysteries connected with redemption and grace. The work of religion is the only work worth living for, for it is in the accomplishment of that work that man can most directly and immediately promote the glory of God. All other works have a tendency merely to foster the pride, the vanity, the selfishness of man. This relates to the eternal well being of his soul. All other works are in their nature transitory and perishing. This, and this only, is substantial and abiding, because it knows no limitation but the duration of eternity. This is the only work which has the decided approbation of God, because the only work which has decided respect to his will and to his glory. And so strikingly true is this remark, that it seems as if throughout the whole of the Scriptures, every thought, and design, and accomplishment of man, which is not either immediately or remotely connected with the great work of religion, has stamped upon it the disapprobation of God. He calls those wicked whose thoughts are not continually fixed on God, and declares that their ways are always grievous. God calls the sacrifice of the wicked an abomination, and even speaks of the ploughing of the wicked as sin. An Apostle tells us, that whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God.
It were almost an endless task to adduce all the passages of Scripture in which God's decided approbation of the work of religion has been so distinctly written for our learning. It is taught us in every form of expression, line upon line, and precept upon precept; here a little and there a little. It is set before us in exhortation, in expostulation, in promise, in threat, in type, in figure, in prophecy, in parable, in living speaking example—“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live; turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?”—“Seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”.
“Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.”—“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto everlasting life.”—“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”—“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”—“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”—“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”— “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding, that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.”
But, my friends, a very striking view of this subject which is to be exhibited, is, that not only is the work of religion to be spoken of as under the general approbation of God, but he has testified that approbation in a very special manner, by connecting the work with the everlasting salvation of the soul. God is a sovereign, and he has a perfect and indisputable right to prescribe just such rules and regulations for the government of his intelligent creation as suit the counsels of his own infinite wisdom. The authority of God must therefore be undisputed, and from the force of his laws there is, and there can be, no appeal. As it pleased the king of Persia that Nehemiah should go and accomplish the great work which he took in hand, so it has pleased the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth to connect our salvation with the great work of personal, individual religion. He who has the power to execute all his will, and whose will is the law of the universe of his creation, has set before us, in language so plain that all may understand, the necessity of repentance, of faith, of an entire surrender of the heart and the soul to him, a living sacrifice. Like the laws of the Medes and Persians, this determination, as all the determinations of God, altereth not; and it is just as impossible for an impenitent and unconverted sinner to enter into heaven, and to enjoy God's favour, as it would be for God to change his own nature, or the purposes of his government.
Besides all this, God cannot of his own nature, approve of any thing which does not ultimately center itself upon him. If this were otherwise, there would be the constant exhibition of that monstrous anomaly, God consenting to divide his glory with objects of inferior worth. But God declares himself a jealous God, who will not give his glory to another; and it follows as a consequence, that no work or device, or art or science, however splendid, and however grand in its achievement, has the sanction of his approbation. Amidst all the varieties of human occupation, there is one reflection which cannot but sink deep into every considerate mind. The pursuits of wealth most generally, the untiring efforts of worldly business, the aspirations after man's applause, and the infinitely more foolish, and